Why I Moved to Israel (6)

Guest post by Arnie Draiman

“It seemed like the right thing to do at the time”. And it was. And still is, 25 years later!

I grew up in a traditional Conservative home, driving to shul every Shabbat, keeping kosher at home (less so outside of the home). My parents were certainly supporters of Israel – my father’s brother had moved here from Poland in 1923 – and my parents came to visit him in 1966. The slides of their trip to the Holy Land always piqued my interest, but, perhaps, as a kid, it wasn’t a place to move to, just to visit.

I had an excellent mentor during my formative teen years – our congregational rabbi, Barry Rosen. He instilled a deeper love of Judaism and of Israel in me. And at the same time, I was very active in the synagogue youth group USY, which also increased my love of Judaism and added an acquaintance and love of Jews around the globe.

My first trip to Israel was as a senior in high school (USY Israel Pilgrimage), and alas, I realized that people do/can live here.  During my college years, I staffed the USY Israel Pilgrimage and led the trip eight summers in a row. By then, I was working as the Assistant Director of the Atlanta Bureau of Jewish Education, being groomed for the directorship. A friend of mine, David Marcu, called me in September and told me that he was going to attend Hebrew University’s MBA program a year later, and did I want to share an apartment with him. I said, “Sure.”

I have no idea why I immediately told him yes. I had a good job, good friends, nice community and more. But something from deep inside me spoke, even if it wasn’t clear at the time. What did become clear is that I made aliyah because of the Pulse of Jewish Life here.

The calendar revolves around the the Jewish calendar. Everyone knows what is Shabbat and when is Sukkot. All Jews here celebrate all of the holidays – some go to shul, and most have a Passover Seder and build a Sukkah, and even those who go to the beach, know which holiday it is! It is just what is done here. Every taxi driver and shopkeeper wishes you a “Shabbat Shalom” on Friday, whether you wear a kipa or not, and whether they wear a kipa or not.

Advertisements and display windows for stores all reflect the calendar and Pulse of Jewish life. Before Passover, you can renovate your kitchen (for cheap!), and during the ‘Three Weeks’ of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av, many meat restaurants offer special non-meat dishes to accommodate those who don’t eat meat then. There have been many magazine articles written with countless examples.

You can easily find while visiting any national park and place of interest here, secular parents teaching their secular children the meaning and history of a place while using a Tanach (Bible) as their text. The Hebrew subtitles often call upon Biblical and Rabbinic sources for translation help (The most famous being the translation of TV cop Kojak’s ‘what’s this got to do with the price of tea in China?’. The Hebrew translation used a comment made by the 11th century rabbinic commentator Rashi when he was discussing a certain line in the Torah – Leviticus 25:1  “mah inyan shmita etzel har sinai?” — “What do the laws of the sabbatical year have to with the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai”).

And one more thing:  the wonderful world of Tzedakah (Righteous Giving) and Tikkun Olam (Fixing the World). I have been fortunate to be a colleague of Danny Siegel ( www.dannysiegel.com) for some 30 years. He has been my mentor and my work follows his path. I have been privileged to be involved with over100 of his “Mitzvah heroes” – those incredible people doing great work (and doing it efficiently effectively). They represent the real Pulse of Jewish life and the real face of Israel. They are sabras and immigrants, religious and secular, men and women, old and young, Jewish and not, etc.

To me, Zionism is one’s love for the State of Israel, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel (together and not separately). So, is this Zionism? I think so. I hope my love for Israel comes through in all that I do. I hope I have been able to instill in my four children this love of Israel.

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One Comment on “Why I Moved to Israel (6)”

  1. Bruce Zivan Says:

    Today is the first anniversary of my aliyah with my wife and five boys. I am very moved by each of these six posts. In fact, Arnie was a staff member of MY first trip to Israel, on USY Israel Pilgrimage in 1979.

    I would like to contribute a post, and hope it will be worthy of these. Please be in touch via email.

    Bruce Zivan


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