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Op-eds

Taking the decision to make aliyah

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We as Jews have a mandate to uplift our surroundings, wherever we may find ourselves, scattered as we are in all parts of the globe. However, the ultimate intent is that we return to the Holy Land – Israel.
by Danny Shorkend | May 03, 2018

It is the land that Hashem asked Abraham to go to, the land that the nation of Israel eventually settled. It is the land where two Temples stood. It is also the place where history reaches its apex with the final restitution of the Third Temple and the fulfilment that is the ingathering of the exiles.

In fact, when the finale of the Great Narrative reaches its coda, so the insanity and violence of a world often bent on destruction will revert to the true purpose. That purpose is the Messianic era, where peace, wisdom and knowledge of things now hidden will be revealed both in a material and spiritual sense.

The Jewish people will truly be the People of the Book and the nations, too, will glorify the One that gives life.

In the context of such a vision and in terms of my own personal life trajectory, it became clear that my place, then, is to be there. I am pulled to the Land we have striven so hard to finally have once again after aeons of struggle.

While I am aware that we are still in exile, there is hope and promise of redemption, as many latter-day Sages remind us. So, in the context of this preamble, my wife and I and our two young daughters are making aliyah.

There is an aliyah in being called up to the bimah in shul. There is an aliyah in the soul’s journey even after passing. There is also an aliyah when a Jew moves to the land of Israel, provided – as with all things – the intent is both material and spiritual.

It is an exciting venture, made easy by the wonderful aliyah department here in Cape Town and the unbelievable helpthe Israeli government provides to new olim.

Moving is always riveting. It allows one to throw out the old and dream of the future. It is a dream that many have pioneered. As they say, we stand on the footsteps of giants. And the greatest victory we can have over own enemies down the ages, and over the Pharaoh within, is to settle the land both physically and spiritually and follow in the ways of Truth.

I concede that each person needs to work such matters out for themselves. However, in terms of the decision my wife and I have made, it is certainly Hashem’s Torah that is the mainstay of our very existence. We have much work to do to realise that. But hey, there are more kosher restaurants in Israel then here in the south!

I began a love affair with Israel and Torah in about 1997, when I went to Yeshivah Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem for seven months. While I argued a somewhat atheist position, the experience did change my mindset to a large degree. And so my spiritual journey into the faith of my forebears began. Later, I went to Cfar Chabad in Israel in early 2000, but that lasted just a few months.

Subsequently, it’s been a battle in South Africa to maintain some sense of spiritual connectivity. Frequenting mainly the Chabad Centre in Sea Point, continuing with my art and academic interests, and, of course, meeting my wife in Johannesburg has fuelled my perennial search for Truth. Miraculously, we are now at the point where we are on route to a small patch of land that holds the secrets of universal redemption.

Like all big life-changing decisions, one cannot easily predict the future. But we know that Israel is highly developed and strong. We know that there is a much higher spiritual level in general. We know that it is a big family.

The soil still needs to be tilled. There is always work to do. But Shabbat is beckoning. As we celebrate the young state, why not meditate on the possibility of moving to a land which G-d has given to the Jewish People?

·         Dr Danny Shorkend is an artist, art critic and art teacher, and has a doctorate in art. He, his wife and two daughters make aliyah on Monday, May 7.

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