I live in the Diaspora, Why Should I Help Israel?
By Shoshanah Shear
You're a Jew happily enjoying life in the Diaspora when someone sends you a story about a project taking place in Israel. Why would this matter to you? Why would you or should you care? What difference could it make to you to know that you are a part of contributing to an important cause taking place in Israel?
That is an excellent question and to a certain extent was my introduction to Israel. I was born in Central Africa and first heard about Israel from the practice at junior school of putting charity into a blue box on a Friday in preparation for the Shabbat. I really had no idea what Israel was, where Israel was or why we were always encouraged to put money into that blue box. What about other causes? Why did Israel matter to us as Jews?
Somewhere along the line, the importance of this act was not explained to us. I admit I was just 5 or 6 years old at the time, but old enough to remember putting coins into that blue box. Where did the money go to? I was told something about planting trees, but that too did not make sense to me. I thought about our beautiful garden or the botanical gardens at the far end of the long street we lived on. There were strong, sturdy trees around, what was so important about planting trees?
As the years progressed, I began to learn more about this fascinating little country called Israel. Little in terms of physical size and huge in terms of importance to peace and blessing not only for Israel but for the world at large.
The first time I visited Israel, I fell in love with the land and the country. I had come for only 3 weeks but I knew that someday this would be my home. I was very secular at the time and had no idea how it was that this very strong feeling began to creep into my thoughts and into my heart. What did this country matter and why? Why did it stir my heart so deeply?
My first visit to the Western Wall was an incredibly surreal experience. I had taken my sister's place in a tour to Jerusalem and had no idea where we would be going to. Those organizing the tour had not warned us that the tour would include a visit to such a Holy place. I knew about dressing respectfully for Synagogue but thought we would just be visiting some places of interest. So, being that all of the women were wearing jeans, I did too. We were not permitted to go down the stairs and to cross the plazza to go right up to the wall itself. In those days, how one dressed was far more significant and the rules were strongly adhered to.
I have no idea what the tour guide said about the view we saw when standing on the look out place as the stairs begin to turn to the left and go towards the entrance to the Western Wall. All I know is that suddenly I saw my father starting to walk up towards the stairs from the bottom, from closer to the Kotel. How could that be? I looked away and looked back again and my father was no longer there. It was over two years since my father had left this world. It's the one and only time I have had such an experience.
It was, however, strong enough to pull me to come and make Jerusalem my home, a move that I made in his merit.
I remember what it is like to live outside of Israel. I remember what it is to be immersed in the customs of the other nations. I remember too the countless stories my late grandfather shared with us of his signing up to fight in WW2. He had signed up to join the Allies as his part in trying to put an end to the horrors that were taking place in war-torn Europe.
My grandfather's back was badly injured during one of the battles in Italy. It was a miracle that he ever walked again. His response to returning to his family and to having the blessing of being able to walk and to work, despite chronic pain, was to join an organization that assisted the physically disabled population. He became chairman and later honorary life president and used his profession and expertise to assist those less fortunate than he.
My grandfather was a very inspiring person and had a major impact on my life and my outlook on life, a little of his work is written up in my book "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story"
Aside from a very impressive career, my grandparents did travel a little. Of all the places they visited, my late grandmother had said that it was visiting Israel that had the most meaning for her. Some years later, when my mother visited me in Jerusalem, she too felt that her 2 week holiday in Israel was the best and most memorable one that she had ever experienced.
Some years ago I visited an elderly uncle in the US. It was a few months before he would turn 100. He had served in WW1 and was a very inspiring person. I asked him in the close to 100 years that he had been in this world, what were the most significant developments or achievements to take place. I expected to hear perhaps the advances in the camera or in technology, the first car, improvements in travel. My uncle had one event that for him was the most significant to him in his close to 100 years of life and that was the development of the state of Israel. Though he had never visited Israel himself, knowing that the Jewish nation had our own homeland had meaning to my uncle.
Israel is, in truth, of importance to every Jew, no matter where we are and even if we do not realise or understand this significance. We are taught that G-d lead us out of Egypt, freeing us from slavery in order to make us a nation. A nation that would receive the Torah at Sinai and be lead to the country that He had promised to Abraham the first Jew.
There is much to do in order to build and settle this precious and very special land. For those who are able to, moving to Israel in order to be a part of building and developing is important. For those who are not able or not ready to make such a move, being a part of building this land has tremendous significance, even from a distance. To a certain extent, the benefit of participating in developing a service, centre or even planting trees in Israel is something that can not be quantified. It is something that will touch one's soul and have an effect often years down the line in ways we would never consider.
There are practical benefits too:
- Being a part in helping to develop a centre in Israel means there might be somewhere special for you to visit when you come to visit Israel.
- Many of those we have assisted through our services thus far have come from the Diaspora originally. The benefits to our orphan brides and grooms has even extended to assisting a widow to come to Israel for her son's wedding and to help her during the Shiva Brachot week.
- Many outside of Israel will have the need to send a gift to someone in Israel at some time. Supporting our centre by purchasing a gift for a loved one can enable you to send that gift with ease while knowing that you are assisting to provide income for an orphan or widow or both
- No matter how far you are from a Jewish lifestyle, Israel is important to every Jew. It is not so long ago that we had no Jewish homeland, not as a structured country that is accepted as a Jewish state. Helping to build Israel is important for every Jew, even if you currently do not understand that.
To help Shoshana fulfill her dream to develop an Occupational Therapy Centre in Israel, click HERE!
Shoshanah Shear is an Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of "Tuvia Finds His Freedom" and author of "Healing Your Life Through Activity - An Occupational Therapist's Story". Shoshanah is combining all of these skills in developing a Torah - OT Centre in Israel.