a·li·ya, n., also aliyah. pl. aliyas or aliyot.
The immigration of Jews into Israel.
Why would American Jews---not just materially successful in this country but perhaps for the first time in the two-thousand-year Jewish Diaspora truly socially accepted and at home---choose to leave the material comforts, safety, and peace of the United States for the uncertainty and violence of Israel?
Still, aliya is a phenomenon that affects all American Jews. Understanding this phenomenon means understanding what is arguably the fundamental question of American Jewry; it is that question that Liel Leibovitz sets out to answer in Aliya.
Leibovitz focuses on the stories of three generations of immigrants. Marlin and Betty Levin, searching for excitement and ideology, traveled to Palestine before Israel was even created. There, with Marlin working as a reporter and Betty volunteering with the Jewish underground movement, the two witnessed the bloody birth of the Jewish state. Two decades later, Mike Ginsberg, overcome with awe at the heroic Jews who fought for their country in the l967 war, immigrated as well and was involved in much of Israel’s tumultuous history, including the Yom Kippur War. He was a member of Kibbutz Misgav Am during the famous terrorist attack on the infants’ nursery there, and he helped repel numerous waves of terrorists attacks on his kibbutz. Finally, Danny and Sharon Kalker and their children left their home in Queens, New York, to move to a West Bank settlement in 2001, during one of the most unsettled phases in Israel’s existence.
With a keen writer’s eye and unfeigned passion for his subject, Leibovitz explores the fears, hopes, and dreams of the American-Jewish immigrants to Israel and the journey they undertook, a journey that lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Jew.