Aliya, the immigration of Jews into Israel, 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 helped repel numerous waves of terrorist 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.
Leibovitz explores the journeys of these American-Jewish immigrants to Israel, a journey that lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Jew.
"Stirring . . . moving . . . Leibovitz is a fine writer and able to leap easily into the consciousness of another . . . his presence and passion are felt throughout the book."—The Jerusalem Post
"The vital bond between American Jews and Israel comes from more than religious obligation or checkbook philanthropy. It is a deeply human story, lived out by those Americans who left the Golden Land to build and sustain and defend the Jewish state. With his portrait of three generations of olim, Liel Leibovitz has made this history affecting, informative, and indelible. To read this book is to read about a love affair—not perfect, easy love, but love tested by gritty reality, which is to say the only love that counts or that lasts."—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry
"As a 10-year-old Israeli, Leibovitz thought his American cousins had it all: freedom, prosperity and McDonald's. So he was shocked to learn that his cousins were abandoning their New Jersey 'oasis' for the blood-soaked land of Israel. The question of why anyone would make such a move haunted his journey to adulthood, and now he attempts to explain this phenomenon, known in Hebrew as aliya, of diaspora Jews leaving comfortable homes to immigrate to Israel. He concludes that the answer 'simply isn't available to the cognitive faculties. It must be felt.' Journalist Leibovitz follows the tear-stained stories of several immigrants. Marlin and Betty Levin came as a young couple in 1947, before the state of Israel was even established; Brooklyn-raised Mike Ginsberg arrived in 1969 and participated in the Yom Kippur War; the Kalkers, a family of four, made aliya in 2001, during the turbulent second intifada. With a flair for storytelling, Leibovitz richly illustrates these lives, deftly detailing their emotional journey from carefree Americans to proud Israelis. For readers and for Leibovitz himself, whose life path took him, conversely, from Israel to America, the book is a powerful reminder of the unique yearning that has defined and united Jews through a 2000-year exile."—Publishers Weekly