By: Yoni Mayer  | 

Confessions of a Naïve Zionist

Aliyah will be difficult. There is no way around that. 

Israeli culture is foreign to our American upbringing, and there are differences that become apparent in a move to any foreign nation. The language, mode of speech, manner of interacting, political system, currency, lifestyle and social dynamics are all different. The bureaucracy is not easy to deal with, and many people will be without their family to guide them through the process.  

Aliyah will certainly be difficult. But I don’t want to live anywhere else. 

I think of myself as a naïve Zionist. For those who belong to this group, we cast aside all negative aspersions associated with the Aliyah process to bring our dream to fruition. The impracticalities of the endeavor might be true, and yet, to a certain extent, we don’t acknowledge our doubts. We have to choose to look beyond our negative feelings about the process of making Aliyah and ultimately take the leap of faith. 

We practice what I would like to call “mitigated realism.” Of course we have to know the risks and be prepared for the challenges we will be undertaking. But these pragmatic concerns cannot interfere with our necessity to act. We must actualize our idealism. 

There is what I believe to be the idealistic perspective every Naïve Zionist has about moving to the Land of Israel in relation to living in American Jewish communities. Surely, there are the Teanecks, New Rochelles, South Floridas and Los Angeleses of the world. However, for the Zionist it doesn’t matter what commodities or communities these places have. Ultimately, they are simply not Israel, and that is enough. I understand I might not be proposing a nuanced stance and am instead preaching a slightly dogmatic outlook. However, there are certain ideas we must wrangle before they escape our purview. Naïvete is a philosophy weathered by age and naïve Zionists must actualize the unknown, however dogmatic it may be. 

Numerous forces exist for the Zionist that collectively overrule every doubt or hesitation. The religious approach: It’s the place where every Jew is supposed to be, and I want to be another link in the chain of Jewish history. The personal: My family always took us during the summers, and I fell in love with Israel, a love that only increased when I spent a year in Yeshiva taking in the sights and smells of the Old City. The practical: I want to raise my family in Israel so that the next generation of Jews doesn’t struggle with the question of making aliyah or not. And perhaps most importantly, the ineffable: I feel at home more than anywhere else I ever have when I’m in Israel. I feel like the fullest version of myself and know that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be. When these feelings burn inside your soul, there’s nothing anyone could say which would sway your desire to move to Israel.

We know all the negatives to be true. We know that as parents in Israel we’ll be estranged from the ways kids are raised. We won’t understand what it’s like to ride the bus as a seven-year-old or sleep on the beach at night with friends. For many of us, we won’t know what a late Friday night Bnei Akiva mifgash is like, or what it’s like to draft in the army. We know that the process of aliyah does not work out for everyone and is sometimes harder than starting a life somewhere else in America. 

There are overarching religious concerns as well. Our children may not have the same religious zeal that comes from being a Jew in a non-Jewish country—the feeling of Judaism binding your family together more than anything. Furthermore, the army has often proved to be a less-than-ideal religious environment as well and negatively influences even the most religious personalities. I’m not advocating for a disregard for these concerns; they are legitimate and should be handled delicately. 

But in the proper time.

This is the key to the Aliyah process. We must regard everything in its proper time. The present is our perspective. We know we need to be there. We need to suspend our belief about all the difficulties and move because we can’t see ourselves anywhere else. 

I’m a naïve Zionist. I also think that’s the only way you can be. You have to rule out logic and risks and act with a certain amount of naïvete. If you know where you must be, you have to take the leap.