Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 11/12/2012

Jews Return to Their Home Land

Faydra Shapiro

When I visited Israel in 2009 I met a newly immigrated Jewish woman from Canada. She spoke to our group about her family’s experience ‘making aliyah’, a decision she has never regretted. She teaches in university and the Selah Workshop and has given me permission to post these two articles written by her – Faydra Shapiro. And what a small world – last week she also spoke to the Bridges For Peace Women of Prayer tour group, at which a friend of mine was present!

ALIYAH AND THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE

It was a beautiful fall day and I was teaching about aliyah. We sat at picnic tables in my own little community on a hilltop in the Galilee. It was a perfectly comfortable time to reflect with this group of Christians from New Zealand about aliyah – its meaning and its realization, the joys and the challenges. Listeners were nodding their heads, tears in some eyes as I shared the significance of our bold family choice to pick up and leave Canada and to build a new life in Israel.

One man thrust up his hand with a question: “Well,” he said “What you’re describing is really just the immigrant experience everywhere. I mean, I’m an immigrant to New Zealand and a lot of what you went through, I went through too.  So how is aliyah different?”

Whoa. Now this gentleman is correct – there are some things that must plague and inspire immigrants the world over. And this is something I like to muse on when I’m traveling and see immigrants who have chosen to build new lives in North America. But is aliyah, and the return of Jews to Israel nothing more than immigration?

No. Aliyah is so much more. It is:

  • coming home
  • binding a dispersed people back into a nation
  • coming to a place where people dance and sing over your choice
  • the words of the Prophets come to life
  • the realization of one’s destiny 
  • the dreams of your grandparents
  • the Jewish future of your children
  • struggling along in an old-new tongue 
  • living among the fruit of those blue JNF boxes
  • the rebirth of your people and its vision
  • a breathtaking ascent                                   …and more.

May all our olim (immigrants) be blessed! Indeed we know we are.

  RECORD NUMBERS OF ISRAELIS RETURN TO ISRAEL

The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption announced that 22,470 Israelis who were living outside of Israel returned to Israel in the past two and a half years. In May 2010 the Ministry initiated a campaign to bring back Israeli citizens living abroad. The campaign included a package of benefits to encourage their return including tax concessions, incentives for starting new businesses, as well as special benefits for students.

The majority of the returnees are between the ages of 31-39. Included in the group are 4837 academics and researchers, 2720 technical professionals such as engineers, programmers and high-tech workers, and 681 business managers. Most returned from the United States followed by Canada, England, France, Australia, Romania and Hungary.  Elad Sivan, spokesman for the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption explained the rationale behind spending government funds on this effort: “These citizens are very important for the state of Israel. For every shekel we invest in a returning immigrant, we get about 52 shekels back. Basically, no matter how much we invest in bringing them back, we only benefit from what they bring to the country with their professions for example. Especially in the present economic situation, every person returning, every scientist returning, every academic returning, every doctor, engineer or also teacher is contributing to the economy of the country.”

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