In last week's Parsha we saw a clear instruction to "settle" the land of Israel. I read that is some distinction between the Rambam and the Ramban whether it is classified as one of the 613 Mitzvot, but it is a clear instruction none-the-less, as far as I understand.

We live in a time where it is easy to make Aliya - at least much easier than it was hundreds of years ago.

Why are there communities of tens of thousands of religious Jews in America that are being invested in and growing when we could be investing in those communities in the land of Israel?

I hope this question does not offend anyone - especially during the 9 days. I am really trying to understand as this has been something that has baffled me for some time.

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    Because it's not easy to do so, and if you think it is you are oblivious. – Double AA Jul 31 '14 at 3:46
  • Opinion-based question? – Daniel Jul 31 '14 at 4:41
  • Is there a source or tradition which says that settling in Israel should be easy? – Lee Jul 31 '14 at 6:27
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    @chaimp, Are you asking for a halachic basis for this sociological phenomenon or for a sociological analysis? The latter sounds especially prone to be opinion-based, unless it explicitly asks for scholarly sources, since pretty much everyone is armchair sociologist. I recommend that you clarify one way or the other, and include an explicit request for scholarly sources rather than personal opinion. – Isaac Moses Jul 31 '14 at 12:30
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/11071/472 – Monica Cellio Jul 31 '14 at 13:26

You have a bit of selection bias going on here - you're in 2014 and wondering why a single Jewish community hasn't moved from the USA to Israel. Since 1948, a significant number of Jewish communities from around the world (Ethiopia, Yemen, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Poland, Romania), have all moved en-masse to Israel. Perhaps you should be asking why so many Jewish communities HAVE moved en-masse. :-)

It usually takes time (Yes, Ethiopia is the exception to that rule), and there are usually a variety of factors involved, the primary one of which seems to be how the community feels economically in their "host" country. Right now, Jews in the US are very comfortable and enjoy all the rights of full citizenship and the fruits of economic success. Many other communities didn't move to Israel until their security (either economic or physical) began to be threatened. In the US, the Jewish community is both economically and physically secure.

I would also like to point out that "easy" is a relative term. You seem to be focusing on physical ease of making aliyah. Yes, it is true that with a credit card and an internet connection you can make it from the US to Israel with all your worldly possessions inside of a month, but the emotional trip is far different. There is the issue of leaving your home, your friends, your family, and your culture. As someone who has flirted with the thought of Aliyah for a while, and done a few trial runs, I can can tell you that the hardest part is the cultural change. After the initial awe factor of being in the holy land wears off, there is the slow realization that I just don't feel at home here. The cultures are very different, and as someone raised in the US and used to the American way of doing everything, the Israeli way of doing things is very strange and unsettling.

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  • Thank you. I am hypocritical as I too have not made Aliyah yet for those same reasons - mainly wanting to stay close to family. I think that those issues would be different if everybody was doing it. The cultural changes would not be an issue if you and 10,000 of your closest friends and family all move to Israel at around the same time. My question was more why there has not been some major movement (in recent years I mean), especially among religious Jewish communities, to pick up and leave en masse. That said, I appreciate your answer. – chaimp Jul 31 '14 at 14:36
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    For the record I wouldn't say "hypocrite" - at least personally I think "conflicted" is a more accurate description of how I feel. I also think the American Jewish community (and other Jews outside of EY) are doing a tremendous service. It seems that a minority-free environment tends to create an opportunity for hate, so just being present in other places helps reduce racism. Also in an increasingly globalized world, a large and far flung network of like minded people you can call on is a huge strength for Jews everywhere. – Popular Isn't Right Jul 31 '14 at 17:33
  • @Bachrach44 Why "conflicted"? Say "I'm doing the best I can given the current situation, which may not be an ideal one." If you can't get yourself to say that you should really do some thinking about yourself. – Double AA Jul 31 '14 at 18:13
  • France too nowadays... – Double AA Aug 5 '16 at 1:28

There is still a continuing machlokes on whether or not settling and living in the land of Israel is a mitzva, and quite honestly, it is only one mitzva. Until recently, Israel was called a banana republic and with good reason. The beginnings of the Israeli state were chaotic. There were quite a few socialist and communist Zionists with their idea of what the Israeli government should be like. And, quite honestly, the institutions that early Israel had with these community alliyot were completely abusive (Genocide in the Holy Land). They may not have kidnapped Yemenite children or put religious Jews on the shooting range, but there was a clear, state approved, initiative to secularize these incoming communities. Several Sephardi and Mizrachi communities have essentially disappeared as a result of this forced assimilation. I'd even argue that the state's early policies are still reminiscent in the IDF as politicians have attempted to make it into an institution of assimilation. Obviously today though, the Israeli state does not do any of this. This is not a concern anymore, but its origins and intentions are quite a scare for quite a few, religious Jews.

Continuing on, if one has an established way of life in terms of livelihood and community in a first world nation that was not founded by socialists (in the sense of the economist/socialist dichotomy and not how Republicans decide to use the term), then why would he move? Why would I move to a country that is not even a tenth the size of my state, with serious conflict with its neighbors, and with relative isolation to the rest of the first world? If a man lives in Ukraine and he's afraid that he may be killed (for being Jewish), then Israel sounds like the best alternative, but I live in a land that I am tied to for cultural, economic, and linguistic reasons.

On a more opinionated note (this isn't a part of my answer), this entire obsession with Israel just sounds like a whole lot of idolatry. The land isn't any more intrinsically special or holy than the Americas, Europe, Asia, et cetera. The only thing that are holy are mitzvot, and the mitzva related to settling the land is, at best, questionable with relation to today. It does not matter where a Jew lives as long as he can live fruitfully while being shomer mitzvot. But, when people make the land of Israel to be something more than mitzvot, as if living in the land itself imbues some kind of mystical/holy power, that distracts away from the purpose of Judaism, worshiping God. "Only God is holy and only His imperatives absolute," (The Religious Significance of the State). The Stanford Wiki actually summarizes my favorite, modern philosopher, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, pretty well on this subject. "The idea that any material object can be holy is something that, in Leibowitz's eyes, is the ultimate definition of idolatry, potentially leading to the worship of people, objects, or—significantly for his brand of Zionism—land."

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  • "only one mitzva"? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/11044/… Also, if obsession (as indicated by repeated references) with the Land that God chose for the Jews is idolatry, then the Torah is rather idolatrous. – Isaac Moses Jul 31 '14 at 13:55
  • @IsaacMoses The act of settling in the land of Israel is one mitzva. I did not say that there was only one mitzva that could be done only within Israel. Also, I don't see how mentioning of the Land of Israel, or even the Torah stating that it has importance and significance, makes it intrinsically holy. – rosenjcb Jul 31 '14 at 14:22
  • Thank you for sharing this perspective. Do you think the fact that about half of the world's (known) population of Jews are residing in Israel today makes a difference to any of these points. (i.e. If you believe that there can be an issue with parnassa or a question if the land is intrinsically holy, doesn't the fact that Jews are living there make for an argument that more Jews should come to live together?) – chaimp Jul 31 '14 at 14:44
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    @rosenjcb, if you don't see religious reasons to move to Israel, I suggest that you take a look at the two links in my previous comment. Moving there may or may not be one mitzva, but it certainly unlocks many others. And the Torah tells us over and over again that that's where we're meant to be. You can use whatever classification systems for mitzva or "holy" that you choose, but the Torah makes it perfectly clear that living in the Land is of religious value, to say the least. – Isaac Moses Jul 31 '14 at 16:45
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    You don't have to read Rav Kook. Just take a look at the Talmud. (Eg. Ketubot 110-112) – Double AA Jul 31 '14 at 17:49

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