Advocating aliyah creates friction. Sometimes people think you are trying to display your moral superiority (“nyah, nyah, I moved to the Jewish state and you didn’t”). Sometimes they think you are trying to steal their children – my wife was a religious school teacher in the US, and some parents didn’t forgive her when their kids became lone soldiers here. Sometimes they hate you for reminding them of what they already believe, but haven’t acted on. Sometimes they think that you are a pest, because they are happy being Americans or French or British. And sometimes they dislike Israel itself, oppose nationalism of any kind, or feel sorry for the Palestinians.
I used to avoid doing it. But not anymore.
For those living in continental Europe or Britain, it’s simply a question of how much Jew-hatred you are prepared to tolerate in your daily life. Yes, you are a tough guy, no antisemite can force you to do anything, but do you really want to live in a place where a large proportion of your neighbors dislike or even hate you? You know it’s going to get worse over time, so unless you perversely enjoy conflict, you are probably already thinking of leaving.
But what if you live in the US? The commitment to tolerance of Jews and other minorities is high, expressions of Jew-hatred have been relatively rare (until very recently), and there are large Jewish communities as well as places where there are practically no Jews at all, so you can choose whichever you prefer. You are not going to be rounded up and forced into ghettos, and your kids probably won’t get beaten up on their way to school (although that’s more likely than it was 10 years ago).
Nevertheless, you should still start planning your aliyah.
As a member of the Jewish people, can you share the national goals of your diaspora home? For example, the US has just delivered a shipment of weapons and equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which we know is tantamount to giving them to Hezbollah, Israel’s most immediately threatening enemy. And this happened during the relatively friendly, if somewhat erratic, Trump Administration! The previous President did far worse, of course, making a deal with Iran that basically granted the regime the right to develop nuclear weapons in a relatively short time span, and pumped money into its economy (including delivering pallets containing millions of dollars in cash). How do you feel about the way your taxes are used?
We don’t want to admit this, but the interests of the US and the Jewish people are not the same. Support for Israel has become a partisan issue, and surveys show that the Democratic party has moved far to the left on issues related to Israel. When the Republican administration is replaced (as it surely will be) by a Democratic one led by a progressive candidate (almost a certainty) then the relationship with Israel will take a sharp turn for the worse.
Yes, you can stay where you are and try to turn it around, a frustrating and probably impossible enterprise (anyone involved in pro-Israel advocacy in the US today knows this). Or you can decide to try to strengthen the Jewish state with your own hands.
Recent news reports about violent confrontations in the US between the extreme Right and Left have been shocking. Not so surprisingly, when their spokespersons are interviewed, it turns out that they agree about one thing – the Jews. The Right prefers to say that Jews control international finance and the media, while the Left is all about intersectional anti-Zionism and how it’s Israel’s fault when black people in America are shot by police, but they both have a problem with Jews.
Don’t kid yourself, the distinction between anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred is one without a difference. Although it is still socially unacceptable on the moderate Left to directly attack Jews (but even that is changing), the Jewish state is a legitimate target. It’s not an accident that the same people support self-determination for every indigenous group except the Jewish people, ignore oppression throughout the world but discover it when Israelis defend themselves against Arab terrorism, and question the right to exist of only one out of 193 UN member states.
If you live in a large city or a suburb of one, are a student or academic, or in a coastal area – in other words, a “blue” area, your neighbors will probably share some of the “progressive” attitudes about Israel mentioned above. If you live in a “red” area, many of them will hold more traditional anti-Jewish beliefs. Which do you prefer? Neither will be comfortable.
Many of the strongest anti-Zionists (and therefore antisemites) are Jewish. This has driven a wedge through liberal Jewish congregations in which many older members still believe that the Zionist aspiration for self-determination in our historical homeland is still legitimate, and those, mostly younger, who see it as a contradiction of their intersectional progressive belief systems. This phenomenon is increasing as anti-Zionism becomes more and more entrenched in the educational system.
What should a Zionist Jew who finds him or herself in such a community do? What if even the leaders of the community share the anti-Zionist position, something increasingly common in liberal congregations?
Polarization in America is increasing. I lived in America through the Clinton, Bush and much of the Obama years, but judging by the media (mainstream, alternative and social) and my own correspondents, I don’t recognize my former home today. Social cohesiveness seem to be disappearing, divisions deepening, the economic state of the middle class never recovered from 2008, and confidence in government, media, business, law enforcement, education, health care – almost every major institution and societal function has fallen to unprecedented lows.
This is bad for America as a whole, but it is terrible for the Jews. For literally thousands of years, whenever there has been social instability, the Jews suffer. They are a visible element (even those who think they aren’t, are) and it is natural and traditional to blame them. They were blamed for the Black Death, for Germany’s defeat in WWI, for Communism, for various financial panics, for AIDS, for 9/11, for Obama and for Trump.
I am not predicting pogroms or purges of Jews. But I do think that life in America for Jews will become less comfortable, possibly more dangerous, and most importantly for those who are Zionists, without national purpose.
I’m not discussing all the problems involved in living in Israel. There are plenty. But in the diaspora, you struggle just to survive. In the Jewish state, you struggle, at least in part, for the Jewish people. If this is something you care about, it’s more significant than anything else.
There are those with good reasons to stay where they are: family, age, responsibilities. But if you believe that the Jewish people should exercise their right of self-determination in their historic homeland and are not prevented from making your own contribution, then – what are you waiting for?