In two previous posts, I addressed responses to reasons to not make Aliyah and how to handle Aliyah when it comes to dating. In this post, I address a very common issue that comes up in marriage regarding Aliyah. One spouse wants to make Aliyah and the other does not. If you are experiencing this struggle, then this post is for you! If someone you know is also going through this, please share this post with them.
It is critical first to determine why your spouse does not want to make Aliyah. As noted in my first post in this series, there are some cases where it may not be feasible. One common case is when there are aging parents and you (or your spouse) are the one who needs to be there for them.
Barring any similar issues, an open dialogue is needed. Fighting, yelling, screaming are never good options for a discussion/disagreement and especially in a life-changing-event discussion. There need be thought out ideas for this discussion with each spouse voicing their own concerns and ideas. Choose a location where you can legitimately speak without being interrupted. TURN OFF YOUR PHONES! Do not give yourselves a time limit for the discussion, but allow for as much time as possible. (Up to this point, these ideas apply to MANY areas in which a couple wishes to discuss important issues. These points do not relate just to an Aliyah discussion.)
If you are the one who wants to make Aliyah and your spouse does not, it is important to listen to your spouse’s concerns. Do not sit there with answers in your head, waiting to pounce with all of your reasons. Remember, that if you rearrange the letters of the word L-I-S-T-E-N, you get S-I-L-E-N-T…to truly listen, you need to remain silent, both in your mind and in your speech!
Once you have listened to your spouse’s comments, it is your turn. At this point, simply look into her/his eyes and say: “I will miss you after I make Aliyah!”
It is necessary to acknowledge the fears/hesitations/issues that are holding your spouse back. Aliyah truly requires the commitment of BOTH spouses for it to work. After listening to your spouse, rank, on a piece of paper, the severity/importance of each reason. Do not attempt a global answer but rather a pinpointed series of answers that address each item. Areas such as security, finances, culture, family, comfort-level, social status, etc., are all common items on such a list.
After that, it is important that you present your reasons why you want to live in Israel. Be prepared. Think. Ask your spouse to listen with an open mind. List on paper what are your reasons to make Aliyah. Include in your reasons the trials and tribulations that you expect to face and want to face TOGETHER. Love of Israel and love of your spouse are critical in this discussion. As much as it is important for you to hear your spouse, it is just as important for him/her to hear you. I cannot tell you why YOU want to make Aliyah. I can only tell you that it is crucial to sit and think about your reasons, before you sit with your spouse.
At the end of the Haftara this past week, we read the following from the Navi, Yirmiyahu:
זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ, אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ–לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה
(” I remember for thee the affection of your youth, the love of thine espousals; how you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown”)
Without a doubt, making Aliyah requires a leap of faith. It requires a leap of faith on TWO levels. The obvious one is Hashem Himself. You need to put your faith in Hashem (as is the case in every single decision and action) that He will help you along your path. In the Torah, we are told over eighty times that Hashem wants us in His land. He Himself says that He will help you.
The other leap of faith, which may not be so obvious is that your spouse, who does not want to make Aliyah as much as you do, also has to be able to have faith in you to guide you and your family on this journey. You need to be prepared mentally and physically for this challenge.
Yes, as we know, ארץ ישראל נקנית ביסורין, that the Land of Israel is acquired through difficulties. But, in truth, nearly everything in our lives that truly matters is also filled with anxiety and difficulties as we take that first step.
One thing that I highly recommend is taking a trip to Israel as an integral part of this process and discussion. Sitting in Starbucks in your neighborhood is no substitute to travelling the Land; meeting the people; asking questions face-to-face with people in the professions you are in; and the list is endless! Countless people are able to pinpoint in their mind the moment they realized that they fell in love with the one who would one day become their spouse. The same thing happens with visits to Israel. Visit…travel…talk…discuss…and fall in love! There is no substitute to infusing yourself and your spouse with the love of Israel than to actually BE in the Land. Many of the issues that are raised by your spouse can/should be addressed on your trip. Speak to Olim! Speak to new Olim and “Vatikim” (“long-time” Olim—I don’t like to use the word “old.”) Speak to your friends who have made Aliyah. Speak to people in your profession. Speak to residents of various communities. Most people are eager to share with you what their thoughts are about Israel.
In short, do your due diligence and homework as a part of this discussion! You and your spouse may be on different pages…but you are in the same book. It is time to bridge that gap, get on the same page and do your best to bring the dream to fruition. But, never let your dream become your family’s nightmare. Be aware; be careful and be mindful of all of the ideas/thoughts/opinions in the family. In the end, G-d willing, your family will come HOME and join the rest of your family here. You will be helping to change the future direction of your family for generations to come.
If after some discussion, it is clear that it is not happening NOW, understand that Israel isn’t going anywhere. She will be here forever, G-d willing, when the two of you are indeed ready. Don’t give up. The reasons (even the very legitimate reasons) to not go now may dissipate and disappear over time.
I wish you and you entire family the peace and sense of purpose in making this life-changing decision. It is not an easy decision. But your mutual love and that of wanting to keep the Word of Hashem should be your guide and your Rock.