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The Brownsteins in the Land of Israel

Chapter 20:

Our First Anniversary in Israel: You are Wholeheartedly Invited!


The Full Chronicle

July 15, 2004






Click Here for the real ending.


I rely on the input of several people when I create a Chronicle.  To a person, they each believed that what I initially wrote below to finish this chronicle would not have been well received by my friends in America -- most of my readers.  I'm sure they are correct.  But it is virtually incomprehensible for me to believe that people who make Aliyah from America could have any opinion other than what I state below.  Equally incomprehensible, especially for those who know me well, is the notion that you do not know how I feel about the need for Aliyah.  And just as clearly, you are not reading my chronicles because of my style or because of the cute pictures; there seems to be an interest in my thoughts.  Thus, below are my clear views on Jews in the Diaspora.  It is also important to note that much of my comments are directed at the Orthodox community who engage daily in traditional Jewish prayer.  Those of you who may be offended by my remarks, please accept my apology.  Those of you who have often complained to me that you never really know what I am feeling and thinking, here is.  (It's not too late to hit the "back" button!):


I don't want to sound like an insufferable ex-smoker on his first day out of rehab talking about fresh breath, the great taste to food, and all my extra energy.  And I don't want to seem like an obnoxious Baalei Teshuvah extolling the virtues of Shabbat.  But, I have come to believe that the majority of my readers have been following our journey wistfully, knowing deep in their hearts that they, too, belong here.  I have viewed my role as one of "chizuk" or giving strength to those who truly yearn to live in the Land of Israel.  So, in a nutshell, obviously I believe, on the whole, that all Jews belong in Israel and that such an event would help bring about "Geula" (redemption) and make the State of Israel a hundred times stronger than it is today.  Whether or not you agree that politically Israel can live without American money and Jewish pressure on American politics, it is hard to argue that Israel would not be far stronger with hundreds of billions of dollars more in American Jewish assets at home in Israel and the billions of dollars in added tax revenue.


So, what I'm saying is, without wanting to belittle my first 40 years -- in America: I believe that it's time for American Jewry to forgo their lives of Costco, Starbucks, and Nordstrom's (all of which is available here in one form or another, believe it or not).  


There, I said it.


I believe that American Jewry needs to commit to trading in vain daily prayers for the return to Zion for the real thing, Zion.  To be very specific, we pray three times a day the Amidah (or Shemoneh Esrei),  Within the central prayers we repeat the following pleas in Hebrew to the Almighty:


1) Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, O Lord, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.


2) Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city, and dwell in it as You have promised. Rebuild it soon in our day as an eternal structure, and quickly set up in it the throne of David. Blessed are You, O Lord, who rebuilds Jerusalem.


3) Be pleased, O Lord our God, with Your people Israel and with their prayers. Restore the service to the inner sanctuary of Your Temple, and receive in love and with favor both the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayers. May the worship of Your people Israel always be acceptable to You. And let our eyes behold Your return in mercy to Zion.  Blessed are You, O Lord, who restores his divine presence to Zion.


Think about it.  Imagine if you lived in an American protectorate, Guam or Puerto Rico, and everyday you pled of the President of the United States to be included as one of the United States.  And imagine if every single day he said the same thing to you: "we are here for you as soon as you decide to be here with us.  It is completely in your hands."  Like Dorothy's ruby slippers.


What does it mean to ask the Almighty everyday to sound the great shofar of our freedom to gather us from the four corners of the earth?  In the starkest terms, you are the exiles.  Starker yet, it is an empty prayer if you do not intend to fulfill it, unless of course you are praying for the other exiles, which is entirely possible and laudable.


Even so, what is it mean to plead with the Almighty to rebuild Jerusalem soon?  This is not just about the building of the Third Temple; this is about creating the type of atmosphere and infrastructure that promotes a Torah observant world that is intended to bring Moshiach (the Messiah).  On the concrete basis, it is no secret that Bill Clinton convinced a former Israeli Prime Minister to offer parts of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount itself to non-Jews.  Included in that ill-fated bequeathment was a plot of land just south of the wall of the Old City called Ir David, or the City of David.  King David's palace is thought to be directly underneath this land.  I have been told that 60% of all the events in the Bible took place there.  Unbelievable archaeological and biblical treasures and sites have been uncovered at Ir David.  Yet none of this would have been possible with Arafat running the show, nor should non-Jews rightfully have been the caretakers of this almost holy plot of land, especially after seeing the sorry, desolate, despoiled state of the Kotel when we finally liberated it in 1967.  Instead, miraculously, a group of people saw the horror of what had been offered and took it upon themselves to quietly buyout the Arabs living over the Ir  David.  Why?  Because our numbers there now make it impossible to give away Ir David in Oslo 9, or whatever.  So, with a track record, just think about the power of a million or two more Jews living in the area surrounding Jerusalem.  The United States government, through George Bush, stated that all future negotiations must take into consideration the demographics on the ground.  Be part of the demographics.  Be part of history.


What could be more explicit then to request of the Almighty to let our eyes behold Your return in mercy to Zion?  


"I'd like to order cheesecake." "You ordered a cheesecake.  It's in front of you."

"I'd like to order cheesecake." "You already ordered a cheesecake.  It's in front of you.  Look."

"I'd like to order cheesecake." "Listen.  You already ordered a cheesecake.  It's all right in front of you.  Open your eyes!"

"I'd like to order cheesecake." "The restaurant is closed.  Please leave."


Now it's time to ask you to take a moment and ask yourself a very painful question: What are you building in America?  What does it mean to pray three times for the speedy rebuilding of Jerusalem when you are spending your life, your energy, your resources rebuilding West LA and Long Island?  Again, I suppose it's the other people who need to speedily rebuild Jerusalem.  Pico needs you.


Is it even practical for you to move to Israel?  The reality is that moving to Israel now is far easier now than ever.  Many of my friends have enough equity in their homes to live here for years.  And as long as we are speaking frankly, just how many of the approximately 5 million historic immigrants to Israel ever landed with so much as a pair of sticks to rub together, let alone six figures in the bank, college degrees, and retirement plans?  The other side of the coin, of course, is that a family of three sending kids to private day school and paying for their own health-insurance, by moving to Israel, immediately reduces these annual expenditures from over $60,000 -- after-tax -- to next to nothing.


So why are you not here?  Is it the big house?  Hey, you can get 4,000 feet of American-style luxury within the Green Line for $500,000.  Is it your profession?  You would be surprised by what you can do here.  Is it security?  I don't want to frighten you, but I listen to the American news too.  I hear about Homeland Security threat levels, and pending attacks with dirty bombs and chemical weapons and suitcases filled with just enough bad stuff floating into LA Harbor to take out a good chunk of the Southland.  Forget about the street violence, and the traffic violence, and the television violence; you have real threats to deal with in America now.  Believe it or not, Israel is safer.


Perhaps it is your belief as a Zionist that your future generations should and will actually live here.  Maybe you believe that it will be easier for them to come than for you.  If so, think again.  Harsh probabilities suggest they will have less of a chance of making Aliyah than you; children do what their parents do, on the whole.  Your kids will "commit" themselves in the same way you have.  And the same statistics also suggest that those Jews living in America may not even have Jewish progeny within three generations.  Perhaps it's time to think about setting the ultimate example for your kids.


Maybe you think your kids are too old to adjust to Israel.  Kids adjust.  It's true that the older they get, the harder it is.  And, to be very candid, we made the conscious decision to come when our oldest was seven so her adjustment would be almost seamless.  But, as parents, we make hard decisions concerning professions and housing as part of the normal course of life.  Yet no decision you will ever make will create a greater positive impact on your, your children's lives, and your people.  Tell your kids not to worry.  There are summers to return to visit friends and cheap Israeli airlines.  There is the Internet for daily contact with IM and e-mail.  And it costs less to call America from Israel than to call from Century City to Anaheim.  Your kids will adjust and grow stronger and wiser, and have a deeper, more visceral love the Jewish people, and respect you more for making the right decision.


Perhaps you are afraid of sending your 16-year-old boy into the army in two years.  I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm afraid for my five-year-old baby, too.  But the number of military deaths in Israel in non-combat (i.e. all-out war) is minuscule, from statistical standpoint, as is all-out war.  It is also extremely easy for Orthodox children to find alternative service.  But even if your son or daughter serves, they will grow in ways that they never could in America and will make you far prouder than a degree from UCLA, which they can get afterwards anyway.


Looking at the reality of North American Aliyah, out of about 6 million North American Jews, last year the Brownstein family constituted one quarter of 1% of all North American Aliyah.  That is, in a word, pathetic.  People are currently jumping up and down about the 1,500 North American Jews arriving this month with Nefesh B'Nefesh.  But who, realistically, can view this as an achievement?  Only those who correctly frame it within the dismal context of how difficult it is to entice people of means into Aliyah.  How depressing is that?


Preparing for Tisha B'Av we read in the Haftorah: “I raised and nurtured children and they betrayed Me. An ox knows its keeper, a donkey the hand that feeds it, but Israel does not know - My people do not perceive.”  I'm sorry, but how much clearer can it be?


So, if I may, from now on I urge you, each time you pray for us here in the Promised Land, and each time you pray for the fulfillment of all of our dreams, including a vibrant Jewish People, also think about the concept of the rubber hitting the road.  Think about the futility of pushing 4,000 pounds uphill on cement, as opposed to a simple cross-vector shove.  No, here in the State of Israel we are no longer draining malarial swamps and splitting stones with chisels.  We have DSL, malls, "American" toilet paper, coffee houses...and we have each other.  The only thing we are missing is you.



Anyway, thanks for reading between the lines this far.


I appreciate and look forward to your comments and greetings.


As you know, we are in the middle of a membership drive, so please get me the e-mail addresses of people whom you want to add.  (Let them know ahead of time, so I don't get in trouble with the spam police).


Please stay tuned for Chapter 20: “The Dentist.”


All the best,


Rich Brownstein

PO Box 8130

91081 Jerusalem


Phone: (310) 597-4230 (Free From America)

Phone: 011-972-2-6733-491




No tires were harmed in this story.

All characters and events are purely fictional.

If you want to add someone to this list, or remove yourself, just e-mail and let him know.  He's cool about it.  Honest.  I know him.

Please freely distribute to those with too much time on their hands.




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