My earliest memory as a 4 year old child, is walking into the terminal at the old Jan Smuts Airport to say farewell to my grandmother who was about to travel to Israel to visit my uncle and his family who had made aliyah to Haifa just 3 years before. I imagined that the plane would whisk my Bobba into the air and then to the state of Israel, a magical land high up in the clouds. I guess as I got older I realised that Israel was not in fact in the clouds but it has always remained in every way a magical land. Where else in world can you reach out to a wall and have that wall touch you back.
Where else in the world can you be ferried by a cab driver who can teach you more about life, passion, loyalty and indeed faith in G-d in a 45 minute journey than you can learn in a 3 year degree in philosophy. Where else can you walk on a random itinerary and meet friends and relatives “coincidently” every couple of paces? Where else in the world can you witness a beggar in a shuk, count his meagre takings in shekel and half shekel coins and give his 10% to another even less fortunate than himself and that with a smile. Where else in the world would an army risk its own precious troops to avoid harming enemy civilians and that would not offer, ever, Israel the same courtesy? In fact, that would specifically go out of its way to harm our children and elderly, ala Amaleik.
In the Kuzari, the medieval l defence of Judaism by Rabbi Judah Halevi written as a debate between the king of the Kuzars and a Rabbi, the Rabbi describes in glowing terms the paramount importance of the Holyland in the life of every Jew with quotes like is “All roads lead to the Land of Israel, but none from it” (Mishna, Ketubot, 13:11) and: “It is better to dwell in the Holy Land, even in a town mostly inhabited by heathens, than abroad in a town mostly populated by Jews; for he who dwells in the Holy Land is compared to him who has a God, while he who dwells in the Diaspora is compared to him who has no God.: “To be buried in the Land of Israel is as if buried beneath the altar. And, “He who walks four cubits in the Land is assured happiness in the World to come!“
After listening to a shiur from the Rabbi on just how central Israel is in our prayers and hopes for the future, the king of Kuzar points out to his new teacher how the Jews actions contradict all their fine quotes.” If this be so, you transgress the commandment laid down in your Torah by not endeavouring to go up (make aliyah) to that place, to make it your abode in life and in death?” The Rabbi is embarrassed at the question and answers: “This is a severe reproach, O king of the Kuzars. It is the sin which kept the Divine promise with regard to the Second Temple “Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion” (Zecharia, 2:10) from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, while the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and subjugation, and unwilling to leave their villas and their business affairs…Were we prepared to meet the God of our forefathers with a pure mind, we would have found the same salvation as our fathers had in Egypt.
The conversation between the Rabbi and the king of the Kuzars continues, covering all aspects of Judaism. At the end of the book, moved by his own teachings about the centrality of the Land of Israel to Torah and Am Yisrael, the Rabbi decides to make aliyah himself. If this be so, says the king it would be a sin to hinder you. It is, on the contrary, a mitzvah to assist you. May God grant you His help, and may He be your shield and savoir, and His kindness be upon you.
I once heard from a wise person that grapes can really grow anywhere, even on a beach. However the best grapes need the best conditions. Jews can grow anywhere but the best conditions to cultivate the best Jews are in our holy land, Israel.
Rabbi David Shaw