Yom Aliyah and All Year Round: Fulfilling the Vision of Lech L’cha
By Rolene Marks
ויאמר יהוה אל-אברם לך-לך מארצך וממולדתך ומיבת אביך אל-הארץ אשר אריאך And the Lord said to Avram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace to the land that I will show you”
And thus it is written in Parshat Lech L’cha – the passage in the Torah that speaks of G-ds commandment to Avram (who thirteen years later would become Abraham) to journey into the unknown, to the land he will show you.
Thousands of years later, heeding the same call, with a lot of trepidation, courage and 60 kilograms of luggage, many come from the north, the south, the east and the west to the land we have been shown to make it our home. One of the true miracles of the modern state of Israel is how we have managed to absorb the ingathering of the exiles, Jews who were scattered to the furthest corners of the globe and who have returned home.
It is an ascension. It is Aliyah. As an Olah (immigrant) of nearly six years, I cannot help but be filled with delight and joy that the government of Israel has designated the 7th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (to coincide with the reading of the above mentioned parshat) Yom Aliyah Day – a day celebrating the immigrants who help weave the fabric of Israeli society and our contribution to this tiny country that has welcomed over 80 different ethnicities. For some like me it is Aliyah by choice, we are drawn by our timeless connection to our ancient home and for some it is Aliyah under duress but still it is an epic return (cue theme music from Exodus the movie here).
Nothing prepares you for what Aliyah is really going to be like. Everybody’s experience is different and while it is often fraught with challenges, I would not change it for the world and bringing a sense of humour along with your lift and allocated 60 kg’s is a necessity.
I celebrate my fellow Olim and the remarkable contribution that we have made to the country. We have infused every aspect of the country with the unique flavours of our countries of origin. From our cuisine that mixes ethnicities like it does ingredients to having representation in the highest office in the land, we have and continue to make our mark.
Although antisemitism is rising to alarming levels around the world, Olim are still choosing to come home to Israel. We cannot forget the daring operations like that have airlifted Jews under threat from countries like Yemen or Ethiopia and the defiant and daring “refusenik” movement that campaigned for the release of Soviet Jewry?
Israel is the land of miracles. It is not just the stuff of biblical history but is evident every day as many more come home and battle the trials and tribulations of a massive life decision. Hey, nobody promised us a rose garden or said it would be easy! I know that nearly six years later, there are days where my Hebrew sounds more like a language that should be featured on Game of Thrones or there are cultural differences I just cannot wrap my head around but Aliyah has taught me a vital lesson in perseverance, patience and how some things can only be communicated with a well-planned hand gesture!
Israel has never been stronger. We are strong militarily, breaking boundaries every day with new discoveries in medicine, cyber technology, science, agriculture and so much more. A lot of this we can attribute to cumulative brainpower of Olim and our Sabra (native born Israeli) brothers and sisters.
It has been 100 years since the Balfour Declaration paved the way for the forming of the modern state of Israel. Even though there has always been a Jewish presence in the land, this was the beginning of the formation of a formal, modern State that would be, in the words of the first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, “open for the ingathering of the exiles”. And gathered we have.
On wings of eagles and magic carpets, on Aliyah flights and solo missions, to the land of our ancestors we have fulfilled the instruction of Lech L’Cha. After the slaughter of a third of world Jewry in the Holocaust, we have fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel by having being raised, had life breathed into us and have been placed upon our soil.
I raise a glass of delicious Israeli wine and toast L’Chaim to my fellow Olim and thank you to the government for officially designating Yom Aliyah. To our brothers and sisters in the diaspora contemplating answering the call….next year in Jerusalem! Or Modiin, Tel Aviv, Haifa……