Following is an interview I held yesterday with Rav Zev Shandalov of Maale Adumim. I decided to interview him due to the fact that he has some things he wished to share with his “audience” and asked me, Zev Shandalov, to interview him. (We have known each other all of our lives!)
ZS: Good Morning! Nice to see you today.
RavZS: Nice to see you also, but given what’s happening in the world today, we should get started.
ZS: OK, then with no further delay, let me jump right in and ask: What is it that you wish to discuss today?
RavZS: Simple…Jew hatred around the world. Not only hatred, but I want to speak about the anti-Jew acts that have taken place around the world of late.
ZS: Why now? Why all of a sudden do you want to raise this issue?
RavZS: What’s the matter? Don’t you follow me on Facebook? Don’t you see me post about this topic almost every day?
ZS: I do follow you, but to be honest, I think you are an alarmist and a one-topic kind of guy. You may want to add to your repertoire on occasion. Perhaps post pictures of a cat later today. Honestly, people know that there are many anti-Jewish acts out there (such as vandalism, swastikas, etc). Why must you constantly remind them? What do you hope to gain?
RavZS: Thank you Zev for raising that question, as it goes to the heart of the matter about which I wish to speak today.
ZS: Go for it. I am with you…well, actually, I am always with you. But I digress…
RavZS: So here is the thing. People who are living in the Diaspora have been experiencing an uptick in antisemitic acts at a level that has not been seen since before WWII. These, sometimes, violent attacks are not limited to one region or country. These acts are happening all over the world. Blatant antisemitic vitriol that makes its way into the newspapers, television, streets, synagogues and homes has had some devastating consequences over the past couple of years.
ZS: Wait a minute…that can all be blamed on Donald Trump.
RavZS: What is the matter with you! Blame Donald Trump for six elderly men who were beaten in Brooklyn? Or blame him for the swastikas on the synagogues and the killing of French citizens? He is to blame? So whom did you blame before 2016 when these kinds of things happened? Whom did you blame in the 1930’s? How about we get back to my point and not get sidetracked by that foolish notion.
ZS: Fine. Go ahead.
RavZS: This level of Jew hatred has not been seen in over 70 years. Yet, it has been institutionalized when, for example, the EU is set to vote on marking Jewish products made in Israel (in Yehuda and Shomron). Or when Ireland makes it a crime to purchase items made in Yehuda and Shomron. We see universities around the United States and the world host special days on campus that are virulently Jew-hatred-filled and provide courses that are openly targeting Jews, as parasites of the world. Shootings in synagogues, stabbings, businesses marked with the word “Jew,” and pigs’ ears hung on the door of a shul are all examples from the just the past few days!
ZS: Wow, really? Rabbi, you’re sounding like Mr. Gloom and Doom here? I have to tell you, this whole issue is probably making our readers yawn.
RavZS: That is the point itself. The “yawn,” the idea that it will never happen to me here, in the Diaspora. The total disconnect from reality.Yes, it happens but most people are good, and I am as safe as I can possibly hope, the logic goes.
ZS: So what do you propose?
RavZS: It is high time that people realize that while in no way do I envision a return to the 1940’s and concentration camps, we are living in very scary times for Jews outside the Land of Israel. It is time for Jews to come home.
ZS: Wait a darn minute! Every time there’s a violent attack in the Diaspora, people in Israel moan and whine and say “Come home. Come to Israel. Make Aliya. Be safe.” Oh, blah, blah, blah. Heard it all before. You guys in Israel are no safer than we are here.
RavZS; Tell me, Zev, do you feel safe to walk the streets in your neighborhood: by day? by night? I do. And tell me, do you have an army–and I mean literally an army–whose duty it is to protect you as a Jew? I do. Do you have a government (not that our’s is perfect–faaaaar from it!) whose purpose is to protect you as a Jew and whose agenda is a Jewish agenda? I do. Do you feel at home? I do. Do you feel the power of a day like Pesach or a day like Shavuot or Shabbat or any other holy day on our calendar–do you feel it PERMEATE your lives? Do you feel a sense of kedusha in your streets? Do you have the opportunity to do the mitzvot that are connected to the Land of Israel (58 of them)? I do and I do.
Yes, of course, there are enclaves and areas where some of this is possible (not the kedusha part and not the Land-based mitzvot). Yet, how many attacks on those communities have we seen in just the past week!? And you say you are safer than we are? Oh, and by the way, nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Torah does Hashem instruct us to live in the Diaspora.
ZS: But what about stabbings and bombings and all the other terrible things we see on the news?
RavZS: No denying that even with all the best protection, of course, we still have security issues. Are you aware of the hundreds of prevented attacks, thanks to the above-mentioned services?
ZS: So other than security issues, why should I feel any reason to up and leave where I do in fact feel at home and I do feel relatively safe (in spite of the uptick in antisemitic activity)? After all, Israel seems much more fractious than the Diaspora. Can’t we all just get along??
RavZS: Of course, Israel has issues between different groups. Sometimes those differences can be very disturbing. But, here we feel enveloped, that those around us, including neighbors, co-workers, even the bus drivers (Jewish ones) and mailmen, are all connected! In happy times and in sad, we are there for one another! Whether an announcement is made that a couple is marrying, someone is being buried, or a child with special needs is celebrating a bar/bat mitzva, tens, if not hundreds or even thousands, make the effort to show up! We feel the bond of brothers and sisters! The feeling of being surrounded by our own People and the bond, that is so strong is not limited to a neighborhood or a shul or a community. It is countrywide. Problems? Of course. But, as I have told you in the past, Israel is the promised Land not the perfect Land.
ZS: I am starting to see your point. Please continue.
RavZS: The bottom line is that while a Jew can indeed serve Hashem and do mitzvot and be a part of an amazing community outside the Land of Israel, there is still nothing like “home.” The tragedy is when people, who indeed have the means (and none of the serious reasons to not make Aliya), do not even have Aliya on their radar.
ZS: What about the idea that we need to wait for Mashiach to make Aliya and settle the Land?
RavZS: Two answers to that. First let us think back to the early 1900’s. If back then Jews were told that there was indeed an open door to the Land of Israel, where Jews lived in their own country and were the government and not subjected to the rule of another nation, how many would have come crawling on their hands and knees? How many would have boarded buses and boats and cars just to make the trek and arrive here? Would they have been so foolish to say, no, we need to wait for a Messiah to tell us to go? If that is the case, what has changed? Secondly, and perhaps even more important, I challenge you to find me a source that, based on Halacha, one must wait for Mashiach before coming to the Land of Israel to settle it.
ZS: Well, it must be true since so many “Gedolim” say it!
RavZS: I can not speak to their motives. All I can say is that before WWII, way too many gedolim told their communities to stay put, and we see how that turned out. Today’s scenario is extremely different from back then. As I said, I do not believe there will come a time that Jews will be rounded up and put in concentration camps. But why would that need to be a motivating factor? Why can’t it be a factor that over 800 times Hashem Himself tells us in Tanach that Israel is the home of the Jews? Why can’t people be motivated by a desire based on what I said earlier in this interview?
ZS: Look, you have not completely convinced me, but at least you have given me food for thought.
RavZS: That was my goal in granting you this interview. My goal is to get the topic on the worldwide agenda. My goal is to get people to stop–and think. Are things bad regarding antisemitism outside of Israel? Yes. Are they going to get worse? Yes, I have no doubt that they will. Is that the main reason to speak about Aliya? No. But it needs to be a part of the conversation. Perhaps the next time people who have read this interview get together and the topic of putting Aliya on the agenda comes up–perhaps some people will listen and seek further assistance. I promise you to provide guidance and help to those thinking about Aliya, even if all it means is pointing the person in the right direction.
ZS: Well, that is all the time we have today. Thanks very much for your time. I have to tell you, Rabbi – this is one of the best interviews I’ve ever had!
RavZS: I agree. Finally someone is asking the right questions! Be well and remember what the Torah says:
עלה נעלה וירשנו אותה כי יכול נוכל לה (We shall go up and we shall surely inherit the Land for we certainly can do it!)