June 23, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
Israel recently declared a new national holiday, one that is uniquely appropriate given the makeup of the Jewish state. Aliyah (Immigration) Day will be a celebration of Israel and its people, who hail, quite literally, from “the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12).
The choice of date for the new holiday has a biblical basis. The seventh day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (November 8 this year) lies in close proximity to the time when the Torah readings in synagogues around the world include the passage from Genesis where God tells Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1) – that land, of course, being Israel.
That the modern state of Israel has seen the return of so many Jews from around the world to their biblical homeland is indeed, in the words of the bill passed by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) instituting the new holiday, “part of the Zionist national miracle.”
I am proud to say that, because The Fellowship and our supporters have done so much to make the return of Jews to Israel from around the world a reality, key Fellowship staff members were invited to the Knesset to discuss the law instituting this new holiday. We also lobbied members of the Knesset to support it. Given the critical role that immigrants have played in turning Israel into the vibrant, flourishing democracy that it is today, I felt it was essential that they be publicly recognized.
Perhaps more than any other country, Israel is a nation of immigrants. I myself am one of these immigrants, and was thrilled to make aliyah in 2002, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Jews have come to make this nation their home from Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, Arab Lands, and the United States. Here, they have found a land of promise: an oasis of democracy in a sea of despotic regimes, a place where they are free to practice their faith, a nation where respect for all manner of personal freedoms is written into law and upheld in practice, where they can live with self-determination.
These immigrants have, in the words of Isaiah 35, made this desert land bloom. Not only has Israel established a thriving democracy, it also leads the world in innovation, sends scores of first responders to foreign lands in times of crisis, has overcome a water crisis to the point of having enough to share with neighboring countries, and given the world 12 Nobel Prize winners. All from a country the size of New Jersey!
We at The Fellowship consider it a privilege not just to bring thousands of Jews home to their spiritual homeland each year on our Fellowship Freedom Flights, but also to ensure that these new olim (immigrants) find as much success in their new home as possible by offering transition grants, Hebrew classes, job training, housing assistance, and even extended stays at Fellowship-funded absorption centers for those from developing nations.
By giving those who come here as immigrants the tools they need to become full, productive citizens in their new home, we show how much we value them, and how much they contribute to that richness. And they, we have found, respond in turn by investing themselves in the nation. Improving the quality of life and feelings of equality among all citizens of Israel ensures the security of Israel as a whole, and its future as a strong and moral nation. The Fellowship and our supporters are deeply committed to this work. How encouraging that we now have a day set aside for everyone to celebrate this prophetic mission and the rich tapestry of people who comprise this holy nation.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President