Today a tiny miracle is taking place. About 210 new immigrants will depart the United States on El-Al flight 3022 for their new homes in Israel.
Real miracles are mundane. The restoration of the Jews to our homeland is not occurring to the sound of trumpet flourishes and heavenly visions. It is a day to day occurrence, accompanied by bureaucracy, disappointments, the smell of jet fuel, crying babies and frustrations, as well as pleasant surprises and solid achievement. In the past it was accompanied by tent cities and the misery of ma'abarot slums as well. That is generally the stuff of real miracles. Usually it has been a tiny trickle, rather than the dramatic influx envisioned by the prophets and Theodor Herzl. Every immigrant and every wave of immigration has its problems. But together they have all added up to produce the modern State of Israel, a miracle that keeps on happening. There is no Moses and no Ezra
and no Nehemia
to lead this return from exile, or maybe there are many Ezras and Nehemiahs and Zerubavels.
This little group marks the last of several flights organized by Nefesh b'Nefesh
. These flights have brought over 3,000 immigrants to Israel this year from North America. This is what real Zionism is all about after all.
Contrary to anti-Zionist fantasies, the immigrants are not all religious, don't all come from Brooklyn, and aren't all headed for the West Bank. They come from everywhere: USA: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington
Canada: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal. They are going to a large variety of destinations in Israel: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya, Raanana, Petach Tikva, Modiin, Ramat Gan, Zichron Yaakov, Holon, Nof Ayalon, Bet Shemesh, Giv'at Shmuel, Maale Adumim, Kfar Saba, and various Kibbutzim. They are aged 5 weeks to 93 years old, and they include about 50 children in 29 families, 96 single people, and 16 who are destined for service in the IDF.
They bring a variety of skills to Israel: Teachers, paralegals, computer network administrators, optometrists, lawyers, journalists, media/film, sales, engineers, physical therapists, artists, dietitians, graphic designers, physicians, fashion, hair stylists, businessmen, rabbis, hospitality, writers, special education, computer programmers, bankers, researchers, occupational therapists, editors, pharmaceutical industries, consultants.
Aliya - immigration to Israel - is vital both for Israel, and for the American Jewish community. Maintaining strong ties with Israel is probably the best and most realistic way to ensure continuity of Jewish life in the United States.
Every new immigrant is a cause for celebration, and all the people and organizations who made this immigration possible, as well as the immigrants, deserve our praise and encouragement. The work that Nefesh b'nefesh is doing rises above petty quarrels about politics. Everyone who is a Zionist should be supporting Aliya, and there should be a hundred organizations like Nefesh b'nefesh. We need them all.
The truth is, that this effort is only a tiny start. In balance, many more Israelis have gone to live in the United States and Canada, than have come to live in Israel. Among them are our best and brightest. Israel has to do some hard thinking about what made those people leave, and how we can create a strong, secure and vital society that will hold our people here. The 3,000 or so who came to Israel from North America this year, a record number it seems, are less than one tenth of 1 percent of the population of North American Jews. This Aliya will still have to grow in order for it to be more than negligible. But the same could be said of the Aliyot
of a hundred years ago. Like all beginnings, it is a difficult one. Like everything that has been done by the Zionist movement and the state of Israel, it is an "impossible" project. It is impossible, but like most things connected with Israel, it is necessary, so it is happening. If you will, it is no legend.
If the new immigrants have good experiences here, they will write home, and bring others, and the stream of immigrants will grow. If they have problems here, and almost inevitably they will, they will hopefully make it their business to be agents of change in Israeli society, to help make Israel a better place to live, and a better place for immigrants.
As for the Jews of North America, Australia, UK and other Diaspora communities, at least some of whom may be reading this, Israel affords you a unique opportunity. Usually, when Jews got to be part of history, we were part of someone else's history, and it was not pleasant at all. For the first time in two thousand years, Jews have a chance to make their own history. Israel isn't just a nice place to visit. It is, in balance, a pretty good place to live and to raise children. Come and join us! Ami Isseroff
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