Why I Choose to Return is the title of an op-ed piece in the April 6 edition of YNet News. The author, Eran Davidi, has spent a year as a Master of Law student at Columbia University and will soon be returning to Israel. For someone with the prospect of phenomenal earnings and a much more comfortable lifestyle, his decision to return to Israel is all the more compelling. His feelings resonate very much with those of us who have made aliyah. In his own words:
After a year in the United States I can sum up by saying that it’s mostly comfortable here. Life is comfortable when you discuss the TV ratings of the Super Bowl or environmental issues in China over lunch. It’s nice to go through everyday life without hearing depressing news about terror attacks and road accidents. It’s also convenient to study for a whole year without performing military reserve service, use a subway that spares me traffic jams and parking issues and shower for as long as I want, without feeling pangs of conscience over the state of the Sea of Galilee.
Life is truly comfortable for me here. I can also predict with confidence that things will be getting even more comfortable in the future: The average salary of graduates in my field is 12 (!) times what it is in Israel, the professional challenge is much greater, and my circle of friends will continue to expand.
So why will I be returning to Israel? It’s precisely the stay here that made me realize that we have no other place except our country. I now understand that Israel is the only place in the world where I’ll truly feel at home. I understand that despite my reserve service and all the wars, I nonetheless feel the safest in Israel. I realize that Israel is the only place where my identity as a Jew won’t stop me from at least dreaming to reach as far as possible.
I also understand that it’s important for me to take part in these historical moments where the Jewish people returned to its homeland after 2,000 years of exile. Mostly, my stay here made me realize that in the era of human rights the Jewish people has no future without tiny Israel. And this future is dear to me.
People who moved overseas tend to say that they did it because of the quality of life. However, quality of life is not only measured by the size of your house or the view from the window; it is also not measured by the amount of money you make or its color.
Hopeful about Israel’s future
Quality of life is measured first and foremost by the meaning of the life you live and is derived from the sense of belonging to the people around you, the wholeness of your identity, and the knowledge that by living in our state you are part of something bigger; bigger than you, and sometimes bigger than logic.
Indeed, it’s comfortable in America, yet as it turns out, human beings prefer meaning. And a Jew can only find meaning in Israel.
I will lie to myself if I say that there is nothing to improve in our state. There is plenty of room for improvement. The vision of the model society that our founding fathers dreamed of building here is far from being realized. The inequality between the rich and the poor is outrageous. The inequality between Jews and Arabs is blatant.
Meanwhile, whole sectors that enjoy rights but are unwilling to assume duties are expanding. The pursuit of peace, which for years now has been taking one step forward and then two steps back, is frustrating. Finally, our leaders, who are scared to lead yet are able to surprise us anew every time with the cynical exploitation of the mandate they received from us, are frustrating.
Nonetheless, something in my Israeli character doesn’t allow me to despair; I am unwilling to give up when faced with a fateful mission unlike no other. Perhaps it’s the age, or the stage in life, but many members of my generation and myself – all proud descendants of the Zionist movement – are still hopeful about Israel’s future, and mostly feel that everything still depends on us.
In general, I think this is very well said. I’m not sure that I agree with Eran’s comments about what the “founding fathers” might think if they were to take a look at Israel right now. Yes, there are many problems here, disturbing all the more so because we are supposed to be a “light unto the nations.” However, this 63-years-young country in many ways rivals that of older and more established countries and its mandate to be a home to the world’s Jews is being fulfilled little by little. Further, technological advances throughout the world rely on Israeli innovation, it exports agricultural know-how, and is in the forefront of countries offering and providing aid in disaster stricken areas. Not too many other countries can boast of as many accomplishments as little Israel can. Actually, maybe I do know what the founding fathers would think – that their efforts were not in vain and although their descendants might be suffering growing pains, they are doing pretty well.
I would also suggest that it’s not “something in my Israeli character” that doesn’t allow Eran to despair. I think it’s more likely his Jewish soul that believes in and yearns for the ultimate redemption promised.
When the Jewish nation finally finished their trek through the wilderness and approached the land that G-d had promised, the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe wanted to settle on the lands on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses rebuked them: “Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here? Why do you dissuade the heart of the Children of Israel from crossing to the Land that Hashem has given to them?” They answered Moshe: “We shall arm ourselves swiftly in the vanguard of the Children of Israel until we have brought them to their place… We shall not return to our homes until the Children of Israel will have inherited – every man his inheritance..” *
Our obligations to each other and to this land have not changed since then.
* See BaMidbar (Numbers) 32:6-7, 17-18. Tanach, Artscroll Series, Stone Edition, page 411.