Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Passionate Yearning for Eretz Yisrael

(cross-posted on DovBear and The Muqata)

Despite DovBear's assertion, one doesn’t need to wear blue and white underwear, madly dance on Yom HaAtzmaut, or even hate Arabs to feel a passion for Eretz Yisrael.

I doubt that Rav Yehuda HaLevi met any of the above criteria, but without doubt his yearning for Zion and his spiritual craving for Eretz Yisrael burned deeply in his soul when he wrote "My heart is in the East, yet I am in the end of the West."

It’s understandable that after 2000 years of exile this passionate spark is slightly dampened in so many. Where should it, where could it emerge from, burning brightly in this day and age to ignite the passion and pathos of "If I forget thee Jerusalem…if I forget you on my day of celebration?"

How many really have the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash on their minds when they have a day of celebration? As mortals, we can’t imagine ourselves around the clock standing in front of our Creator – the human brain can’t deal with it, and we seek additional metaphors to understand the G-d/human relationship – the father/son one works best for me. Yet, there are many Jews in Israel and around the world, for which "If I forget three Jerusalem" is still a living part of their daily lives.

The posting a few days ago on DovBear’s blog, "How Deep is your Faith?" challenged many of us – if the basis for our faith is unproven, then our actions need to be carefully measured when plotting the course of Israel, and a large dose of humility thrown in for good measure.

The Torah could not agree more; we are warned explicitly to be wary of the pitfalls of arrogant military supremacy, "Kochi v’Otzem Yadi Asa Li Et HaChayil HaZeh", that "our own strength and might did for us this army." As people of faith, we need to understand that at the end of the day, our military prowess, success or failure, comes from Divine Providence. For those of us with less faith, the importance of morality and ethics is just as important.

It’s interesting to see this symmetry in action over the past month – unquestionably, the fiercest and most dedicated fighters in the IDF emerged from two groups: the members of Kibbutzim and Moshavim, and those from the national-religious community.

Seemingly an odd combination after so many years of being told that “the secular have abandoned the country” – the secular, don’t look for me in a shul ,even on Yom Kippur, ‘cause I’m eating my ham sandwich” kibbutznik, fought shoulder to shoulder in Lebanon with religious, kippa wearing, “don’t throw anyone out of Gush Katif orange wrist banded” soldiers.

For the first time in many years, the common denominator between these 2 types of Jews was glaringly apparent. The homeland of the Jewish people needed defending, and both groups volunteered, with their lives, to protect it. The issue of whether or not we could logically prove our cause was totally irrelevant -- our homeland was under attack, our soldiers kidnapped, and the vast majority of us realized inherently that we needed to fight back.

Clearly, those soldiers have a passion for Israel, yet from where does the lack of passion for Israel come from? DovBear appreciates Israel, will teach his children Hebrew, and cares about Israel – yet at the end of the day, wants to watch from America. XGH seemingly chides us to be humble in our fight for survival, apparently implying we need to tread lightly when defending ourselves [or building the land] as we end up “land grabbing”, “occupying another people” and “bombing the Lebanese” based on an unproven faith, that we believe we should live in Israel. After all, how are we any different from Hizbolla?

Yet our quest to live in Israel, based on our faith, is no less valid a right than the existence of the United States through the principle of Manifest Destinty which founded the US. To even question a Jew’s right to live in Israel and defend himself – while writing from the United States which was built upon the foundations of Manifest Destiny is to blatantly ignore history, and might I add, rather haughty and audacious. Or more succinctly, the pot calling the kettle black.

But I digress.

Passion for Israel is not necessarily rooted in nationalism…or blue and white…or kibbutz socialism… Personally, when I spent my first year in Yeshiva in Israel, I didn’t have “the passion” at all. Yet, by the end of the year, a quick poll in my yeshiva showed that 99% of those who came for the year would be interested in staying…in some sort of framework…many even permanently.

What drives the passion? Why does spending time in Israel – either in yeshiva, seminary, kibbutz, college, or army – why does it usually evoke a passion for Israel? I spent a summer in England’s Lake District, which as stunningly beautiful as it was, didn’t ignite any passion within me to want to live there. I grew up in the United States in a frum community that catered nicely to an Orthodox lifestyle: good Jewish schooling, Kosher food, an eruv (agreed to by most), shuls, a mikva, and a suburban surrounding of grass, trees, culture and little league – yet after a year in Israel, the US and my community lost it’s appeal.

Eretz Yisrael offers something else, a connection to our past and future which was missing in the US. And not only from a religious perspective – I recently walked around Raanana and was amazed at the number of secular anglo olim at the Raanana municipal park. What brought them to Israel? Why are they ALSO here in Israel? And yet…they definitely have the passion as well.

I spent time in Northern Israel during the war this past month, and was astounded by the volunteering spirit and togetherness of Israel. Families in Cental Israel’s upper middle class regions were hosting families from the North…Magen David Adom, Hatzala, the Fire Department, Auxiliary Police, social workers, all had volunteers swarming to help provide reinforcements…and the amounts of food donated for Shabbat meals for these volunteers was simply overwhelming. The feeling of unity and commonality in purpose as volunteers left their families to fight in Lebanon, to volunteer, to help, to serve, to distribute food was without a doubt, one of our finest moments as a country. That politics and differences could be put aside for a common goal was heart warming.

And this feeling crossed the boundaries of Israel and could be felt everywhere across the globe, as concerned Jews – some with more faith, some with less – but all bound up with some difficult to prove or scientifically catalog – unity, helped reignite a passion for Israel.

It may not exist for everyone, but the longing for Israel, the passion for Zion is bound up within the spiritualiy of Judiasm. It’s there – so many people felt it over the past month – impossible to explain, but I would bet dollars to donuts that many, many of you reading this posting, know exactly what I’m writing about. XGH and DovBear may scoff and dismiss this posting – it’s unscientific, not provable, maybe even G-d forbid just the messianic rantings of a fanatical settler.

Yet I still believe that majority of the readership here felt the stirring of the passion for Eretz Yisrael over the past month…the longing for Zion…and the unity of our people emerged with a clarity that had been missing for a long time.

It may be intangible, yet the passion for Eretz Yisrael still lives on in our people.

In our heart of hearts, the vast majority of us know it to be true.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Tempo said...

Beautifully put. I cry when I watch the Nefesh b'Nefesh promtional video and see the pictures of new olim. Theres a sense of longing to be in Israel and be a part of the Jewish national destiny that escapes words, but is clearly there.

rivkayael said...

Your post made me want to weep with longing to move to Eretz Yisrael. Now. There is something about the Jewish soul that can survive anywhere--but will only bloom and flourish within the land we're called to be.

Ezzie said...

You already know I love this. Amazing post. (See, I comment sometimes here, too!)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ezzie: Does that mean you aren't going to comment on DB's blog? ;-)

RivkaYael: As long as you keep your heart oriented in the right'll eventually end up here :)

Tempo: Yes, I agree -- it often escapes words or even logical explanation. Yet, it's there.

Shtender said...

It may be intangible, yet the passion for Eretz Yisrael still lives on in our people.


Jerusalemcop said...

isnt the passion a mel Gibson concept??



Jerusalemcop said...

On a serious note..

Excellent post Jameel. Although I didn't read the prequel on DB's blog, I wholeheartedly agree with u.

there is just someting in the air here that makes many people (Religious and non-religious Jews and even many non-Jews) just want to be here. And when they aren't here, they feel the longing to be here.

Maybe it's something in the cholent or maybe it's just a way from above meant to make us feel at home.



Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Elster: My pleasure! It's important to have the "bug" -- many people don't :(

B'Eezrat Hashem, the financial aspect will work out...and you'll come for a visit.

Ezzie said...

Jameel - No comment :P

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Great post Jameel. I'm not secular nor am I Orthodox, but I feel a longing to live in Israel. I guess my "yearning" has two aspects. First, I want to live around other Jews, where I can safely assume that my children will marry a Jew and I don't have to explain what a sukkah is to my neighbor. Everywhere else on the planet seems like a place that Jews fled to, or sought refuge in. But Israel has the aura of being the place where we "belong." Second, I feel a little uncomfortable with the knowledge that I am letting other people protect Israel for me either by serving in the IDF or just by living there and keeping Israel Jewish. I know that's probably going to be an unpopular opinion, so I am going to duck the flames that I am sure are heading my way. ;-)

Sarah Likes Green said...

It may be intangible, yet the passion for Eretz Yisrael still lives on in our people.

And thanks to the many bloggers who are dedicated to this passion for Israel, we get an extra reminder (like this post!) so that it's something on our minds even more than the regular day to day things we do (tefilla etc).

Excellent post.

Chodesh Tov,
Shabbat Shalom!

MC Aryeh said...

The passion for Israel has been with me from the second week I set foot in Eretz Yisrael for the first time (we won't talk about the first week) 12 and a half years ago. It came with me during times in the states, and has stayed with me now that I have returned to the states for an indefinite period of time. It is always heightened during times of crisis in Israel, when I inexplicably want to be there even more. Israel is something I long for and think about every day, and I imagine it will always be so...even though I am not there physically right now, I am definitely there in my heart and my thoughts...

SEAWITCH said...

The passion is intangible. Even as the rockets were still raining down on Israel, I was showing co-workers the town I hope to move to eventually. It is in north Israel and was untouched by the Katyushas.

They looked at me and said I'm nuts but the feeling is there and cannot be explained.

I have to wait several years. My son has to go through college. I also have to finish the path of conversion to return to my Jewish roots.

But one day, I will be able to make aliyah.

I felt so helpless when the rockets were raining down on Israel.

Unknown said...

(Cross comment from DovBear)

The Midrash says that when the Jews left Egypt about 80% of them stayed. Accurate or not, the point is clear. Most Jews didn't care to leave and didn't care to come to Israel. So they basically became lost souls to our nation.

The same is happening now in the Diaspora. Most will stay and disappear. But there're enough Jews who, because of their yearning that Jameel is talking about will come to Israel. And that's the only way for us to survive as a nation. This yearning is one of our main identities.

I believe that over the long galus many of us (the religious Jews) have lost focus on EY, because they feel that the Torah really doesn’t care where you’re and as long as you can be a good Jew anywhere any place will do. Rav Saadiah Gaon’s famous line, “Ein Umaseinu Umah Ela BaTorah” gave us our identity in galus (i.e. keeping the Torah). But keep in mind that Chazal said that the obligation of mitzvos in Chutz Laaretz is only preparatory to our return to EY. Not just the mitzvos that only apply here, but all mitzvos. So the same Torah that kept us going through the ages in Chul is the same Torah that never lost focus of what our real goal is, and that is eventually to return to EY.

As for the non-religious they already lost the Torah identity. So today EY is practically their only identity to the rest of the nation which can keep them inside over the generations.

DovBear and EXGH. It’s a stupid argument to try to make by either bringing proof from the past generations who couldn’t make it here due to all kinds of hardships and that many Jews in the US and elsewhere don’t care to come, while some in EY want to leave. That’s not the point. The point is that as long as enough of us have the yearning and do come we will survive as a nation and retain our national identity. Keeping mitzvos in chul can’t do it alone. We must have the focus on EY. If not living in it, then at least wanting to be there. And since today it’s almost as easy as buying a ticket then it’s hard to argue how someone can yearn and hope and still never come.

queeniesmom said...

Yasher koach - you've crystalized what "If I forget Thee, Yerushalaim (can't spell phonetically, sorry, hence the English)" truly means.

'till my commimentments change , I'll keep that pasuk near to my heart. it's telling that it's the 1st thing that you read when you enter my kids school, shows where our hearts lie.

Shavoah Tov.

westbankmama said...

Excellent post Jameel - and you proved me right again in my opinion that it is better to avoid blogs like Dov Bear's. What exactly was his point in writing a post like that? To make people who love Eretz Yisrael defensive? To stir up negative feelings so that he will get more readers? I read blogs of people that I disagree with - but only if their writing is meant to explain their positions and not stir up controversy for the sake of controversy.

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