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Some Thoughts on Aliyah at this time by Aaron Hecht


A group of new immigrants arrive in Israel (Wikipedia)

I made Aliyah to Israel right in the middle of what was already being called the "Second Intifada." Buses were being blown up by suicide bombers in Tel Aviv, tourist venues in Jerusalem were being targeted, and the economy was in very bad shape. Over 250,000 people were unemployed and a fairly large number of people were leaving the country, while a tiny number were moving here.

I was one of that tiny number, and from the first moment I got here, everyone I met expressed their disbelief that I was coming at a time when they wanted so badly to leave. I mean, literally, the first conversation I had along those lines was with the cab driver who drove me from the airport to my hotel where I spent my first night here.

His name was Yitzhak, he was in his late fifties, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, and he spoke to me in the tone of a concerned uncle, saying in as many words that I was young and foolish and making a terrible mistake. He even offered to turn the cab around and drive me back to the airport so I could get back on a plane and go home, and he wasn't joking. When he dropped me off at my hotel, he gave me his card, which had the number of his cell phone (a somewhat new technology at the time that was just beginning to be commonly available in Israel) and told me that if I changed my mind I should call him and he'd come get me and make sure I got back to the airport.

I still have that card, and I even called the number a few years later to say hi and let him know I was okay and still in Israel. He was glad to hear from me and told me to stay in touch, but I kind of got the feeling that it would be awkward if I did, so I didn't call him again.

In any case, Yitzhak might have been the first Israeli I met who expressed incredulity that a young American would be coming to Israel at a time when so many veteran Israelis would have liked to leave, but he wasn't the last.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, there would be many more well-meaning people who said similar things to me when I informed them that I'd decided to make Aliyah at that time. They sometimes also expressed respect for my courage and idealism, but to my surprise (I was VERY naive back then) many of them also expressed high-octane cynicism about this country and sometimes I even felt like people resented me for what I was doing.

But the years passed, the Second Intifada came to an end, and conditions in Israel improved. Eventually, the expressions of disbelief that I would choose to stay in Israel when I had the option of leaving and going to live in America became less frequent.

But now, with Israel embroiled in a seemingly endless war that threatens to rapidly intensify into something much worse at any moment, I'm once again being asked more frequently if I'd consider going back to the US. But this time, it isn't my fellow Israelis making these well-meaning but incredibly annoying suggestions, but old friends from the US who have been watching too many "news" reports and assume that I'm in imminent, mortal danger.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as I probably don't have to explain to readers of this blog. In fact, as difficult as things are in Israel right now, with a multi-front military conflict, tough economic times, a deeply dysfunctional government, and an increasingly dysfunctional civil society, I still feel much more comfortable here than I would back in the Old Country.

That's because the America I grew up in is almost entirely gone, having been replaced by something I never thought it was even possible that it would become. Things are happening in the United States that would have been literally unthinkable just a few short years ago, and it makes me very grateful I live in Israel, even with all our problems.

An anecdotal example of this came to me in the form of an article this week in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, telling a story about an incident in the small town of Woodstock in upstate New York. This small town of 6,000 people has just a few Jewish families in it, but a bunch of anti-Israel thugs decided that was a good enough reason to go there a few days ago and take part in a demonstration that included screaming abuse at the Jewish elementary school students as they attempted to ride past in their school bus.

The mother of two of these terrified children went to rescue them and she came under verbal attack from the protesters as well. But she said that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that some of her neighbors came out of their homes to shout encouragement at the protesters.

This anecdotal incident is demonstrative of a VERY widespread phenomenon.

It might be a hackneyed cliche to say "The world is losing its mind" but there is an ever-growing list of anecdotal incidents that point to the conclusion that in this season of history, the world really is losing its mind, and this hackneyed cliche is becoming an actual, undeniable fact.

I have written before in these blogs about how we're in the so-called "post-truth world" in which everyone feels entitled to their own opinion AND their own facts and having the actual, objective truth on your side won't help you much. Many people are still acting rationally, but many more have stopped even trying.

Another anecdote that demonstrates this came across my desk this week. It was a report about how the massive floods that recently struck Brazil have given rise to truly astounding conspiracy theories.

Instead of accepting that sometimes bad weather just happens, many people are expressing their belief in ludicrously absurd rumors about how the torrential rains that caused these floods were caused by weather monitoring towers in Alaska, vapor trails seeded in the clouds by airplanes sent up by some mysterious/sinister cabal of evil bad guys, etc.

Brothers and sisters, some of you might be wondering what a bunch of looney toon conspiracy theories about extreme weather in Brazil have to do with Israel, Jews, or Aliyah.

The answer is, EVERYTHING!

When bad times come, and they always do sooner or later, people always get scared and worried. They worry about what'll happen to them and their families, they worry about where they'll get enough money to pay for all the things they need, they worry about whether the things they think they need will even be available and what will happen to them if they're not.

When people get worried about these things, it leads to them being angry, and it leads to a weakening of their ability to think rationally and/or their willingness to listen to reason. It leads to them being less willing, or even able, to believe the truth when they hear it. It leads to them being willing to believe lies that, if they weren't so afraid, they'd realize were utterly absurd. Last but certainly not least, it leads to them looking for something or someone to blame for everything that's going wrong all around them.

The Jewish people have been victims of this toxic brew of absurd, hysterical nonsense many times over the past 2,000 years, and NOTHING is stopping this pattern from repeating itself again.

As Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

We can already see that large numbers of people all over the Western world, including the United States, have been talked into believing the absurd lies that Hamas and its supporters are peddling. It's caused them to voice their approval for the atrocities that Hamas committed on October 7th, and it is a VERY short step from voicing approval for such atrocities that someone else committed and committing atrocities yourself.

In summary friends, there is a kind of madness sweeping this world, and it's making everything more and more dysfunctional. The huge rise in anti-Semitism all over the world is only part of a larger problem of a massive and unprecedented rise in sheer insanity of every imaginable kind. Demonic spiritual forces are obviously part of what's driving this madness, as has been the case in the past.

I believe that many things are near a breaking point, and unprecedented upheaval and chaos are just around the corner. Because of this, every day that goes by it will get more dangerous for Jewish people, whether they live in big cities like Paris, London, and Los Angeles, or small towns like Woodstock, New York. 

With all of this in mind, making Aliyah at this time might seem like a huge risk, but the fact is that despite the ongoing war and all the other problems, there is no safer place for Jewish people in the entire world right now.

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