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Aliya & Putting Yourself in Danger


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tammuz 29, 5781
Is moving from America to Israel considered going into a Makom Sakana? In America, there are a lot less DEADLY attacks on Jews, and generally Jewish areas are safe there. The Rambam famously left Israel when he was in danger. Is it proper to make Aliyah from safer places today?
The safest and surest way to live is to follow the mitzvot, of which one of the most important ones is living in the Land of Israel (our sages that it is “Equated with the rest of the mitzvot combined”, Sifre, Dvarim 12). Aside from that, if you would have asked 300 or 1,500 years ago, when there was no economy, scarce water, and no protection, I would have answered that such danger might sometimes exempt. But your question was already asked and dismissed 130 years ago in 5651/1891, when the Yeshu'ot Malko (Y.D. 66) answered that it's no longer dangerous to live in the Land of Israel. How much more so today it's extremely livable, and 7 million Jews, and constant aliya and conversions can attest to that. To the contrary, if someone today uses that outdated excuse, he can justifiably be accused of repeating the sin of the Meraglim spies, who's exaggerated fear of danger convinced them to miss out on living in the Land of Israel (which was also their sin, and also their punishment!). To be more precise, the halachic question isn't where it's safer (for accordingly, all Jews must live in Japan!), but whether the danger in Israel, where all Jews should live, is unbearable, and theoretically if so, accordingly, all (!) 7,000,000 Jews would have to leave! The Kuzari (5, 2) cites that if people visit a place (like Israel) on a business trip to make money, how much more so, could they and should they come to Israel for the mitzva. R. Sh.Y. Abitbul (Resp. Avney Shayish ii, 94) added already 200 years ago that if our sages teach: "those doing a mitzva will not be harmed" (Psachim 8a), how much more so regarding the great mitzva of living in Israel! We have never heard that Jews must clear out of St. Louis which has 64.54 murders per 100,000 residents! Percentage wise, that would be like 4,500 Jews being killed a year in Israel (in fact, where there were just 3 victims of terror this past year)! Even if theoretically there were to be a terrible famine, and it would be allowed to leave, it's still not proper to do so, and our sages teach that Machlon and Chilyon were punished by death for leaving the Land of Israel, even in such times (Rambam, Melachim 5, 9). Yes, there are periods where it is sometimes more dangerous here, and true, in 130 years of Zionism, we have gone through 7 wars and not a few terrorist attacks, but looking historically, those 26,000 casualties (the vast majority, soldiers, not civilians), with all the pain involved, cannot be compared quantitatively nor qualitatively, to even one week in Auschwitz. Even in the time of Joshua and David we had enemies attacking us every now and then, but that’s the price the Tanach tells to pay to live as the Jewish Nation in the Jewish Land. It seems from here and your past questions, that you are looking hard for an excuse not to make aliya, so it's important to get to the root of the issue: yes, it takes guts to make any major move. But remember, in every Jewish family which will be around in the days of Mashiach, there will have been one member who had the vision, the idealism and the “guts” to make aliya and move the family tree to its final eternal destination. Be that member and your legacy will live on forever! [That's how the Rivash (resp. 101) explains why living in Israel is on a higher level than other mitzvot, it's for all of Israel and for all future generations]. Lehitra’ot baAretz! Rav Ari Shvat
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