To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,
I, the writer of these lines, was not born in Israel. I was born in Ukraine. I came to Israel when I was fifteen, because I wanted to be part of this country, inspired by the Zionist education I received in the Jewish community I grew up in. As Israel approaches its 75th birthday, I want to remind us all, about the value of “Aliyah” (immigration).
The foundations of the Jewish State were built by those who were not born in Israel, but they chose to connect their lives with it and its growth, because so many generations before them, held on to the profound belief about their connection to this land. My teachers taught me to love this land since childhood. The names of the different cities, the history of the Zionist movement, the connection to the stories of the Hebrew Bible, all of these took shape when I arrived in Israel, touched the stones of Jerusalem, breathed the air of the Galilee Mountains and smelled the smells of the markets and various city squares.
Even after the past twenty years that I’ve been living in Israel, I love this country with all my being. My children were born here. Jewish children, Israeli-born children. I educate them to love this land, just like I was educated to do that when I was little, and I am a bit jealous of them, because they have Israel at such a young age, when I was their age Israel was a distant dream.
Today, the value of “Aliyah” is no longer one-sided. We don’t have the aspiration for all Jews in the world to immigrate to Israel and make it the center of their lives.
Our country will always be open for every Jewish person who will choose to make Aliyah. But equally important, if not even more, not only for the State of Israel and all its inhabitants but also for world Jewry, is to stay connected. This is how I see the value of Aliyah today - not necessarily as an immigration path to Israel, but as building and maintaining a connection with it.
I feel part of all the “Olim” (immigrants) that were not born in Israel, but chose to live here. Not only in this generation, but in all the generations prior to us, all of us are part of the miraculous process of the return to Zion and the rebirth of Israel.
In us and in our children, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them (Psalm 126, 6).
Rabbi Benjamin Daniel Minich is the Rabbi of the Reform congregation “Daniel” in Jaffa. He is a Ph.D student in the department of Jewish Thought at the Bar Ilan University, member of “Maram” (Council of Reform Rabbis in Israel), and member of Limmud FSU in Israel. He lives in Kfar Saba with his wife Elena and their three children.