Aliyah Revolution - Helping you move to Israel - live on

The Aliyah Revolution Has Begun! Go'el Jasper and Dovid Gantshar bring you along the winding journey home to Israel.
Live Each Week at Thursday 11am US ET, 6pm in Israel, only on

Monday, April 27, 2009

No Hebrew? No Problem!

Rabbi Betzalel Borstein, principal of Yerushalaim Torah Academy, talks with Go'el about helping boys who struggle with learning Hebrew graduate Israeli high school. For free mp3 download of this podcast click here

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Go'el's Aliyah Book Club!

Two weeks ago, we introduced a new feature called "Go'el's Aliyah Book Club." Every so often, we will be discussing a book related to Aliyah "book report"-style! Here's a summary of the first book ...

WITH FRIENDS LIKE YOU ... What Israelis Really Think of American Jews
By Matti Golan (former editor of Haaretz)

Here's the Publisher's Weekly Review (which will be followed by Go'el's):

Israeli journalist Golan asserts that American Jews have no right to criticize Israel, for it is the Israelis, and not the Americans, who face destruction every day. American Jews, he charges, are in danger of total assimilation and are preoccupied with Israel's image in the U.S. media. Claiming that American Jewish philanthropic aid to Israel is corrupt and humiliating to recipients, he urges diaspora Jews to make investments in Israel instead of sending charity. He also labels Reform and Conservative Judaism diluted and ersatz. Attacking Elie Wiesel for speeches that allegedly encourage American Jews to stay firmly settled in the U.S., Golan calls for the emigration of two million well-trained American Jews to Israel, a move that he claims would greatly improve Israel's security. Written in the form of an angry, pointed dialogue between an Israeli and an American Jew, this provocative book airs strong opinions that Israeli Jews seldom express so openly about their American coreligionists.

Go'el's Review:

When I was first given this book - by an Israeli friend - to read, when I was still living in the U.S. (Baltimore), I read through the first 30-40 pages and was mildly fascinated by the author's assertion that American Jews think they are helping Israel more than they actually are. And then I put the book down. Then, it was more than 3 years until I picked it up and read it again. What a mistake! By the time I read the entire book, we had already made Aliyah. But it sure as heck would have happened faster had I read this book cover-to-cover when I had first received it from my friend.

The book discusses not only that Americans spend too much time patting themselves on the collective back for "helping Israel" by visiting, buying products and donating to Federation, but MORE importantly, Golan makes the case that the only way Americans can REALLY help Israel is by, you guessed it(!), making Aliyah!

Now granted, had I read this book three years earlier, I would not have been in the U.S. to witness the perfect season of my beloved St. Joe's Hawks, led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, but then again, perhaps that's not as important as living in the land promised to our forefathers!

Here's how I rate this book (1-10, with 10 being best):

1. READABILITY: 8, especially once you get past the first 50 pages or so

2. RELIGIOUS JUSTIFICATION FOR ALIYAH: 3 - Golan, a secular Israeli himself, generally stays away from the halachic arguments for Aliyah, but in some ways, that makes the book more powerful

3. PRACTICAL ALIYAH ADVICE: 1 - No real tachlis help here.

4. INSPIRATION TO MAKE THE BIG MOVE: 7 - If Jews respond to guilt, we're going to have a lot more folks walking down those El Al steps at Ben-Gurion Airport after reading this one! But the book lacks the heart and soul elements to make it a 10

OVERALL RATING: 7 - READ THIS BOOK! It's available on Amazon.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You Can Do It!

I had the privilege of speaking with a Tehilla Pilot Trip group the other day, and the following is the talk I delivered. Comments always welcome!

You know, I often have the privilege of speaking to groups of people that are somewhere along the process of making Aliyah. Sometimes, I speak to those who are already here. Sometimes, to those who are still over there.

And sometimes, I have the incredible honor of speaking to a group filled with people who are knee-deep in the process itself. These people are completed and totally obsessed with movers … schools … communities …employment.

These people – you – are in the middle of an unbelievable experience.

And it should be. After all, you are in the process of ending the Exile for your families, which is an incredible concept.

But it’s so overwhelming. You’re leaving your families. You’re leaving your communities. You have to learn a new language, get a new job, find new friends, make sure your kids will be alright.

It’s a lot, to say the least.

So I want to tell you something …

You can do it.

I promise.

You can.

Let me tell you a little story. This past Motzei Shabbat, my wife Gilla and I took our kids out for a little celebration. We had just surpassed two years here in Israel. Yup, that’s right. We’ve been here two years. So we wanted to take our kids out to celebrate.

We took them to arguably the most American restaurant in Yerushalayim. We took them to Café Rimon.

You want American French fries? You go to Rimon. Onion Rings? Rimon.

You want Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? There is only one place to go … Café Rimon.

Over the course of two years here in Israel, I have missed a bunch of things about America. I miss my family, a lot. I miss my rabbi. I miss Rabbi Frand’s shiur every Thursday night.

But there are two other things I really miss:

1. I miss the excitement of reading in the paper that “pitchers and catcher report today.”
2. I miss American ice cream.

And let’s just say that these last two are not necessarily in that order. I mean, I’ve searched high and low for a banana split with American ice cream since we arrived three Decembers ago.

So when we walked into Café Rimon two nights ago, I was a man on a mission. And I got my banana split.

But I digress …

So we took five of our kids (we left the baby with a sitter) out to Café Rimon, and we told them they could each order whatever they wanted to celebrate two years in Israel.

And then, after the food arrived, we asked each of the kids what they like most about living in Israel.

Two of them wimped out and said, “Everything.”

One of them, our two year old, said, “ice cream,” but would have said, “going to the bathroom” if she had been going to the bathroom when we had asked the question.

And one of them said, “the playgrounds.”

Oh, the fifth? Well, that’s an interesting story, because he’s the same one who absolutely refused to speak Hebrew for the first 8 months we lived here. Refused. Like when after 4 months I asked him, “Mah atah rotzeh l’echol?” and he answered, “I don’t speak Hebrew, Abba.”

Don’t worry. There’s a happy ending. Not only did he start speaking Hebrew finally, but because of the 8-month rejection, he has become, for a 7-year old, an incredible reader of English books. He’s read like 200 books or something.

So I repeat … you can do it.

Anyway, what do “everything,” “ice cream” and “the playgrounds” have in common?

After all, there is absolutely nothing unusual, Israeli or remarkable about any of them.

And that’s the point. That’s what they have in common.

And that, to me, is the biggest indication that we are doing okay with our Aliyah.

By the way, Gilla and I answered the question as well. I won’t share what she said, but I will tell you what I said.

I said that it’s incredible to see our kids growing up in a place where they can feel absolutely comfortable being Jewish. Their tzitzis can hang out. Their peyos can fly around in the wind. The girls can wear “Shabbos gowns” and feel 100% comfortable.

And as they grow up, and they each find their niche, they will be able to feel comfortable here.

Because we’re the majority here.

You know, I said something to the last group, and I’ll say it again today. Israel is so perfect for the Jews, that even those who don’t like being Jewish can feel comfortable here.

Wanna be a secular Jew in America because you are embarrassed about being Jewish? Guess what? You’ll still be seen as a Jew. But here? Move to Tel Aviv, and no one will ever look at you like you are the Jewish one. It’s incredible.

Anyway, my kids love everything. They love playgrounds. They love living here.

So don’t worry. You can do it.

You just have to work at it. And you have to know that certain things are going to be different here.

You want a job? Don’t worry. You’ll get a job. It may not be the perfect job for you, and you may have to pound the pavement a bit, but you’ll get a job.

You want a good school for your kids? Don’t worry. You’ll have a school for your kids. It won’t be like TA in Baltimore was for us. But our kids are learning. And we pay attention to their education. So, with HaShem’s help, they’ll turn out fine.

You want a nice community? Don’t worry. You’ll find the right community. It may not be the first one you find. You may have to test out a few places. But you’ll find a fine community.

It actually reminds me of a book I once read. Part of it goes like this. Maybe you’ve heard it …

Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You can get so confused that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Now let me ask you something: How many times do you think Dr. Seuss tried his hand at Aliyah? He ever visit Israel? Was he even Jewish?


Then how did he know what it’s like to get an Israeli driver’s license? How did he know that Israeli winters are sometimes filled with weeks of rain at a time?

Because life has these kinds of ups and downs no matter where you are.

And that’s why I say, you can do it.

No matter whether you have no kids or six kids. Old kids or young kids. FFB or BT. Fluent in Hebrew or clueless in Hebrew.

You can do it.

There is just one more thing I want to mention before I let you go.

When I said at the beginning that this is an unbelievable experience, I meant it. And that doesn’t mean it’s going to be all wonderful. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.

It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible. It’s beyond description.

It’s so worth everything you will be going through.

Just think … Moshe Rabbeinu worked so hard to lead the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim. We read about it this week. And he was supposed to lead us into Eretz Yisrael.

And we all know the tragedy of how Moshe’s story ends. He’s standing over there, looking over here.

Moshe Rabbeinu. He was a good Jew. But not good enough, not fortunate enough to be here.

But you are.

I’ll end with a quick story. The first time I ever came to Israel, I was 26 years old. I came here with my wife and our newborn son (He’s nine now.). We were having a grand old time when we heard a series of loud booms. And we later found out that we had missed a bombing by 15 minutes. We had been right at the spot where it had happened 15 minutes before.

Now, you gotta understand, my wife had wanted to make Aliyah for a few years already, after having gone to Yeshiva here. But after the bombing, I told Gilla, “There is no way we are moving here.”

And so now, here I am, 9 years later … living in Israel, hosting the Aliyah Revolution and speaking to a Tehilla group about making the big move.

So trust me …

You can do it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Perception vs. Reality

You know, ever since Gush Katif 16 months ago, and not helped in the least bit by Amona, which was an unbelievable disaster, the police in this country don't have such a great image, at least not in the eyes of the political right-wing.

But it's very important to remember that, in general, it is dangerous to assume that perception is reality (much as that pains me to admit, given my line of work).

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, I was stopped by a policeman at a checkpoint last night. He shined his flashlight into my eyes, and motioned me over to the shoulder. I, of course, complied, and sat waiting for him to just make sure that I was one of the good guys. He looked into my backseat and noticed three kids there, plus Tzviki in the front passenger seat, and asked me, "How old is she?" motioning to Nili, who was buckled up in the backseat.

"She's two," I answered honestly.

"The law says a child has to be four to be out of a carseat. And how old is he?" he asked, pointing into the frontseat at Tzviki.

"He's seven," I responded, sure that was not as much of an issue.

"The law says 14 for a child in the front seat."

"Oh," I said.

"I need you to make sure you fix this and don't do it from now on," he said, "And I'm not telling you that because it's the law. I'm telling you that because I want your beautiful children to be safe, okay?"

"Okay," I said.

"I'm also not going to give you a ticket, because I have a feeling you aren't interested in paying a 1,500 shekel fine today. Am I right?" he asked.

"Yes. Thank you," I said.

"Have a good evening and drive safely," he said.

I drove away and had a talk with the kids about what had just taken place. Temima, our four-and-a-half year old, said, "Yeah, he just wants us to be safe and that's why he stopped us."

When it comes to Aliyah, there is also a major issue of perception versus reality. And just like being stopped by that nice policeman, there are many people who make Aliyah and realize that day-to-day life here isn't really the same as the perception of Aliyah. The perception is that finances are the most challenging aspect of Aliyah. Our poll showed that as well. But guess what? You may be in for a surprise. You may snap up a job right away and be off and running. On the other side, the perception is also that Aliyah has never been easier, and that's true. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

The bottom line is that the only way one can find out what reality is, is to experience it for oneself, like I experienced my interaction with that policeman last night. And when you go through something like Aliyah, you will see that not much is what you thought it would be. And that's just fine, because I'll take true experiences over theoretical ones anyday.

Wouldn't you?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

First, a quick story, and then we’ll move on to the essence of the post itself.

I had the zechut of spending this past Shabbos in Hevron. And if you ever want to spend a Shabbos in a place where the residents are serious about their religiosity, yet at the same time so friendly, Hevron is an incredible place to spend it.

We had the good fortune of being able to listen to the story of Rebbitzen Levinger, who arrived in Israel 50 years ago. As one of the original builders of the Hevron community, she has been through a tremendous amount. But at the end of her almost hour and a half talk with us, which covered topics as wide-ranging as Hevron relations between Jews and Arabs, what life was like those first few months in Hevron and her views of the current political situation, she ended with one simple thing that I want to share with you.

She said, “I’m just thankful that HaShem gave me the brains to move to Israel.”

Think about that for a second. This is a woman mainly credited with bringing us being back to Hevron at all. She’s lived in Israel for 50 years, protected her children during the ‘67 war while her husband fought, moved to Hevron to try to build it up, went up to Kiryat Arba for 5 years and then back down to Hevron, where she’s lived ever since. She’s taken a place that was without Jews since the 1929 massacre, and led it to a point today where there are nearly 100 Jewish families living there, and two Shabboses ago, 20,000 Jews were able to celebrate Shabbat Chayei Sarah freely there.

And she ends a talk with us by saying that she’s thankful HaShem gave her the brains to move to Israel.

So either she’s the most humble person since Moshe Rabbeinu, or she’s trying to tell us something.

I think what she’s trying to tell us is that yes, those first months and years were tough in Hevron, and it’s still a challenge now, but man, it ain’t nothing compared to making Aliyah. It’s Aliyah she’s most thankful for. And she’s telling us one other thing as well. If it wasn’t for making Aliyah, she never would have been able to have the hand in history that she has had. Get here, she says, and then you will be able to have an impact. Stay there, and you will always just be watching history unfold.

Maybe Tehilla has the statistics, or maybe they don’t want to share them, but trust me when I tell you that not all people who come on a Tehilla pilot trip wind up making Aliyah. So the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Why not?”

I mean, Tehilla does a great job, right? Communities, education, employment, other important helpful hints about living here. They’ve got it all covered.

But you know what? There’s one thing they don’t cover. And it’s not because they aren’t a great organization. They are. And it’s not because they lack the necessary resources. And it’s not because they don’t understand how to help Olim.

Quite simply, there’s one thing they can’t help you with.

Why are you making Aliyah?

And I’ve got some news for you: If you are making Aliyah because you think it’s so cute how you will have kids with Israeli accents when they speak Hebrew, that’s not going to get it done. If you are making Aliyah because you think it’s so cool how everything’s in Hebrew here, and so many restaurants are kosher, that will not be good enough.

And most importantly, if you are thinking seriously about making Aliyah because, well, it’s just not working out for you in the U.S., think again, please, for your own good.

Because I love the fact that my adorable kids now speak Hebrew with Israeli accents, and, in fact, not even here two years, they already translate their thoughts into English to speak with us in the house.

But I can also tell you the story about my son Tzviki, who didn’t speak a word of Hebrew for the first nine months we lived here. We dropped him into a class with no English speakers (including the teachers), and he rejected everything, instead burying his head in any English books he could get his hands on.

But even he is now on-track, and just a couple months ago, we saw him walk down our steps with his head buried in a Hebrew story book.

And I love that, when I’m in business meetings, even secular people are still Jewish. I was in a meeting a few weeks back, I talked about it on the show, and at a certain point, someone knocked on the door. One of the people in the meeting went to answer the door and no one was there. She shrugged her shoulders and said to all of us, “Eliyahu HaNavi.” And everyone in the room knew exactly what she was talking about. And I was the only kippa-wearer in the group.

This is an incredible place.

My oldest son, Ezra, called me the day after Sukkot and said, “Baruch Mashiv Haruach u’Morid HaGeshem!” (Blessed is the One who makes the wind blow and the One who makes the rain fall!) He said this because it was raining outside …the day after we had started to pray for it. This was amazing for two reasons: First, it’s incredible that our prayers are so specifically tied to nature here. But second, I love that my kids understand that.

But no matter how incredible it is, if you are struggling to make a living – or a life – in the U.S., you will likely struggle here as well. And if you have a child who is having social problems in the States, he or she will likely have problems here as well.

And it’s not going to matter how many people attend your NBN flight arrival nor if you get a few thousand dollars from NBN, as terrific an organization as they are.

Because Israel is the world’s most intense place. Everything here is incredibly intense. You want celebrations? We do it better than anywhere else in the world. You want memorials? Unfortunately, we do that well, too. You want disagreements? Well, I have to go through a checkpoint to get to work everyday.

Intensity. So if you have problems, they will be more intense here.

I made Aliyah with no job, no family and five kids. Whatever your situation, it’s going to be a shock to your system to make Aliyah. So in our case, we needed to understand that any problems we had would be intensified upon walking down the steps of the NBN plane. And for everyone, it means that if there are marriage problems (Thank G-d, we are fine in that department.), educational problems, money problems, you name it, they will be intensified here,

And there’s only one way to overcome that intensification of your life.

As my dad used to tell me when I was learning how to hit a baseball, “Son, you gotta keep your eye on the ball.”

So what’s the ball? You have to answer that question. Tehilla won’t be able to answer it. I won’t be able to answer it. NBN won’t be able to answer it. And your rabbi won’t be able to answer it. (He may be able to help a bit.)

Your family? Well, they’re going to work very hard to try to KEEP you from answering it.

It’s totally and completely up to you. And you have to answer that question.

Now, once you do, if you really do, you’ll be in great shape.

Wanna know what mine is?

After listening to rabbi after rabbi, and reading book after book, explain to me that there are two ways for Mashiach to arrive – we can wait, in which case he’ll come when he’s good and ready, or we can demonstrate our interest in him coming, by being good Jews and living in the land HaShem gave us as a gift – I decided, this is ridiculous. Here I am, a supposedly observant Jew, and I’m not fulfilling one of the most basic commandments. I’m not living in the Land where G-d wants me to live. I gotta live there.

That’s my answer to the question. So what that means is that if any issues crop up related to school or community or job or politics or even not being able to listen to St. Joe’s basketball on the Internet because of the time difference, they can’t compete with my reason for being here.

Figure it out. Write it down. Discuss it with your family. Your immediate family and your extended family. Put it in big letters on your refrigerator.

And it doesn’t even have to be a religious reason.

Let me prove it …

Ever meet one of these Jews who tries so hard to hide his Jewishness? He gets an earring, a tattoo, eats pork rinds for lunch on Yom Kippur, only dates non-Jewish women. You know the type, right?

Well, isn’t it amazing that everyone still knows he’s Jewish?

Well, guess what? Guess where the only place is where no one will think of him as a Jew. Israel. Amazing, isn’t it? G-d is so amazing that he has provided us a homeland where you can focus on spirituality if you like and where you can be completely secular if you like.

Come to Israel, live in a secular-friendly town like Tel Aviv or Herzliya, and no one will ever think of you as a Jew.

So you can have an anti-religious reason for being here, and it still works.

So what’s yours?

I have a friend in Baltimore who once told me that he knows that he and his family will not be making Aliyah. But he said, “But we’ve decided that Aliyah is going to be a cause of stress everyday for the rest of our lives.”

But as pro-Aliyah as Baltimore is, you know how many friends I have there who made pilot trips and are still living in Baltimore?

When we first moved to Baltimore, I met someone who responded to the introduction by saying, “We’re making Aliyah in six months, so don’t even take the time to get to know us.”

Three and a half years later, he was one of the guests at our going away party, and he was still living in Baltimore.

I’m proud to say, he has since made it here.

But families have trouble making the move because they can't answer the question. It’s classic:

“I know Israel’s where I want to live. My kids will be happy there. They will be able to pick up any sefer and learn, without having to get help translating the words. But parnassa …”

Let’s go back to the beginning, to the story I told about Rebbetzin Levinger.

She said, “I’m just thankful that HaShem gave me the brains to move to Israel.”

Not the strength. Not the will. Not the means. Not the luck.

The brains.

She’s saying what I am trying to explain. Making Aliyah is not just about emotion. It’s about understanding why it makes sense to live here.

But there’s an emotional side as well, as illustrated by a story I once heard, that you may have heard as well, but since it’s so compelling, I’ll tell it.

A man is standing at the Kotel, and he notices another man crying. He goes over to the man and asks him, “Why are you crying?”

The man says, “I made Aliyah on this date one year ago. And I’m crying because I can’t believe I’ve made it this far.”

So then notices another man standing a few feet away, and he is crying too.

“Why are you crying?” he asks.

“I made Aliyah 10 years ago, and every year I come to the Kotel on this date, and now, after 10 years, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far.”

He then notices a third man. And this man is not standing. He’s sitting with his head in his hands, crying his eyes out.

“Excuse me sir,” he says, “but why are you crying?”

“20 years ago,” he said, “I had an opportunity to make Aliyah, and I passed it up. Then, 10 years ago, a company offered me a job here, and I turned it down because I thought my kids were too old. Three years ago, with all my kids out of the house, I thought maybe now’s the time. But my wife is so happy in our community. She doesn’t want to come. She asked me if it would be okay if we just pledged to visit Israel once a year. That was three years ago, and this is my first visit since we made that pledge. And I know we will never make Aliyah. That’s why I’m crying.”

My wife has an interesting story about Aliyah as well. When she was studying in Neve Yerushalayim, she wrote a letter to her parents.

She wrote that she couldn’t understand why any Jew wouldn’t want to live in Israel. She told her parents she was going to live here, even if it took 10 years to get here.

It took 11. But she got here, because her reason stayed with her.

Figure out why you are making Aliyah. And once you do, it won’t matter whether you have five kids, ten kids, no job here or a well-paying job there.

It won’t matter. Because you will have your reason, and it will keep you going. It will help you get through telling your extended family. It will help you pack. It will help you get on that plane. It will help you get settled. And it will help you two years from now, when maybe your child’s school isn’t what you had expected. Or maybe your first job didn’t turn out so great. It will help you.

And then, you, like Rebbitzen Levinger and like me, and like many others, you will be able to thank G-d for giving YOU the brains to make Aliyah.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! !חג תנקסגיבנג שמח

You know, when one makes Aliyah, there's a relatively strong urge to reject out-of-hand all those things that are not 100% Israeli. It's fascinating, actually, to see friends who never in a million years would have worn sandals in the States, and now they wear sandals everyday. They wore black velvet kippot in the States and now they wear crocheted ("srugah") kippot. They loved baseball there, and now love soccer here. The list goes on.

And I have to admit that I, too, have fallen victim to this in certain ways, shedding my jacket and tie in favor of a simple white shirt-black pants combo each Shabbos. For a while, I stopped calling it "Shabbos," going instead for the more widely-used "Shabbat."

But now, almost two years after the big move, things are beginning to become recalibrated a bit. I'll sometimes wear a suit jacket on Friday night in shul these days. I've gone back to "Good Shabbos," after almost two years of "Shabbat Shalom." And I'm 100% comfortable with my American accent during davening now. I no longer fake the Israeli accent just to fit in.

Which brings us to today, the special American holiday of Thanksgiving. Now, first, you need to understand a bit about me to be clearer on the place Thanksgiving once had in my heart. I am a huge sports fan. Well, Thanksgiving is a major pro football day in the US. I love food, and turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce is just about as good as it gets. And a four-day weekend never bothered me much either. So let's just say that, Jewish holidays aside, it never really got much better for me than Thanksgiving.

Then we made Aliyah and Thanksgiving became as "assur" (forbidden) as, well, I don't know, pork? Which is a little silly because, when you think of all the American holidays, is there one that's more Jewish-friendly than Thanksgiving? I mean, the family gets together. You sit around a table. And you eat, basically connecting food with appreciation. Sounds familiar, no?

So put aside the fact that it's an American holiday and Thanksgiving starts to make a lot of sense.

I'm not saying that we should all start observing Thanksgiving here in Israel. What I'm trying to say that sometimes we Olim try extra hard to leave all the Chu"L stuff in Chu"L, even if maybe it wasn't all such bad stuff, and was maybe even pretty darn good.

I'm fortunate enough that my mom, stepdad and sisters are in Israel this year for Thanksgiving, and they've asked to come to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, so, as we speak, the well-stuffed turkey's in the tiny Israel-sized oven, the cranberry (or maybe it should be called "can-berry") sauce is chilling in the fridge, and somehow, we're going to sit around a dinner table tonight feeling that it's perfectly normal to have chumus and matbucha as part of the Thanksgiving feast.

And that's just fine, because it's not about leaving Chu"L behind. It's about building our lives here is the Promised Land, taking what was great in the U.S. and combining it with what we are blessed to have here ... and being thankful for the opportunity to enjoy both.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Now THAT'S a Movie!

My wife and I sat down last night to watch the epic film "EXODUS." We had each read the book, but had never seen the movie, and although her initial reaction had more to do with Paul Newman's looks ("He actually could pass off as a good-looking Jew.") than Aliyah, she said to me at one point ... "How could anyone who watches this movie NOT make Aliyah?!"

I felt the same way. This movie, made in 1960, illustrates just as much about how far Israel has come than it does the Exodus arrival itself.

For example, not a single kippa is seen through the first half of the movie. (We haven't watched the second half yet.) Now, you look on the average Tel Aviv street - nevermind Jerusalem - and you are bound to see at least one.

The land itself is also next to barren. No trees. No tall buildings. No nuthin. Just sand, a few buildings and dirt roads. Incredible. You travel around the country now, and it's as advanced as the most westernized nations around the world.

But here's the key:

When they are on that boat, waiting in the Cyprus harbor for the British to allow them to set sail, and they are willing to give up their lives just to step foot on Israeli soil ... just to feel free ... just to be out from behind a fence, you can't take that scene literally.

You must understand the message. We are still stuck behind fences. We are still locked up. We are still behind bars. But those fences are the business world. Those chains are materialism. Those bars are made of dollar bills.

You've all had a chance to look at the results of the poll we conducted. Far and away, the biggest barrier to making aliyah is $$$$$. Think about that. We consider ourselves to be Torah-observant Jews, and yet we find a way to put money in front of our religiosity.

And spare me the old "but you need a lot of money to make Aliyah" garbage. Because you know what? The longer you wait, the more money you will need.

These people on the real EXODUS (left - yes, the movie's based on a true story) were willing to starve to death for the right to land in Israel.

What are you willing to do?