Is It Finally Time for Aliyah?

I don’t know if this story is true, and I don’t remember who I heard it from, some thirty years ago. But the fear it captures was most definitely real, and even though I was not old enough to understand it, I remember those emotions palpably.

It happened in the first week of April, 1994 in Johannesburg. Just a few weeks before South Africa’s first ever democratic, multi-racial election.

Despite the international excitement surrounding this election, and the moral victory over the racism of apartheid, South African Jews were nervous. With Nelson Mandela’s presidency almost guaranteed, many white people in South Africa feared a violent uprising. And while most Jews in South Africa had little in common with the Afrikaans architects of Apartheid, they were still white enough to be afraid.

That year, more South African Jews made Aliyah than in any year since the seventies. But for those who stayed, painful questions arose. What could they do if tensions erupted into violence and civil war?

I remember overhearing some grown-ups talking about it. I remember the worried whispers. They had a backup plan. In the event that the Jewish community was under attack, a Johannesburg golf course had been leveled, in preparation for El-al planes to land to take us home.

Perhaps that was indeed what was planned. Perhaps it was imagination, inspired by the images of the miracles of Operation Solomon just three years earlier. Either way, as a kid, I grew up knowing that there would always be a place for us to run to.

It was almost instinctive.

I knew that if I was ever woken up in the middle of the night and told we needed to flee, there was only one place we would go.


The events of the past few weeks and months in the US, have brought me back to those childhood memories. The USA is quite literally two oceans and a hemisphere away from South Africa; yet the tensions feel disquietingly similar.

Of course, we have much to to grateful for. Our communities are booming. Jewish life is vibrant and exciting. But this has happened many times in our history; and to-date, there has never been a place that could claim immunity from the waves of hatred crashing down around us.

On the one hand, the ground beneath our feet is rock solid. But on the other hand, it seem to be moments away from crumbling under us.

I am not an alarmist. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but if the golf courses of Boca Raton are leveled for El-al planes to land, I doubt any of us would hesitate to leave everything behind and fly home.


Perhaps I am naive. Perhaps the swift demise of American Jewry is already set in stone. I don’t know. But there is one thing of which we can be certain: At some point in the future, there will be an end to the prominence and power of Jewish America. After all, we’ve seen this movie before; many, many times over. There has never been a country where our people have prospered in exile indefinitely.

The Meshech Chochma (בחקתי יא) summarizes our history in exile, writing that whenever we have gotten too comfortable in some host culture:

שם יבוא רוח סערה עוד יותר חזק, יזכיר אותו בקול סואן ברעש יהודי אתה ומי שמך לאיש, לך לך אל ארץ אשר לא ידעת

A stronger wind will begin to blow there, reminding us with storms and thunder: “You are a Jew! Do you not remember that Hashem has made you who your are today? Leave this place for a land you do not know...”

Perhaps that is where we are today, and hindsight can give us an understanding of the potential dangers ahead. But it cannot give us insight into this moment. Where are we right now? Is the best of US Jewry already behind us? Is this wave of antisemitism the beginning of the end?

Or perhaps, the terror and hatred we are facing today is the worst it will ever be. Perhaps this is the last stop on the road to Redemption.


As Jews with Emuna, we know that nothing is beyond the Ribono Shel Olam.

So rather than giving in to despair, let’s imagine a different world for a moment. The world where Hashem will yet answer all of our Tefillos for safety, security and serenity.

Let’s daven that in the coming days, our brave soldiers will finally destroy Hamas and rescue all of the hostages. Let’s daven that the world is finally awakened to bear witness to the horrors the hostages have faced. And that somehow, international opinions will swing as people realize the lies they have been told.

Let’s daven that the impeccable morality of Tzahal becomes so apparent that US politicians across the aisle denounce any connection to Hamas, Iran and radical Islam. That US support of Israel is once again an indisputable bi-partisan priority.

It is my greatest hope and prayer that all of this and so much more comes to pass. I’m sure you feel the same. Perhaps then we might not dread turning on our phones after Shabbos.

But in the deepest recesses of my soul, this return to normal is also my greatest fear.


On the day that our tefillos are answered, when we win the war, and our brothers and sisters return, what will happen to us? What will happen to you and me; the Jews of the diaspora?

My greatest fear is that nothing will happen at all.

When normal is restored, I worry that we will simply return to the default settings of our lives in Galus; the lives we have meticulously manicured over decades and generations.

Each one of us has invested our time, money, energy, tefillos and emotions to Klal Yisrael since October 7th. What will happen when Hashem grants us peace?

In place of anxiously scouring the internet for news about the hostages, will we simply fill that time with mindless entertainment and rage-filled politics? The funds we are giving to Israel, will they be diverted back into portfolios and vacations?

In place of tehillim, learning and davening in the merit of Klal Yisrael, will we return to splitting hairs and debating minutia? Will we resume the pursuit solving the ‘pressing questions’ of how best to permit our unquenchable materialism in an acceptable framework of Halacha?

The Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim coins the expression נבל ברשות התורה – a degenerate with the permission of the Torah. Such a person might fulfill every dictate and directive of the Shulchan Aruch while living a meaningless, hedonistic life. I dare say, but in the minds of contemporary westerners, this is most likely the most palatable type of observant Jew. (After all, we’re all the same... right?) But the obligation of being Kadosh means that we are different. We are charged with developing and maintaining a real emotional and intellectual connection to Hashem, which inspires every facet our lives and actions.

When normal returns, I am terrified that we will “forget” the hatred and the complicity of this nation’s universities and their leaders. In our relentless pursuit of the American Dream will we proudly return to sending our children to the “prestigious” institutions responsible for cultivating a generation of antisemites? The same institutions who, for decades, have championed a perverse moral code which elevates personal pleasure and narcissistic gratification as their highest values.

The crisis of safety, security and identity that we have faced since October 7th has forced Jews of all stripes to rethink life in exile. And across the spectrum, the results have overwhelmingly deepened our connection to Hashem, Torah, Mitzvos, Eretz Yisral and Klal Yisrael.

Of course, as the weeks became months, some of that inspiration and fire has cooled. Our ideological and political rifts are still painfully present, but Jewish unity is at an all time high. All it takes is a moment of conversation with a Chayal, and we are ready to give everything and anything for another Jew. Perhaps the pain of our circumstance has coerced us into finally understanding that victory can never be achieved while we still harbor animosity and distain for each other.

But when Hashem answers our tefillos, and peace is restored to Israel and to Jews around the world, will we still be yearning for the planes coming to take us home? Or perhaps, when they land on the golf courses of Boca Raton, we might choose to stay behind...


This is a crucial moment in the history of our people, our community and ourselves. Hashem has promised us that Klal Yisrael is eternal. But there is no guarantee that you, or I, or our communities will not assimilate and disintegrate into the forgotten dust of human history.

In my humble opinion, there is only one solution: Aliyah.

In the most literal sense, we need to set our sights on building a life for ourselves in Eretz Yisrael. Tethering ourselves to the homeland of the Jewish people is a connection to our national enternal destiny.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But let’s be clear: for those of us who can reasonably transplant their families, doing so is obviously Ratzon Hashem.

L’halacha, the key word here is ’reasonably’.

Each person/family needs to engage in a serious Cheshbon HaNefesh to evaluate their reality, their needs and options. It should go without saying, but it is definitely not Ratzon Hashem to move to Israel if it will negatively impact chunich, shalom bayis, or mental/physical health. It is also not Ratzon Hashem to become a financial burden on others.

But even for those of us who cannot (yet) move our lives physically to Eretz HaKodesh, we are not exempt from living a life of Aliyah.

In its simplest definition, Aliyah means ascent. We are tasked with transforming ourselves, our families and our communities into Bnei Aliyah – people in the constant process of accent.

If our current, most honest assessment, is that Hashem wants us to be in Chutz La’aretz right now, then each of us must ask ourselves why.

Why does Hashem want me here? What is my mission, my tafkid, my shlichus? What is my unique contribution to Hashem’s world here and now in Galus? How can I be engaged in elevating myself and my world even when I am far from home?

Rashi (ישעיהו כ״ו:כ) writes that at the end of time, when Hashem will finally bring this Galus to an close, there will one primary role for you and me: התבונן על מעשיך בחדרי לבך – Consider your deeds, in the chambers of your heart.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut every year, Aliza and I look at each other and ask “is it time to make Aliyah?” I have no doubt that many of you are asking the same questions.

But there is a greater question equally relevant to all of us in the Diaspora as well as in Israel: “It is finally time to become Bnei Aliyah?”

The answer is obvious. There has been no greater moment of clarity in our lifetimes. It’s time to realign our lives, recommit to Ratzon Hashem, to become Bnei Aliyah. It is the only way to ensure that when our time comes, when our planes arrive, we will board without hesitation. הרחמן הוא יוליכנו קוממיות לארצנו – May Hashem bring us home, with our heads held high.