Aliyahversary!

Today, ט’ז תמוז the 16th of the month of Tammuz, marks the Hebrew date of my aliyah.  Up until now, I’ve focused only on the English date,  so I was surprised to get invitation to a Saturday night מסיבת הודיה, a Thanksgiving Party, if you will, thrown by a friend who I know from the aliyah flight and ulpan.

Last year at this time, I was so focused on my upcoming aliyah and the necessary July 7 flight details, that I paid little or no attention to the Hebrew date.  But tomorrow, 17 Tammuz, marks the beginning of the Three Weeks, a time of mourning in the Jewish calendar for a series of tragedies that befell the Jewish people during this time and leading up ultimately to the 9th of the month of Av, the saddest day, on which both Temples were destroyed.

Does that rain on my parade?  Well, most Jewish celebrations are somehow bittersweet.  There wouldn’t be such a thing as aliyah without the destruction of the Temples and subsequent exile.

I left for the United States to visit family in early June, a time when I felt very absorbed in my activities and relationships in Israel.  It was hard to leave.  After a week or two of vacation and enjoying the conveniences of life in the United States, I began to harbor some doubts about what I was doing in Israel.

This of course was immediately post-flotilla and Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic comment that is not worth repeating here.  And it was not long before I reconnected with the sense of purpose and belonging that brought me here in the first place.  A Jew’s commitment to serving Gd and following the Torah comes ideally I believe from a mixture of love and commitment.  While he doesn’t make the connection to aliyah per se, a great piece from the rabbi-journalist, David F. Nesenoff, who received Thomas’s remarks face-to-face, wrote a piece in last week’s Washington Post elucidating the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

Sharing in some last bits of song and celebration before the Three Weeks, I felt a sense of camaraderie in a room where I knew hardly anyone before.  The last song we sang was אהבת ישראל בנשמה, literally “Love of Israel in my Soul,” which I think can mean, the Land, the State, the People, or all of the above.

That captures what it’s all about, I think.  While abroad, I attempted to explain some things about Israel, perhaps in vain.  But it’s not about a fact or feature.  It’s about a whole experience and about feeling.

For all the efforts to shape world opinion, which seems to keep turning against Israel, the facts work up until a certain point.  After that, it’s about feeling.  Studies show that we make up our minds how we feel about people within the first few minutes of meeting them.  Most people who have an opinion about Israel already know what they feel, and that is difficult to change.

As someone who tends to intellectualize rather than feel, I’m surprised to sometimes feel like the odd person out in the world of making the factual case for Israel, just because I do believe so much that it’s a matter of feeling rather than fact.  Politics and policies have their place after all, but at the end of the day, the closed door meetings, declarations, and condemnations are arranged by people who intellectualize what they feel.

The connection of Jews to Israel seems to be most successfully made by Birthright, which provides a free 10-day trip for young adults, probably because it delivers that experience that can’t be given over in a speech or a pamphlet.  As for the rest of the world, support for Israel comes from either a love of Israel for other reasons, or from a fear of the alternative.

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1 Response to “Aliyahversary!”


  1. 1 Chananya June 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Mazel Tov! Sorry we missed you when you were here and glad to hear you made it back safely. Here’s hoping this is the last 17th of Tammuz we have to mourn and in the words of Chazal turn this day of mourning into a day of joy.


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ilene

Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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