Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kibbutz Galuyyot, Live & On-Camera

"Ladies and gentlemen, you are now watching kibbutz galuyyot, live and on camera."

It was difficult to keep from smiling when I heard an official from Nefesh B'Nefesh, the aliyah assistance organization, announce the words in his smooth Australian accent. Less than a month after my own aliyah, I was back in the very hall where Natan Sharanksy and hundreds of others had welcomed me with such warmth. Except this time around I was here to welcome the new immigrants. Apparently word had gotten out that I would be at the airport as Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu had also shown up to greet the new voters. Surrounded by hundreds of my fellow Israelis, I clutched a flag in one hand while my eyes scanned the crowd of new arrivals for the half dozen or so who would be joining me on kibbutz in a few days.

Kibbutz galuyyot, ingathering of the exiles, is one of those magical phrases that strums all the heartstrings in the Jewish repertoire. The first string is plucked from the Bible, from the book of Devarim, where the Divine promise is established that Israel's scattered remnants will be "gathered together," and restored to prosperity in their ancestral homeland. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel add a prophetic urgency and later the sages propounded that the promise of Israel's return "is equal in significance to the day on which heaven and earth were created." For centuries the concept lies dormant in Jewish prayer until it is embraced by Israel's founding fathers and boldly stated in the opening words of Israel's Declaration of Independence. And today, following sixty years of aliyah from the ends of the year, kibbutz galuyyot is happening before my eyes, live and on camera.

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