I've been mulling this over all day, trying to get here to the blog to organize my jumble of thoughts. Michael Hirsch wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post, saying that Nefesh B'Nefesh "NBN" and the Jewish Agency (agencies which promote and assist with American Aliya [immigration to Israel]) are "pre-doomed to failure". Sure there were about 3,000 American olim (immigrants) to Israel this year, but really, that is the proverbial drop in the bucket of the millions of Jews living in the states.
Mr. Hirsch states, "I have often said to religious friends living in the States that prehistoric man would have greater luck extracting mastodons from the La Brea tar pits, than NBN or the [Jewish] agency would have extracting a religious Jew from the Diaspora."
Before I made Aliya, when I would read an article like this, I'd feel guilty. I'd show the article to Isaac, saying the guy is right. Isaac would say something about he thought we belonged in Israel as well, but really how the hell would we make a living there and that would be that.
Today I read the article sitting on this side of the ocean and felt a different emotion. Reading this article made me angry. Mr. Hirsch called NBN and the Agency "well-meaning" and advised them in his last sentence, to "save your time, money and effort".
I guess what he's trying to say is that those coming to Israel are those who would have come anyway, irregardless of whether some agency helps them out or not. But I'm not so sure that's true. Isaac and I have always been pre-disposed to Aliya, but when I read about NBN's first flight in 2002, well that triggered a process that lead to our move 5 years later. Would we have come without NBN? Impossible to know.
The overall negativity of the article is depressing. I'd rather look at NBN differently. Americans are coming. One-by-one. I find joy and encouragement in that. One person makes Aliya, and suddenly people in a community are talking. It put a germ in people's brains--hey if they could do it, maybe I can. Then others come--their friends, sisters, parents.
To say NBN is wasting their time and money is not fair to an organization that has made it easier for those who want to come and has put the idea of Aliya on the radar of many who would not have thought of it otherwise. In addition, the rate of Americans who stay in Israel has increased dramatically, I believe thanks to the support of NBN.
Could there be more olim? Of course. There is work to be done. Imagine how different the Israeli landscape--geographical, political, social--would look if 100,000 American Jews made Aliya every year? But that is not the current reality, for reasons I don't need to go into here. People come when they are ready. In the meantime, the several thousand a year that have come spread out throughout Israel, impacting the communities they live in, I daresay in a positive way.
Sometimes, it's better to look at the glass as half full.
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