The question of the ingathering of the exiles, and its necessity in our day is not only important from a historical perspective, its significance can be seen in the danger Israel faces with the international community, and increasingly the United States, pushing for the “Two-State Solution”.
Will American and Israeli Jews remain true to what was promised through the prophets? Will American Jews go along with the world’s apparent goal of peace at any cost, no matter the price Jews must pay, and will Israeli Jews make American Jewish immigrants as welcome as other immigrants, thereby possibly ushering in a last great Aliyah? Or will we all collectively ignore the fact that God said he was going to bring all the exiles back one day and thereby prolong the time until our redemption?
Ever since the days of the prophet Jeremiah we have been promised that our people were going to be brought back to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the globe. From that time, there have been those who worked to fulfill the prophet’s vision, and those who chose to stay behind in Babylon.
Jeremiah 23:3 (JPS)
3 And I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
Jeremiah prophesied that the exiles would return to Israel. Return they did, but not with the expected scale nor with the longed for glory. Was Jeremiah a false prophet? Heaven Forbid!
Collectively we’ve been making our way back to the Land since Israel became a nation once more. We’ve been returning from everywhere in large numbers –except from the United States.
From the prophet Jeremiah’s perspective, Babylon was not our true home, though it had physical luxuries most places in our homeland couldn’t match. The same is true today when discussing America versus Israel. Like ancient Babylon, modern America is a beautiful, gilded cage for Jews.
To be sure, groups like Nefesh B’Nefesh together with the Jewish Agency for Israel have helped sixteen thousand Jews from North America make Aliyah as of the summer of 2008. However, since 1990 there have only been a total of about 20,000 Jews who made Aliyah from the USA (Bassok, 2007, Aliyah sees 9% dip from 2005, Haaretz.
Twenty thousand Jews over the course of about twenty years is insignificant compared to the number of Jews living in America today!
What’s holding American Jews back? What’s keeping American Jews from remembering that our portion as Jews is more than our community centers, our synagogues and our social and political activism? Together we need to remember that being a Jew is more than wearing kippot, more than lighting candles and saying Kiddush on Shabbat! Why can’t we remember that God gave us the entire Torah as our portion, and through the promises He made to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, he also gave us the Land of Israel?
The Land of Israel is our birth right. However, too many of us American Jews like the “Land of America (Babylon) the Great” with its promises of comfort, prestige, of never having to make sacrifices. Most of the world respects, if not likes, America. Most of the world despises Israel.
But American Jews can be more American than all the goyim around! Most don’t really need God in modern times. Who needs a fanciful God or other unlikely beings? They might as well talk about and pray to Santa and the elves. We can all live the American dream and everyone will think somehow, we are just like them! We’re no different!
We have itching ears, so let’s keep on telling ourselves those lies.
In deluding ourselves we allow a distance to grow between us and our Israeli brothers. There are those, such as some at the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, who wrote an editorial entitled “Bad Move, Sen. Brownback” that willingly throws being Jewish under the bus of ideological expediency. They somehow don’t think being Jewish connects them at all to Israel, let alone Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem. They criticized Senator Brownback for again lobbying to get the American Embassy moved to Jerusalem! Why did they do that? Because President Obama is pushing so hard to have half of Israel’s capitol—our capitol—given over to the Palestinians; and Obama is their man? They would rather stand with those who have no personal stake in Israel than with the Land that is their birthright. Peace at any cost is the best option, right?
In so doing, they run the risk of trying to be like the Jews in Germany just before World War II who thought they were more German than the Nazis! That is, until the Nazis turned on them.
There’s a serious problem and a serious disconnect when American Jewish student groups like Hillel at Berkeley hold a frivolous dance party on Yom Hashoah, and a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. Trying to be more American than the American goyim is wrong, and it’s going to backfire in the long run. Just whom are we American Jews trying to please?
So maybe the prophecies in Jeremiah are a process. Maybe God will still bring His people out of the American Babylon. In fact, I know He will. He already said He would.
“…out of all the countries whither I have driven them.”
Two things will have to occur for that to happen, though. Remember, American and Israeli Jews are both at a crossroads.
First, American Jews will have to learn to take God at His word. American Jews need to consider Aliyah—and they need to consider it now!
If you’re an American Jew and you’re not religious, fine. Religious Zionism is one thing, and there are plenty of Biblical reasons to be a Zionist, but there are also plenty of reasons to be a Zionist that have nothing to do with God Almighty.
In the entire world, the only place where Jews are not ever persecuted for being a Jew is Israel. If you like the idea of a safe haven, why do you live somewhere else? Why do you let others hold down the fort and keep this haven open and ready for you if things ever go south where you live now? Don’t you think you should be a part of building the fort and keeping it safe?
“Things won’t ever go bad in America for the Jews!”
Keep telling yourself that. That’s what Jews throughout history told themselves too, until things went bad.
American Jews need to consider Aliyah, and they need to consider it now!
They will have to see that living in the Galut is not a blessing, but is instead a curse. Living anywhere but the Land God gave us is like thumbing your nose at God and suggesting that where you live right now has more promise than the Promised Land. If you keep on that path, who is to say that one day it won’t be God who laughs when you find yourself in trouble far from home?
Secondly, Israel is not without its faults. The belief that all American Jews are wealthy is a false one, and the insular nature of the Israeli job sector needs to open up considerably. The American Jews are our brothers, and Israel is their promise from God as much as it is ours. It is our responsibility to help accommodate their return.
Israel bent over backwards for the Russian immigrants, and for those from every other place on Earth except for those from America. Why? Because American Jews are “rich;” they can take care of themselves. Besides, America’s streets are paved with gold, and everyone lives close to Hollywood and New York, right?
Israel needs to remember that it must not be just those in their twenties and thirties and couples who are “wanted” in Israel because they might be more productive.
(Those who hold such a view should be ashamed of themselves!)
Israel is the home of every Jew, period. That means the old, the young, the sick, the huddled masses of Jews from the ends of the Earth. Every Jew belongs in Israel!
American Jews need to have a solid direction that points home to Israel. Neither American Jews nor Israeli Jews can allow themselves to be swayed any which way the winds of expediency blow.
Israel needs to have a solid message that says “Welcome Home” and that doesn’t just pay lip service to its ideals. Its message of welcome must absolutely be consistent.
American Jewry together with their brothers in Israel is at a crossroads because Israel and the world are at a crossroads. Times are changing. Attitudes on both sides of the ocean among our people must change. The ingathering of the exiles must go on regardless of the world’s opinion. And maybe one day, we may all live to see one another in the light of God’s favor in the Land He has given us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will Blesch is an American-Israeli filmmaker that has dealt with both American Jews and Israeli Jews on a regular basis in business. He has lived in both the United States and Israel.