While New York is a very diverse city, the Jewish community in which I was raised was actually not like that at all. My fellow Jews in school, camp and around the neighborhood were all of the same background. Even when I ventured into the world of NCSY, I still met people who were pretty much a carbon copy of me. Some were less observant, others unaffiliated but 99% were USA born and bred, Ashkenazic, westernized Jews. It wasn’t until I made Aliyah in 1990 that I understood what Jews from “the four corner of the earth” truly meant.
My life in Israel began in the city of Netanya. My wife and I settled there for our first year and had a wonderful experience meeting fellow Yidden from all over the globe. Some people would have gone into “culture shock” but we looked at things differently. To us, meeting brothers and sisters (and that is who they are!) who spoke differently, had darker skin and ate foods that we would normally not touch with a 10-foot-pole was a taste of the “Kibbutz Galuyot” (ingathering of the exiles) that we pray for three times each day.
Our son started “KItta Aleph” (first grade) that year and among his 35 classmates there were 11 Russian Jews, 9 Ethiopian Jews, 7 Jews from Arabic countries (mainly Yemen and Morocco) 2 from Argentina and the last 6 were native born Israelis. He was the only kid born in Queens.
Our shul in Netanya had people who said things like “Cheery-oh” or “G’day mate” or “How’s it?” I must admit that it was very weird at first to hear guys dovin like The Beatles and read the parsha like Prince Charles but then I realized that these people are my family, even though they sounded a bit funny (which is what they said about me!).
Since that year I have developed deep friendships with Jews who shared my dream of Aliyah but did not board the plane in JFK. They came home from Ireland, Ecuador, Brazil, New Zealand, Turkey, Denmark, Switzerland and even Fiji (how many Jews do YOU know from Fiji??) As a matter of fact, one of my daughters did her National IDF Service in a school in Ra’anana where students came from 22 different countries!
Think about it for a second. Jews coming home to Israel from 22 countries and doing it NOW. They didn’t wait for Moshiach or for an eagle to swoop down and fly them here. They came home with their culture, their songs, their language, their dress code and their heavy accents to the one and only Jewish land. I have always told my children that my favorite time in Israel is when Jews from different countries break their teeth just to speak to each other in Hebrew. I am sure that a Hebrew grammar teacher would have a heart attack listening to that conversation, but who cares? Let ’em make 100 mistakes in grammar! The bottom line is that after 2,000 years we have returned home to speak OUR language! How awesome is THAT?
This is what I meant by the title of this article: United Nation not United Nations. We are one people, with one G-d, destined to live in one land. I admit that this is not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, in the entire “Shemona Esrei” prayer – when we beg Hashem for many things – only ONE of those requests contains the word “Ness” (miracle). It does not say that word when we ask for health, success, wisdom, forgiveness or even the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. The only time it says the word “miracle” is in the Bracha of “Kibbutz Galuyot” when we ask Hashem: “Ve’sah NESS l’Kabetz Galuyotenu” (and perform a MIRACLE to gather our exiles). This proves that coming home will truly be difficult, out of nature and in the realm of the supernatural… but doable! Millions have done it already and the excuses – in most cases – are lame and weak.
The time to join your brothers in Israel from Argentina and Australia is now! Fellow Jews from India and Greece await your embrace. Your family members from Ethiopia and Cuba want you to join them for Shabbat. We are a united nation. Come join us.