Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Is Inter-Dimensional Engagement Possible?

Cosmic-X has offered the 2 similar viewpoints of JoeSettler and Ze’ev thesis that the US Jewry is disengaging from Israel. Before I offer my own theory, I would like to comment on the “bottom line” of the 2 different collection funds for Gaza Refugees and Katrina Survivors. Just because the Katrina fund collected far more money $600K vs. $170K, I don’t think that is a proper litmus test of American’s Jewry’s loyalty to Israel.

From a halachik standpoint, עניי עירך קודמים – charity should be first given to the needy of your local hometown, prior to the needs of other communities. I don’t fault US Jewry for donating more to Katrina survivors; they are probably observing this halacha correctly.

I would like to offer a different perspective on US Jewry’s attitude towards Israel, focusing on the Orthodox segment. How “engaged” has US Orthodox Jewry been in the first place? What real connection exists between these Jews and the daily lives of Jews living in the Land of Israel?

Sadly, the first word that comes to mind to describe the connection among most US Orthodox Jewry, is “Disneyland”. Israel is the largest theme park in the world that caters to the Orthodox Jewish world. Bigger than OU/NCSY takeover of Six Flags Great Adventure on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Larger than the Kosher Food Expo in the Javits Convention center in NYC. Even more grandiose than Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas at Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands.

Starting with the ELAL flight to Israel, the comical routine starts at the airport with that extra special ELAL security check-in, davening shacharit in the aisles on the plane, and culminating with the grand entrance at the new terminal 3 in Ben Gurion airport. Every Israeli is a larger than life Mickey Mouse, every IDF soldier a Donald Duck, and the old city of Jerusalem is the ultimate Epcot center of Orthodox Judaism.

The braver souls may take the scary Hevron bulletproof bus ride, take the Gush Katif Kassam attraction (temporarily closed due to renovations, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience).

Need a spiritual attraction? The Kotel, or the countless shuls around the country. We’ve got graveyards of gedolim, tzadikim, and your relatives located everywhere! Want to get the season ticket? Learn in a yeshiva for a year...we’ve got more yeshivot than emuna threatening posts on GodolHador’s website. Everything is in Hebrew…what a funky language. Check out that settler in orange! Don’t even get me started on the gift shops.

I admit it. It’s offensive. I used to be one of those season pass tourists from the US learning in yeshiva in Israel. Yet, I wasn’t really connected. In fact, it’s incredibly hard to be connected to Israel from afar. Some people wore gas-masks in the US in 1991 whenever scuds fell in Israel, but that’s not a connection.

One of the main reasons that 50% of all North American olim return back to the USA within 5 years, is because they were seeking the Disneyland Israel. It’s not their fault, and living here is far from a rose garden. The only way to really understand Israel is to live here…for a while, as real people, and not on a season ticket pass, or a 2 week Epcott special.

My main theory is that based on living in Israel being a different dimension of existence than that of US Jewry, which is very difficult to comprehend. The book Flatland is a great midrash that could explain the difficulties in understanding Israel from the perspective of US Jewry. The world of Flatland is a 2 dimensional plane. There are lines, squares hexagons, all who live a very wonderful existence within their dimension. One day, a stranger appears from the 3rd dimension: A Sphere. He tries to explain how he can intersect the plane of Flatland and he has a wonderful quality called “volume.” Needless to say, it’s very challenging for him to explain to a 2 dimensional being what a 3rd dimension is.

As it is almost Yom Kippur, I would like mention that this suggestive comparison is not meant to be, G-d forbid condescending towards US Jewry. I was there, and even after moving to Israel, I didn’t at all comprehend what was really going on. I didn’t understand the inner workings of Israel’s politics, the passion of the Left, the tenaciousness of Israel’s media, or even what loving the land really meant. It took time, a lot of time to comprehend what a different dimension Israel is, from living in the US.

Living in Israel today, means you have your finger on the pulse of Jewish history, you are part of Jewish history, and you are living proof of the Prophesies from the Tanach. We are the living legacy that the Jewish people have returned home to rule ourselves, in our homeland.

When Gush Katif was destroyed this summer, my children participated in the struggle against the Disengagement. We went to every protest possible, and it was a challenge explaining to them about democracy, rule of law, Ahavat Chinam, Ahavat HaAretz, and what are the boarders of acceptable Jewish behavior in protesting the government’s policy. You can’t compare that to the summer plans of Orthodox Jewish children in the US. My children saw our friends thrown out of their home, and they lived with us till they got back on their feet.

My children know that I will do whatever I can to ensure that we return and rebuild Gush Katif. If however, G-d forbid, I am unsuccessful, then it will be their mission to return and rebuild. This is a mission they will pass on to their children as well.

Living in Israel today is the fulfillment of the promise our forefathers made 2000 years ago when the Romans destroyed the Beit HaMikdash.

How do we bridge the spatial gap between Israel and US Jewry, and get them to feel what is going on here? I’ll let you think about that over Yom Kippur.

May we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, Good health, Unity and Prosperity.

Jameel.
The Muqata.

19 comments:

Joe Settler said...

Unfortunately, Muqata's Disney analogy is very accurate.

But if we follow that anaology then we need to use this as an opportunity.

Over Sukkot (and actually it's started already), the hotels are filling up with Americans visiting their favorite holiday resort.

This is limited opportunity to reel them in a little bit more (for another ride).


Every hotel must have a Gush Katif stand where American tourist can meet with and then go visit GK refugees.

GK speakers must be offered to speak to them over Shabbat and Yom Tov (second days even).

Eventually, instead of riding the rides, someone might look behind the curtain and ask management for a full-time job.

annie said...

i really enjoyed what you wrote..
it's definitely camp for some.

The way i look at it, when one comes on Aliyah, one has to have in his mind that he/she is marrying the place ( for better or for worse). Eretz Yisrael isn't shalem (whole) without us, and Hashem lets the land bring forth fruit only when the Jews retern home..Thank G-d the Jews are slowly returning home.. but of course it is a process.

Just like marriage has its challenges, so does living in Israel.. Maybe if we can expect them, then we wont be so surprised and/or hurt by them.

I feel, that instead of judging american Jewry..instead of being dissappointed in their inability to let go of their comfortable lives in america, We should just judge ourselves, and keep doing what we are doing... setting an example.

You made aliyah! My husband and i made aliyah! We are so proud of it. So maybe if we just show how truly special it really is, others will do it too.

Thanks.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Annie - While the other posts were disappointed with American Jewry, I just provided my observation on why US Jewry is disconnected.

As I wrote, I don't judge them at all, since you can't understand living here till you are actually here. (IMHO)

Anwyway - I thank G-d every day on my way to work, that I can drive to work, give lots of trempim to people, and enjoy the wonderful scenery of the Shomron/Binyanim Hills on my way to Jerusalem.

Gmar Chatima Tova!

Anonymous said...

Jameel,

What you said really resonates. I very much want to come to live in E"Y, and it's not about the people (who don't always have the greatest midos) or the culture (which is downright vulgar and disgusting). It's only because of the immense value that HK"BH has given to the land. It's the palce where the shechina resides.

If a person/couple don't have this perspective in mind, then I think (and I hope that I'm wrong) their aliyah will be doomed to failure, Because some Israelis aren't the friendliest and the red tape can be unbearable.

E"Y is one of the three things which is acquired with yisurin. I don't know how one can possibly have an easy move to E"Y. This is not to discourage anyone either, because the reward in the end (not just olam haba) is most definitely worth the initial discomfort.

As an american who tries to keep this mindset and hopes to be in E"Y soon, would you have any more advice or pointers on building an sense of ahavas ha'aretz and its people?

G'mar chasimah tovah,

Zamir

Litvshe said...

Jameel,

I'm not sure if I should call you a fascist or say...damn, you're right. I'll probably do both.
Anyway, my wife comes from a prominent frum family in NY. Yeshivishe, wealthy, and large. Most of the boys come for a year or two. Mir, Brisk, Merkaz HaTorah...etc. And then they leave, go back to the states get married, and lucky if they'll come for a visit every 5-10 years. I was blown away, when one of the cousins, maybe 10 at the time, said..."I don't want to live in Israel, just be buried there".
So, besides Disneyland, you can add graveyard, in your description.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Litvishe: Sigh...I wrote it in the posting above:

"We’ve got graveyards of gedolim, tzadikim, and your relatives located everywhere"

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous: arg. Wrote you a whole reply and blogger ate it. Drop me an email and I'll give you some pointers.

tafka PP said...

I'm trying not to judge them either, but it is hard when they're causing me such severe tinnitus: When you get around to re-educating your former compatriots about the true realities of the Land of Israel, can you also give them a special class in how to be less noisy when they're walking thru our holy streets?!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TAFKAPP: Why? Meah Shearim has all sorts of creative suggestions for re-educating tourists on how to walk through streets.

Ze'ev said...

Jamal, great post... but I must disagree with you on one point. I do not believe that the Jews of the US who gave money to Katrina were neccesarily fulflling the obligation of giving to the needy of your town first... Does this obligation apply to the non-Jews of one's city?

Is the OU's $ only going to Jews?

Also, if one views living in Israel as required under Jewish Law, then the law of giving ot the poor or your city 1st should naturally be applied within Israel. If American jewry has chosen to live outside of Israel, that's between them and G-d, but by choosing to give their money to Ameircan non-jews before their Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel is a big deal.

I dont really believe that the reason why this was the case was b/c they were saying to themsleves that we are olbigated to give the poor of our city first...

As I see it, this is the natural consequence of living in Galut. Dual loyalties. One has to come before the other, and to choose Israel beofree America would not look very good or feel very good when a large part of your home country is suffering.

daat y said...

WQW!
POWERFUL AND TRUE POST.Israel is a wonderful place to visit,they say.
I also thank God everyday for the opportunity of living here.

Tovya @ Zion Report said...

I agree with your Israel-Disneyland theory. As bad as the Leftists can be about that, many orthodox are just as bad here. I have known some who would even try to discourage me from making aliyah.

Anyway, have an easy fast brother.

Gee, a Moron! said...

Reminds me of an old joke on the same theme:

A Jew is granted his wish to get a preview of Heaven and Hell during his lifetime so he can decide what type of lifestyle to lead for the duration of his stay b'olam hazeh that would lead to one or the other.

He is shown Heaven as a Beit Midrash with old men sitting and learning with Moshe Rabeinu as the Maggid Shiur.

Hell on the other hand is shown to him as a non-stop cocktail party with jazz music and dancing.

The fellow chooses a life of sin and after 120 years is hauled off to a Hell which is a Gehenom of fire and brimstone.

"This isn't what I was shown!!!" he wailed. And a Bat Kol yelled down from above "Before you were a tourist. Now you are an Oleh Chadash".

May we all merit choosing the right way, finding out that Aliyah has its heavenly moments (after 21 years I already know that) and most of all G'mar Chatima Tova!

Gee, a Moron! said...

Reminds me of an old joke on the same theme:

A Jew is granted his wish to get a preview of Heaven and Hell during his lifetime so he can decide what type of lifestyle to lead for the duration of his stay b'olam hazeh that would lead to one or the other.

He is shown Heaven as a Beit Midrash with old men sitting and learning with Moshe Rabeinu as the Maggid Shiur.

Hell on the other hand is shown to him as a non-stop cocktail party with jazz music and dancing.

The fellow chooses a life of sin and after 120 years is hauled off to a Hell which is a Gehenom of fire and brimstone.

"This isn't what I was shown!!!" he wailed. And a Bat Kol yelled down from above "Before you were a tourist. Now you are an Oleh Chadash".

May we all merit choosing the right way, finding out that Aliyah has its heavenly moments (after 21 years I already know that) and most of all G'mar Chatima Tova!

daat y said...

Ido agree with Ze'ev it is not aneyei ircha but a galut mentality.We are aneyai ircha.

daat y said...

leshana haba'ah beyerushalayim habenuah.
Thanks for your greatblog-relevant,up to date and thoughtful.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Up To date? Is that a jab for not updating ,my blog since erev yom kippur?

;-)

More tomorrow...

Cosmic X said...

Awesome post Jameel!

tafka PP said...

Belated LOL at the Mea Sha'arim suggestion.

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