Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tel Aviv

As a religious Jew, I feel a deep connection to the land of Israel. It is the land where my forefathers lived, stretching back through the era of King David and Solomon, the time that Yehoshua bin Nun took the people of Israel into the land following the exodus from Egypt, all the way to the days when Avraham was challenged by God to "go for yourself," leave his father's home and head to this, his true home. While I grew up in England and will forever be grateful for the education and relative security I was afforded in my time there, Israel has always been my real home.

For hundreds of years, Jews around the world have dreamed of making Aliyah and moving back to this holy land. Only in recent years has this dream become a real possibility, what with the resurrection of a Jewish state coupled with such innovations as mass air travel. I am incredibly lucky in that I never really had to put much thought into my own Aliyah; when I was in my mid-teens I knew that I wanted to move here and once I finished my schooling there, that's exactly what I did. No fuss. Compare that to the quite literally life-threatening journeys some people made in order to arrive here in the Holy Land. In times gone by, people made real sacrifices in order to set up a home here.

Given this long-held affection and yearning for the land by generation after generation of Jews, I can understand why some feel so upset and detached from Tel Aviv. It is cliched to describe Tel Aviv as a city quite unlike the rest of Israel, but it really is hard not to note this; it's even earned itself the nickname "HaBuah", the bubble, for it seems to be relatively unaffected by the convulsions the rest of the country goes through. While wars have gone on and the rest of the country has been operating in a state of semi-shock, it has been observed that Tel Aviv continues as if nothing is happening. The lights of the White City, as it is known, are lit up all night, every night. While other parts of the country remain deeply connected to tradition and religion, Tel Aviv is proudly secular, modern and forward-looking. After all the years waiting for our return to the promised land, I can understand the dismay of many religious Jews that Tel Aviv seems less a Jewish city than an identikit, soul-free metropolis.

But I don't think that's the case. Just now I saw this wondeful street sign on Facebook. A quick google map search showed me that it's the only of it's kind in all of Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai - The People of Israel Live

True, Tel Aviv is no Jerusalem, but the overwhelming majority of the people of Tel Aviv don't for one second deny their Jewish identity. Many are indeed secular and practise next to nothing of the religious traditions that the dozens of generations that preceded them had so vigourously and attentively safeguarded. But these people do not despise Judaism. Far from it. They are proud of who they are. If there's one thing I've learned and am trying to pursue, it is that we have to look for the common ground between us. I subscribe to a Torah-guided way of life and, as a religious Orthodox Jew, would dearly love all other Jews to do the same. But I know that such a dream is far-fetched. Instead of becoming frustrated with reality, I have to learn to accept it for what it is and look for the positives. There are plenty, if only we look for them.

In case you're interested, the street is located here.

1 comment:

  1. That's one reason why Israel so important to our survival as a nation - you can take someone with no interest in or knowledge of Judaism whatsoever, but they will glady go on a free Birthright trip to Israel - and from that, there's an instant connection to the land and the religion, and in most cases it will just continue to grow.