Aliyah Diary

Apr 24

Aliyah Diary

For nearly 2,000 years, including at each Passover Seder, our people prayed: “Next year in Jerusalem!”   

Of course, we didn’t mean, “May we be able to vacation there next year!”   We meant, “May our people’s ancient homeland be restored to us, and may we once again live and thrive there as we can nowhere else.”

Yesterday, the 2nd of Iyar 5,772, corresponding to April 24, 2012, I fulfilled this dream of redemption on behalf of my ancestors, my current family, and, G-d willing, future generations of my family, by “returning” to Jerusalem.  Not as a tourist but as a full citizen of Israel.   (I also retained my American citizenship, another precious legacy from my more recent ancestors that I will pass on to future generations).

This “Aliyah diary” is intended to record and share some of my thoughts and experiences of “coming home” to Jerusalem.   I hope that others will be inspired to claim their birthright and/or support the miraculous rebirth of the Jewish state. 

Day 1

התחלה  A beginning.

This being my eighth trip to Jerusalem in five years, where I have spent nearly six months, many things are familiar.  The airport, the highways, the grocery stores, the Old City, the sounds (birds, cats, motorcycles, construction, withdrawing cash from the ATM!) etc.   But since I’m different this time, it feels very different this time.  No longer a tourist, teudat oleh (immigration document) in my pocket; this is now officially my home -- one of two. 

I am a pioneer, notwithstanding rented modern apartment and internet.   I have come, mainly, to plant the Levine flag in Israel, to create a stake, and to do my best to foster a deepened attachment to Judaism and Israel (the two being inextricably intertwined in our history, culture, and religion) for current and future generations of my family.

This is my legacy for you, מרדכי בן ראובן  (Moti/Austin Barroll, age 9 months) and, G-d willing, for your future siblings, cousins, and all in our/your families who come during and after your lives.  I attempt this while continuing to work and also live in the U.S., since that is where my family and another part of my legacy remain.  It will be a great challenge, with success uncertain.    

My second important task is to do what I can, more generally, for the Jewish people to strengthen Israel, Judaism, and the bond between Diaspora and Israeli Jews.  This is part of my task as a rabbi, an historian, and as a Jew.  Our tradition teaches us:  שכל ישראל ערבים זה בזה, meaning all of Israel (all Jews) are responsible for each other. (Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a).  I’m hoping to live up to this responsibility.   

Pragmatically, my priority must be Hebrew.  Language facility is the key to social integration here, as well as to true participatory citizenship, primary text study and learning, and my goals of building connecting between Americans and Israelis.  So much English is spoken in Jerusalem that I could easily get by with less Hebrew than I already know and will pick up effortlessly by osmosis.  But that would greatly hinder my objectives.  So,  I hope to start “full-time” Ulpan within a week, supplemented by many other study aids.

As I fell into bed last night at 8pm local time, “body time” somewhere between Los Angeles and Jerusalem, exhausted and jet-lagged, a siren sounded outside – and throughout Israel – for one minute marking Yom Hazicharon.  Remembrance (Memorial) Day.  

Whatever sacrifices I will make to strengthen Israel and the Jewish people by moving here are as nothing as compared with the tens of thousands who have died to give me – and all of us -- this opportunity.  But, I am making a start.  And, as Rabbi Tarfon taught:  “You are not obliged to finish the taskneither are you free to neglect it.” (Avot 2:21).

 התחלתי  I have begun.   

 

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb