Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Close Call: How OOS almost nixed Aliya

Remember all that nice stuff I wrote in the last post about how I didn't want marble floors or a second car to be the reason that we did not move to Israel? Well, every man has his limit.

A month and a half ago I was sitting in a particularly enthralling Foundations of Fieldwork class, doing what I normally do, which is doodling like a fifth grader, and suddenly I realized that Israel doesn't have Heinz ketchup. This void was a source of great anguish for me during my two years in Shaalavim. However, that was two years, this is a lifetime.

Let me explain the source of my distress. For years I have contended that there is no other line of food where the second best brand lags so far behind the first as ketchup.

Think about it. Is there any other ketchup besides Heinz that you would even think of eating given the choice? Unless one is in dire financial straits one would never even think about going for the bargain brand in the supermarket. It is not just that Heinz ketchup is good, but every other brand is so god awful. Ever tasted the pesach brands? And lets not even go into Israeli brands (tastes like rotten tomatoes mixed with raspberry vinaigrette).

This situation exists in no other food product. Hershey's has Mars, Oreos have Famous Amos, Coke has Pepsi, etc. etc. etc. Heinz ketchup is so much better than anything else that John Kerry came thisclose to being elected because of it (or something like that) (by the way, all you liberals out there who voted for Kerry should be happy that he lost. Power corrupts. Who knows what he would have done to the ketchup had he won-- Presidential version or something-- yuck).

Anyway, getting back to the point, I was getting ready to get in touch with our shaliach and just call the whole thing off when I struck up a conversation with an Israeli friend of mine who was in the same class. She assured me that indeed, Israel does have Heinz ketchup, and if I could not find it five years ago it was only because I was just looking in the wrong places. Furthermore, as more Israelis understand the greatness of Heinz ketchup its proliferation is expanding.

Aliya back on.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Background, or Why I Chose to Take a 75% Pay Cut

That is the real question, isn't it?

Why would anyone move away from a largely prosperous, safe, and comfortable existence to a country where parnasah, safety, and comfort, are in no way assured? I will do my best to explain our decision.

I have difficulty answering this question, mostly because there is no rational answer. As Rav Kook writes in Orot (My own (poor) translation).

The Land of Israel is not an external thing, a superficial acquisition for the nation as a means of unifying the population and strengthening its physical, or even spiritual existence. The Land of Israel is an inherent piece that is tied with the bind of life to our nation... Therefore it is impossible to assess the substantive qualities of the Land of Israel, and to bring into reality the depth of its allure with rational thought; Only through the godly spirit that is placed within the nation.
Rav Kook says a lot of different things with these words, but one of the points he makes is that our relationship to the Land of Israel is not merely a rational one. There happen to be many rational reasons why the Land of Israel is important to Jews such as history, safety etc. These are nice, but they alone could not persuade me to give up luxury and comfort. Jewish history I can find in that old Newport synagogue or on a trip through Europe. As for safety, at this point it is much safer for Jews to live in the United States than in Israel. Rationality comes and goes-- as circumstances change so does what makes sense. For believing Jews, Eretz Yisrael is infinite, it is what we dream of, its remembrance is what we place before our greatest joys.

However, the decision to move to Israel was not an easy one for us. It will be hard to leave family, friends and Entenmans cookies. There are reasons that prompted the move which, if not fully logical, are not totally archane either.

Put simply: we like it better there (Israel) than we do here (America). But there is more to it than that. If this was the only reason then we would surely be guilty of running blindly into something that we are not ready for. Our experiences in Israel up until now-- vacations and Yeshiva study-- have more or less been without responsibility, so, one could argue, of course we like it better over there.

But Israel has never been a vacation spot to us-- at least not since we spent an extended period of time in the country. Israel has always felt more like home to us than America ever could. This despite the fact that our Hebrew is not yet fluent, and we are often offended by the brusqueness of Israeli culture. There is something beautiful about seeing traffic signs in our ancient language (even if it is not loshon hakodesh), wishing Shabbat Shalom to a cab driver who is eating a cheeseburger, or chayalim saying tefilas haderech before leaving to battle. The language, the streets, the houses, the currency are not things that we are borrowing during a phase in our diaspora, but things that we created and we own. No matter where a Jew falls on the pro/anti state spectrum there is something special in that.

Although I disagree with most of his political stances, Daniel Gordis expresses this sentiment very nicely in his book If a Place could Make you Cry.

There's got to be a place somewhere in the world, I thought, that Jewish kids will feel is theirs, a place where the songs are theirs, where the history is their history, where the place doesn't just welcome them but is for them... We're here because as we ask ourselves what we ultimately want to leave our children, having them become part of this crazy, complicated, and wondrous place is the most important gift we can imagine. What, after all, can parent's give their kids that's more important than a home? (p. 110)
But, once again, there is more to it. We consider it home not just because it is a Jewish state but because, as Rav Kook put it, "The Land of Israel is an inherent piece that is tied with the bind of life to our nation." This is something that cannot be explained--only felt. Its why we shudder with excitement when our feet touch the tarmac in Ben Gurion and we cry when we first reach the Kotel. There is something in Israel that for a Jew does not exist anywhere else, and that is what we want to leave our children.

Most of all we are moving to Israel because we can and there is no reason not to. We are fulfilling a mission that generations of Jews have dreamed of, and in twenty years from now we don't want to look back and know that we did not move because of marble floors or a second car. My dad put it better than I ever could this past Shabbos as we walked to shul together. He said, "Most guys who had the chance to make aliyah look back and regret not having pulled the trigger even though they might have had legitimate reasons not to. You're pulling the trigger."

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Somewhat apprehensively, I hereby join the JBlogosphere.

I had planned on sending weekly Emails to family and friends in order to stay in touch. However, my father, the esteemed Mo Chassid, convinced me that a blog would be much easier.

I will try to post at least once a week about our experiences as we make Aliya.

p.s. If you are looking for sharp insight or exciting drama you have probably come to the wrong place.