Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Responding to a Comment: Why endanger your family?

Newtime commenter "nuch a chosid" left me the following comment:

I don't feel comfortable asking you this. But I don't really get the fact that you feel living in such areas, is your mitzva of protecting Eretz yisroel, we wouldn't live in Harlem and we would rather understand you making sure your family is in a safe place where you are not in constant danger, then chosing to live in the frontline I know you think different, but we Americans (or at least I as a yankee) can never understand it.

Dear Nuch a Chosid,

Although you felt uncomfortable asking, I'm glad you posted your comment.

Living in Eretz Yisrael is first and foremost a privilege to fulfill the mitzva of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Just as keeping Shabbat and observing the laws of Kashrut are not always simple, living in Israel can quite challenging as well.

Like you, I also grew up in the United States (and while I didn't live in Harlem, my junior high school yeshiva was surrounded by barbed wire at the time) and didn't live in a "war zone." I recall travelling on the NYC subways (and feeling less than secure), and I also experienced antisemitism. As a teenager riding on the subway, I was spat at by someone so frightening, it didn't even cross my mind to fight back or say anything. Riding my bike through suburbia, I had an occasional glass bottle thrown at me with an accompanying nasty epithet. Our shuls and mikva had swastikas spray painted on them as well.

However, the decision for me to move to Israel took place while I was learning in Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. Learning the mitzvot Teluyot Baaretz, combined with a new understanding of Jewish history made it obvious to me that one could live life as a Jew outside of Israel as an observer, a spectator of emerging Jewish history, or one could live in Israel and be a player, an active participant in modeling our future (hopefully, as a positive influence as well on Israeli society).

Living in the Shomron wasn't always "front line". Kiryat Shmona had it very bad in the 70's, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv had a terrible spate of bus bombings and other terror attacks from the mid-90's, Southern Israel is still receiving almost-daily Qassam rocket attacks, and Northern Israel didn't have the easiest of summers.

Yet, when Palestinian terror came to the Shomron, I volunteered to actively participate in our community's defense through the IDF. There are 2 ways to deal with issues; you can sit back, complain, and worry. Or, you can be proactive and take an active role in your own defense.

I think the latter is a much healthier way to deal with problems, and it also has a positive educational effect on our children. They don't walk around scared that any second something can happen (and for the most part, things are quiet), because they know that in the event of an emergency, we have many dedicated people who train to neutralize terror threats quickly and effectively.

It can be "scary" at times, but there are plenty of scary situations all over the globe, all the time -- be it airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings, biological, chemical or nuclear threats against the USA, terrible terrorist attacks in London and the rest of Europe, or just plain old targeting of Jews through antisemitism.

In the bigger scheme of things, I sincerely believe that the more Jews live in Israel, the better the situation will be for our people. Realizing that Israel is the land where Hashem constantly watches (more than any other place on the planet - ארץ אשר עיני ה' אלוקך בה), we have the opportunity to personally and positively influence our history, as individuals and as a community.

While we may have seemingly scary situations from time to time, we don't view ourselves as living in constant danger. My kids can safely stay out late and come home by themselves, my younger kids can walk to gan by themselves if they wish, and that's something you don't often find in Chutz Laaretz.

Bringing an M16 to shul on Shabbat may seem like a big deal, but in the grand scheme of things, my quality of life is probably a lot higher than yours.

And we merit to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Thanks again for dropping by to visit.


PS: For an amazing movie review of the new movie about the life of The Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, please see Chana's blog, The Curious Jew, here.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Akiva said...

Jameel, nice reply. However, it's worth mentioning that there are LOTS of chassidim that do 'live in Harlem'. Crown Heights is not exactly the East Village, and Williamsburg is similar.

Go 2 blocks the wrong direction and you wish you have an M-16.

And, in an even sadder thought, people from my community were lost in 9-11.

So do all the Jews run from NY and the tri-state area? Why not???

Because there's an image of safety for the US, and an image of non-safety for Israel, as portrayed on the TV and evening news. Yet, you have an 18,000% higher chance of being personally affected by violence in New York City than in Israel.

An interesting related note. Male life expectancy in Israel is the 3rd highest in the world (exceeded only by Japan and Finland), and that INCLUDES army service and terrorism stat's. The US is some 30 positions lower on the list.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jameel!!

Anonymous said...

Great post Jameel! And akiva, good point about life expectancy. That statistic includes terror and army.

Let's not leave out the fact that living in Israel (anywhere, but especially where there is danger) and defending it is a complete observance of 'milchemet mitzva'. And let't not forget the tremendous kiddush hashem of Jews returning to their land after 2000 years of exile, realizing the words of the prophets, and by definition, sanctifying God's name!

dgesq said...

Dear Mr. Jameel,
You probably have never heard of me but I am an avis reader of your blog via serandez. I agree with 99% of the matters in which you address, however I disagree with you reasoning and arguments on this specific topic only. Before I begin please let me say that I have the utmost respect for you and your willingness to live in Eretz Yisroel. To say that the safety level of the Shomron is comparable with that of the "5 towns"(just an example) is just not true. I've been living in America for 24 years and I must say that I've never felt that my life was in danger nor was I ever subject to blatant anti-Semitism. The fact is, the standard of living in America is higher and unfortunately it it safer too. Let me end off by writing that I respect you immensely and respect every American who makes Aliyah. Hopefully I will see you in Eretz Yisroel when I work up the courage


Anonymous said...

Wow, that was a nice and lengthy response, which I do appreciate.

I may not agree with everything u have argued, but i dafinatly get your point and respect your views.

I have to run now, but I will try to come back to this, an discuss it more.

Thanks again for taking the time and effort to explain.

and together with Klal Yisroel every where we daven and hope for true 'Shalom' in Eretz Yisroel and all over, and above all to the Geula Shelima Bimheiro Beyomeinu.

Gee a Moron said...

I'm on a quick jaunt around the world to meet with a new business partner in Seoul S. Korea. B"H I'll be back in Israel tonight after a 20 hour trip.

This is a place where there is *nothing* Jewish. Not even Chabad has an outpost here. Makes me miss all the things we take for granted.

I also grew up in NYC *Queens) but there is nothing quite like living in Israel where the Jewish calendar, holidays, kosher food are all prt of the norm.

The international (or even the Israeli) news media never ran a story such as "my grandson came home from gan having learned a new Tu B'shvat song" or "it is safe to walk the streets even at night". Only the worst of it all is shown. (I live in the Binyamin region south of the Shomron near Modi'in)

After 22 years I wouldn't trade it for the world and this business has given me plenty of opportunities ti see the world.

Anonymous said...

great response Jameel. I would add that distance makes people think it is more dangerous than it is. It is true locally as well. I know people who live in Herzliya who have hardly visited Jerusalem because of hos dangerous it is there! Everyone thinks everyone else's Arabs are dangerous. Someone from Gush Katif told me (pre-disengagement) when asked how they can live there isn't it so dangerous, that it is not dangerous at all, yet they are afraid when they go to Jerusalem and the Kotel because of all the bus bombings.
Dangerous is relative.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi Dgesq -

Thanks very much for your comment! A few thoughts on your comment. My wife often tells me that I possibly, inadvertently, frighten away guests to our yishuv after they spend shabbat by us, because our home is not exactly, "the standard" for a typical household...even in the Shomron.

There are many volunteers in the US who do all sorts of jobs you could consider "dangerous", including soliders fighting for America in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even those gaurding America's borders. Here in Israel, I happen to be one of those people, and I blog about it from time to time, which is why you read about it here. I could ignore it all, and not volunteer, and live a simpler life -- but that's my decision.

However, a more basic point is "What is worth fighting for?"

Living in Eretz Yisrael today is far easier than almost at any time in the past 2000 years. The number one killer in Israel is not terrorism. It's not even road accidents.

It's heart disease.

You are lucky that you never once experienced antisemitism in the US, or ever felt your life was in danger. However, the relatives of those who died in 9/11, or were in the WTC that day, might feel differently.

Again, what is worth fighting for?

Till there was a viable option of Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, I would say that the US would be a wonderful country to fight for. The foundations of liberty, democracy and civil rights of the USA are worth fighting for.

However, once Israel became a viable option, it would seem to me that for Jews, ISRAEL should be MORE worth fighting for.

Living in the Shomron, is a privledge worth fighting for. (In my opinion). I don't think my children are traumatized by it, though we do have security issues you don't face in the US. We have plastic windows on our cars to fend off rocks. I carry a gun.

But I would much rather carry a gun, and defend myself for the right to live here, than live in Chutz Laaretz.

We take precautions; there are bullerproof buses. We have a bomb shelter in our home (mandated by the building code). And my kids know that if I have to run off into the night, they don't give me a hard time, they lock the door behind me, turn off downstairs lights, and go upstairs.

But they aren't scared...because this rarely happens, and they know in advance that this is what I volunteer for...and train for.

So what is worth fighting for?

Our right to live here.

And I would much rather my children grow up knowing that we are fighting for the right to live in our land, as proud Jews, than to watch it all play out on CNN from somewhere in the US.

I am not criticizing you for living in the US; you grew up there. Its not simple to actualize aliya, let alone seriously ponder it.

Yet, I don't think that our lives are that bad off here. You could ask my kids what they think...

dgesq said...

Dear Jameel,
I agree with your response to my comment 100%. But if I recall correctly, my point at issue with you was the fact that you wrote "my quality of life is probably a lot higher than yours." I don't no your financial situation (mine is not great), but that aside,purely based on safety and the economy in Israel that cannot be true. Let me mention once again that I respect you and what you are doing so much. But making a blanket statement that the standard of living in the Shomron is equal to somwhere in America, I cannot accept. What you are doing IS worth it, but it takes a certain type of person to do it.
With much respect,

Jack Steiner said...

You haven't lived until you have had a waffle breakfast with Jameel. Of course that is after one of our outstanding tiyulim.

tafka PP said...

Dqesq makes a very good point, with the Israeli poverty figures what they are.

JoeSettler said...

I agree, I think it's time we stop endangering ourselves living out here in these remote settlements.

Let's close up the Gaza settlements and move to Sderot.

Hmmm. Did that. Sderot is no longer safe.

Let's close up Sderot and move 'em all to Jerusalem.

Hey, what's going on here? Is the violence following us to Gilo and French Hill?

OK, Forget Jerusalem (CvS), let's move to Dizengoff.

What do you mean they bombed the mall?

America. That's it. Everyone in Israel, we're all moving to LA, Florida and NY.

What do you mean someone shot up the El Al terminal, and blew up the Twin Towers.

Damn it. Everytime we leave somewhere the violence seems to follow us to the new location - and even stronger.

Maybe we should have stayed where we were in the first place and fought back against the terrorists instead of wondering what we were doing endangering ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respond to dgesq and tafka. Two points;
1. quality of life is not totally related to income level. There are many different aspects to quality of life. For example, not having to worry about your kids walking to their friends' house or getting time of for the chagim or the fact that the "rat race" isn't quite as intense here.
2. Contrary to popular belief, people do actually make money in this country today. In many businesses you could make as much as you make in chu'l. Couple that with the fact that in an area like I or jameel live in, it's possible to get a 5 bedroom house for a small fraction of the price that you could get in in a frum community in the states, and one can certainly live comfortably here as well. Plus don't forget the whole no tuition thing.

Anonymous said...

Gee, what a smart idea, joe.

trn said...

my quality of life is probably a lot higher than yours

Without a doubt, higher than mine. Quite enviable.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's me again, I am back.

I understand very well your arguments and explanations, on

1) How special it is to live in eretz yisroel. Where you are being mekyam mitzva yishuv eretz yisroel, and you are able to do the mitzvos hatliyos be'aretz

2) How you feel it's something worth fighting for.


1) Now, I am not a big (or even s small) talmid chochem to argue on halocha, but this far I know that not all poskim agree that mitzvas yishuv eretz yisroel is going on bizman hazeh.

Although nobody argues on Mitzvas hatliyos be'aretz that are sure special opportunities of doing miztvas which we in chutz le'aretz don't have.

2) But the second point is the one
I want to argue

As a yid, we have a mitzvah of וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם we are not allowed to endanger ourselves even for the biggest mitzvah other the the 3 that are יהרג ואל יעבור so feeling that something is special and worth fighting for, is not enough reason to endangered ones safety and wellbeing.

You know better then me, how the ground is soaked with Yiddish blood from those cold blooded מחבלים רוצחים murderers who have no mercy for innocent people woman or babies, why should you live in such an area where it's not considered safe.

of course, bad things can happen any where g-d forbid, like u mentioned 9-11 etc. but there is a thing of שכיח הזיקא and downtown Manhattan is not considered שכיח הזיקא but the territories where those beasts live next door to you are considered a dangerous place.

Therefore, feeling that it’s worth fighting for, is not enough reason to be allowed to live there.

Again, I apologize for my questions, I dont want to sound unsensistive. Your explanations may clear things up for me and those of us who don’t understand this

Anonymous said...

and i'll accept that breakfast waffle offer
one day

Anonymous said...

Hmm you guys awaited my reply..i'm one of the few hardcore chabad / settlers..

Nuch a chosid,
Firstly before you even reply... be aware that I am / was close with alot of the chasidic rebbe's, satmar, bobov, kaliv, kashav etc..

The issue I always bring up is:

How can you talk against settling as being danguress... what about europe ?!?! there were programs there every day.. and then the holecaust...

Surely they could have all moved to america to save themselfs...

And you know what the answer is ? alpayim shana kadma torah l'olam!

The ribono shel olam created this world ONLY to give us jews the torah and mitzvos.

And america iz andresht.. and people were runing from the torah there. So the rebbeim all stayed in europe.

Because as rabbi akiva quoted the fish to the fox "without water I cannot survive"

To quote you the last 2 lines of tehilim 105

"vayitem la'hem artzot goyim, v'amal leumim yirashu. Ba'avur yishmaru chukav v'toratov yintzoru haleluka."

Surely I need not transelate it, according to the lubavitcher rebbe and many other poskim (I learnt a whole sefer on this which quotes rav moshe feinstein amongst others) and all the millatary experts (the a-political ones)

It is precisely the settling of yehuda / shomron / gaza / jordan valley / golan.. that secures the rest of eretz yisrael.

Nuch a chasid,
I quote you the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"I am completely and unequivocally opposed to the surrender of any of the liberated areas currently under negotiation, such as Yehudah and Shomron, the Golan, etc., for the simple reason, and only reason, that surrendering any part of them would contravene a clear ruling found in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, Ch. 329, par. 6,7). I have repeatedly emphasized that this Psak-Din has nothing to do with the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, or with “days of Moshiach,” the geulah, and similar considerations, but solely with the rule of pikuach-nefesh. This is further emphasized by the fact that this psak-din has its source in the Talmud (Eruvin 45a), where the Gemara cites as an illustration of a “border-town” under the terms of this psak-din — the city of Neharde’a in Babylon (present-day Iraq) — clearly not in Eretz Yisrael. I have emphasized time and again that it is a question of, and should be judged purely on the basis of, pikuach-nefesh, not geography.

The said psak-din deals with a situation where gentiles (the term is Goyim, not enemies) besiege a Jewish border-town, ostensibly to obtain “straw and chaff,” and then leave. But because of the possible danger, not only to the Jews of the town, but also cities, the Shulchan Aruch rules that upon receiving news of the gentiles (even only preparations), the Jews must mobilize immediately and take up arms even on Shabbos — in accordance with the rule that “pikuach-nefesh supersedes Shabbos.”

Anonymous said...

Elchonon, thanks for your reply
I’ll also point out that I have ties to Chabad, I had the zechiya of knowing (if one can say so) the Rebbe n”e and I know about the more famous stands of the rebbe N"E.

I guess what the rebbe said was about living there and not giving it back, but I don't think the rebbe agreed that u should stay there in such terms of danger, where u r forced to do chilul shabas every week, just to stay there. Things have changed drastically over the last years.

and to Joe settler It was tragic-comic the way of putting it, that any place u would move there is danger, but do u "really" compare LA or Manhattan or Florida, to a town where u literally walk on shabos with an m16 in the hand..... Do u really see the 2 as equal dangerous?
In LA or Manhattan people still feel and are safe bezres hashem, and even in Tel Aviv and Yerushalyim, but unfortunately in shomron... I wish u were... but u r not.

Anonymous said...

The m16 is not muktza.. its a deterant tool even without shooting, so its a davar sh' melachto boh.

Again, its the equalivant of telling hatzalah guys to stop carying radio's on shabbos.

Chilul shabbos does NOT exist in cases of pikuach nefesh.. the setteling of yehuda / shomron is pikuach nefesh of all of eretz yisrael.

Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Jameel: I'm officially baack! How's it been? How are you and your family? I feel exaclty like you when it comes to living in Israel. Though we live in Ramat Hasharon at present I'd like nothing better than to relocate to somewhere in Judea or Samaria. My wife opposes me in this and I don't want any trouble on the homefront so I have given in to her desire to "live in safety"(for now).

Elchonon: I'm terribly sorry for putting up that quote of yours about Sudan and keeping it up for so long on my blog. I've been studying Judaism and I've realized that was plain and simple lashon ha'ra. Please have it in your heart to forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Great answer Jameel.
I think that the quality of life for Jews living in Israel is incomparable to any other place.
Just the fact that everyone speaks hebrew is worth it by itself.
As for danger - if you were born jewish - you're in great danger, so you might as well live in a place where you can defend yourself.
finally - Israel is a miracle. an honest to god miracle. Who would not want to live in a miracle, and why?
The Shomron itself is not especially dangerous. In israel, as
in other places it depends on when.Sometimes there is more danger in one area than in another, so Jamell can be justified in feeling that he has a very high standard of living.

aliyah06 said...

The "safety" most Americans feel is largely illusory IMHO--maybe its from too many years of law enforcement, but my husband and I both lived in a very financially well-off community in northern California and prefer to live in Israel for many reasons -- and it is FAR safer to raise children here.

Ask yourself (1) when was the last time in Israel that a criminal killed an entire family in order to kidnap and sexually abuse the surviving child? (2) how many pictures of missing children are on Israeli milk cartons? (3) when and where was the last school yard massacre in Israel? (4) how many Israeli daughters get raped on the way to or from school? or at school? (5) how many stabbings happen on public transportation daily? (6)how often do you arrange to drive your children everywhere because it is unsafe for them to walk to school, to friends, to the market due to kidnappings by sexual predators? (7) how many Israeli children are shot to death annually by their peers? (8) do you keep your daughter away from her friends' homes because every weekend is gala party with booze and gang-rape?

Benny Sela made headlines here in Israel--such crimes are so commonplace in the States that they don't make the national news most times.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. I lived in an area as nice as, if not nicer, than 5-Towns, and people are afraid to let their kids go anywhere unsupervised or alone--even the market. Statistically it's "safe" but only because the parents cocoon their children. Who wants to live, and raise children, in that kind of state-of-seige mentality?

Apart from the many excellent reasons to live in Israel already raised in these responses, if one is going to compare "safety" here in Israel to the States, come spend a couple of weeks here and see something unheard of in many affluent American communities -- children walking to school without an adult; children playing in the parks unsupervised; children taking the buses without fear of getting mugged.

Quality of life is excellent here. There is less personal danger in public here than in the States--I don't have to watch my back here while in line at the ATM for fear that I'm going to get mugged as soon as I pull the money out (a commonplace robbery technique).

the sabra said...

nuch a chossid-
i feel more scared when im out of israel. plain and simple. i can literally count on my fingers the amount of times i feared for my life when i was in israel.
in chul? too many.

it IS possible to live a life of 'higher quality' outside of israel, but it sure is harder. the kedusha is more felt in israel. the places you visit with your school are ones that are meaningful to you as a jew. not as an american, frenchie, spaniard.

then again, depends what qualifies as quality.

and joe settler, great comment. twas exactly what i was about to say. thanks.

hey i like this comment idea..i can blabber on as much as i want, vent as i see necessary..and no one can stop me...cuz if they do, i leak all my newly acquired blog gossip. yea!

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