By Jack Engelhard
(JULY 23, 2022 / ARUTZ SHEVA) For those American Jews who’ve made Aliya, I have this to say…I envy you. I respect you. I honor you. I love you.
Fortunate is the person who is able to perform this foremost mitzvah…a mitzvah that even Moses was unable to fulfill.
Saying that, did I just start another argument?
Well then, good. So long as it’s for the sake of heaven.
I imagine that to be the case when some Israelis take the position that American Jews ought to just keep quiet about Israel.
None of your business, they say. Make Aliyah, and then you can talk.
If only life were so simple…and if only I could get it across why some of us stay put while loving Israel heart, mind and soul.
More on that in a moment…and always to my question, do we really need this particular quarrel between ourselves? We don’t have enough from the outside?
There are reasons why many can’t make the move. One reason, it’s true, is that they prefer the flesh pots of America, as many of our Biblical ancestors preferred the flesh pots of Egypt.
So it’s historic, and now this from my recent column …“Why American Jewish voters keep voting for a Party that hates them, is a question for psychiatrists.”
For others, it’s more complicated…and perhaps my story can shed some light overall.
Parenthetically, I remember this remark from David ben Gurion when an American proudly announced that he’d visited Israel a dozen times.
Said ben Gurion: “Better if you came once, and stayed.”
I should have stayed. Twice I went. First as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Then as an American Volunteer in the IDF.
I didn’t stay for any number of reasons; I was just starting a family and a career…and after all, I was an American, from the fires of the Holocaust.
Call it patriotism, or call it gratitude, or call it my excuse.
Getting to America was itself a grind, and now drop everything and start all over again?
But life has other plans.
For all of us.
Meantime, my role would be to act as a literary warrior, and in doing so over the decades, through the journalism and the books, I did and do the best I could, for the love of Israel, and for that, and speaking for others, like Mort Klein, president of ZOA, Zionist Organization of America, the effort comes with danger.
The trolls are ever on alert for every word we say.
So, going back many years ago, I found a soul-mate in Mort Klein. Here was a man prepared to risk everything for Torah Zionism.
Back then, the antisemitism was fierce, and Mort came out swinging in articles and speeches, always so very articulate. To this day.
Mort’s was a voice in the wilderness…heroically so.
At the time, I was into my second decade as a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
These were generally humor columns until things stopped being funny, and so I contacted Mort in order to let him make his case for Israel through the Inquirer.
I wrote and I re-wrote until I got his message straight.
But practically overnight, new management had taken over the paper.
“No, no, no,” said the new editor. “It’s too one-sided.”
She meant too pro-Israel. Anti-Israel columns? No problem.
I took the issue all the way to the top, and refused to let go, until I was fired, and in the end, Mort’s column was dropped.
The point I’m making, I guess, is that even from this distance, here in America, we also risk. We also serve.
True enough, there is still nothing like Aliya. There are no substitutes.
But there are reasons, and since I can only speak for myself, I must submit that spinal surgery, that still keeps me in a wheelchair, until I get better, makes me a poor candidate for Aliya, and I wonder how many others, facing one drawback or another, are in the same quandary about taking the big step.
I’ll bet there are thousands, maybe millions, unable to fulfill the dream of Aliya for reasons that are true and good…. reasons we will never know.
As the saying goes, be merciful, for you do not know the sufferings of other people, and so I respectfully suggest that those being so critical, ought maybe to learn from the Rebbe.
Mostly, he was never judgmental.
Altogether, in the dialogue from Israel to America, less Shammai and more (lenient) Hillel would be helpful.
New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.
This op-ed was originally published in Arutz Sheva and can be viewed here.