Yesterday a dear friend’s oldest daughter made aliya—she stepped off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport along with 240 others, all of whom had filled out their immigration forms on the flight and were already citizens of Israel when their feet hit the runway.
Not only was I able to hear about it, I watched it on the webcam set up by Nefesh b’Nefesh—Soul to Soul—an organization set up to encourage immigration to Israel from Western countries. This was just one of over a dozen plane-loads arriving this summer, from the U.S., Britain, France, and elsewhere.
These new immigrants are olim by choice; they are not fleeing anything, they are strongly drawn to something. That something is the Zionist dream, for the first time untinged by fear at the starting place. In fact, for these olim there is more fear at the landing place.
Interviews of the immigrants—they ranged from a two-month-old baby to a 97-year-old lady—had a consistent theme: asked to send a message to their friends and family back home, most said some version of You come too!
Nefesh b’Nefesh has made it easier than it used to be. My friend was stunned by the contrast with the time thirty years ago when he moved to Israel, only to come home four years later. Not the slightest effort was made to welcome him or ease the way.
Yesterday, his daughter was welcomed by Tzipi Livni, a likely future Prime Minister, who is credited with waking the Israeli government up to the fact that if you are going to attract people from a place like America, you’d better come up with something better than an airlift and a transit camp.
So my friend’s tears on watching this yesterday meant many things, not least the joy of watching his beloved daughter realize his own dream. Even I didn’t have dry eyes, having watched this fine woman emerge from the little girl I met twenty years ago. But for Mara herself, her huge smile as she stepped off the stairs onto the runway said it all.
There are many pitfalls ahead of her. Personally, she’ll do just fine; she’s brilliant and attractive, warm and funny, competent and resilient. But there is this pesky matters of possible war with Israel’s enemies—Hamas, Iran, Syria, who knows?
constantly to generate smoke so that they can’t be seen from the air. They crawl and shoot among the fires shouting “Allahu Akhbar!”—God is great. They practice hostage-taking, yet they say they are just preparing for an Israeli incursion.
Which they are trying to provoke. The reporters were blindfolded before being taken to the hidden rocket factory in Gaza, but once there they were able to film—the militants are proud to show that they are making rockets steadily, preparing for their own planned end to the cease-fire when they—unless of course Israel meets their demands—will return to launching them several times a day at Sderot and other towns in Israel.
They are now manufacturing fourth-generation rockets that they say have double the range of the third—25 kilometers instead of 12—giving them access to more Israeli territory and more Jews.
As government spokesman Mark Regev said after the report, “The cease-fire that was negotiated through Egypt was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can’t use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip. And so, that sort of activity is a clear violation of the cease-fire understandings achieved through Egypt. And of course we reserve the right to act if need be to protect ourselves. We don’t want this current quiet just to be the quiet before the storm.”
Of course, the fear that the cease-fire would be used by Israel’s enemies to prepare new and more dangerous attacks was in the forefront of the minds of those who opposed it.
I don’t think Mara will be in the range of the rockets, at least not for the time being, but in a larger sense all Israel is in range—certainly of Iranian missiles, but also of the threat of war with one of several enemies, and finally of course in range of terrorist bombings.
I envy and admire her and I wish her every good thing. She is who is realizing her dream, and becoming part of one of the greatest events in Jewish history—the revival and renewal of the Jews in their ancient homeland.
In 1925 a young pioneer in Israel poured her heart out in a letter: “I am happy to be free…I believe in Eretz Israel and in the people. I am surrounded by people who have faith…I would like to help all those who can understand our truth—who can find a way to us.” Improbable as it seemed at the time, those who found their way would number millions.
Mara, you are a worthy heir to that young woman’s dream. May you go from strength to strength, stay out of the range of the rockets, and build the dream—the Jewish people’s, and yours.