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September 02, 1988 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-02

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Tourism As Aliyah: Pilgrimage As Commitment

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

I

n the lexicon of Jewish tradition,
aliyah is a term of great signifi-
cance.
Aliyah dates back more than 20
centuries, from the time when it was a
sacred task to rise up, to go up on the
bimah to participate in the reading of
the Torah.
Then, with the rebirth of the State
of Israel, it became a clarion call for
Chalutzim to settle in the Jewish state
and participate in its upbuilding and
protection. It was the call to Jews
everywhere to have a share in Israel's
redemption.
Without acclaiming it as such,
aliyah also assumes another purpose. It
became a continuation of the Shalosh
Regalim, the pilgrimages that were a
part of the life of the Jewish people in
biblical times. The pilgrims were from
all lands where there were Jews.
Aliyah thereby became a word for
tourism and while it was the appealing
term for settlement in Israel in the
years of redemption, it also symbolized
the devotion that called Jews from
everywhere to visit the ancient
homeland and to salute kinfolk with
the message that we are Am Echad, a
unified people.

With the rebirth of Israel, tourism,
aliyah and pilgrimages of Jews rose in-
to the hundreds of thousands. In recent
months, when internal foes began to
hurl rocks at young Jewish military
men, the aliyah has suddenly inter-
rupted to a shocking degree. Some Jews
kept coming, yet many abandoned the
traditionally sanctified commitment
and cancelled reservations for travel to
Israel.
Thus arose a problem that needs
correcting. For at least 2,000 years,
Jews were olei regel, pilgrims to
Jerusalem. We have read about it for
many centuries in the prayers on sacred
days — that on Passover, Sukkot and
Shavuot Jews go to the Holy City. Is it
possible that we could betray this
sacred tradition?
The interruption in tourism was
mainly a shock from American Jewry.
Is it possible that the violence, which
affected only the settlements in
Samaria and Judea, created fear, in-
spired panic in the hearts of the brave
American supporters of Israel?
The fact is that Israel is securely
protected. Israelis, our fellow Jews, need
the handshake of American Jews. Our
philanthropy has not declined and the
friendly greeting is more important.
There must be an end to the panic
that has interrupted the great aliyah
tradition.

Let us look into the historic record
that has sanctified aliyah as a
commitment.
The ancient pilgrimages had great
influence upon the life and history of
Jerusalem and Israel. An essay on
pilgrimage in the Encyclopedia Judaica
describes the extent of the practice:

"The pilgrimage had a considerable
influence upon the life of the capital in
a number of spheres: in the social
sphere, from the presence there of Jews
from every part of the Diaspora, and in
the economic, from the vast sums spent
by the thousands of pilgrims both for
their own needs and on charity. It also
had a national-political influence. The
aliyah from all parts of Eretz Israel and
the Diaspora strengthened the con-
sciousness of national and social
solidarity.
"This national consciousness reach-
ed a new peak with the presence of the
throngs of pilgrims in Jerusalem and
made them even more sensitive to the
humiliation entailed in their subjection
to a foreign yoke. As a result of this sen-
sitivity disorders and revolts were of fre-
quent occurrence in Jerusalem during
the festivals.
"The biblical injunction on the sub-
ject states: "Three times in the year
shall all thy males appear before the
Lord. These passages were apparently

not construed as mandatory, requiring
aliyah thrice yearly, but as meaning
that on these occasions it was a
meritorious act to make the pilgrimage
and in so doing offer up sacrifices, "and
none shall appear before me empty."
The tannaitic sources speak of the
obligation of aliyah l'regel but not of a
commandment to go up on every
festival. In any event it is clear that not
all the male population of Eretz Israel,
and certainly not of the Diaspora, made
the pilgrimage three times yearly.
Although both from the Talmud and
from Josephus one might infer that the
whole population of a city would par-
ticipate in the pilgrimage, it was not
general that the cities, even those near
to Jerusalem, would be entirely emp-
tied as a consequence of their Jewish
population going on pilgrimage. On the
other hand, there can be no doubt that
a considerable number went up,
especially from Judea. There is ample
evidence of aliyah l'regel from Galilee,
and it may be assumed that the number
who came from the Diaspora was not as
great as those from Eretz Israel."

Aliyah is a legacy. It is a tradition.
It is a duty. It needs renewing and in-
creasing. It must not be interrupted.
Hopefully aliyah will be given a new
and uninterrupted lease of life
immediately.

Ethnic Political Orientations And The Jewish Ego

C

ampaigning for votes is an all-
embracing process. It means
convincing voters. That often in-
volves knowing their spoken tongues.
Therefore ethnicity enters into
vote-getting.
The rapid growth of the Hispanic
community has made speaking Spanish
one of the most valued bargains for can-
didates. In some states, Hispanics could
easily hold the balance of power.
Therefore, this ethnic group is much
catered to.
There is no disputing the propriety
of classifying the Hispanic as an ethnic
group. But when politicians refer to
"the Jewish vote," there is hell to pay.
We are not an ethnic, but a religious,
community and must be treated as
such.
Nevertheless, the Jewish presence
is always accounted for. Jews account
for a greater population of active
citizens who cast their ballots than any
other group, and they just as often back
up their candidates with financial
support.
When Jews undertook in earlier
years to organize politically as Jews,
there was indignation.
In the early 1930s a group of Jewish
postal workers — many Jews were then
employed in the local post office —
organized the Cardozo Club, utilizing
for political purposes, the name of the
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin
Cardozo. Their action was greeted with
horror. There were many such "political
failures?'
When some politically minded peo-
ple insisted upon forming such clubs,

2

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1988



Louis Marshall

they were considered responsible.
In dignified Jewish ranks, there has
always been resentment to the claims
of a "Jewish vote."
The Jewish citizen, like all
Americans, votes on the issues out of a
desire to advance the highest principles
for people and country.
Condemnation of the corrupt in-
volvement of Jews in political trickery
has always been widespread in respon-
sible Jewish circles. Attempts were
made to inject Jewish involvement in
every Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign
for the presidency — often with an in-
tention of charging Jewish bias in

political preferences and judgments.
An example was the widespread
resort to the 'Jewish vote" charge in
the 1944 presidential campaign. The
Jewish Post then asked Stephen S.
Wise, the eminent Zionist and rabbi of
the Free Synagogue of New York, for an
opinion, and he replied:
I am glad that you prefixed
"Jewish vote" with the words
"the so-called:' As you know,
there is no Jewish vote. Jews are
divided in their political
allegiance as they are in almost
every other question of life and
faith. My own experience is that
the Jewish vote is "used" by two
groups: It is used by those who
purport or pretend to command
the Jewish vote in order to serve
their own base purposes in
securing the nomination to of-
fice we political power of one
kind or another. And then there
is another group. We had an ex-
hibition of them four years ago
when a handful of im-
measurably insolent pro Wilkie
Jews implied and more than im-
plied that there was a Jewish
vote for Roosevelt. Many Jews
voted for Roosevelt in '40 and '36
and in '32. But there was not
then, any more than there is this
year, a Jewish vote for Roosevelt
or for anyone else.
Still, there is an appeal to the Jew
on the basis of current international
developments. Thus, the highest in-
terests of American-Israel relations

play a role in foreign affairs. Both
political parties have included planks
in their platforms relating to Israel and
the Middle East.
Both planks deal positively with the
issues.
The Republican Plank: "The
foundation of our policy in the
Middle East has been and must
remain the promotion of a stable
and lasting peace, recognizing
our moral and strategic relation-
ship with Israel . . . We oppose
the creation of an independent
Palestinian state; it is establish-
ment is inimical to the security
interests of Israel, Jordan and
the U.S."
The Democratic Plank: This
country, maintaining the special
relationship with Israel founded
upon mutually shared values
and strategic interests, should
provide new leadership to
deliver the promise of peace and
security through negotiations
that has been held out to Israel
and its neighbors by the Camp
David accords . . ."
Unconciliatory on the question of
the "Jewish Vote" were the condemna-
tions by Louis Marshall, one of
American Jewry's most distinguished
leaders of the early years of this cen-
tury. He wrote a series of letters on the
subject and they appear in full texts in
the two-volume "Louis Marshall:
Champion of Liberty," which were

Continued on Page 30

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