Welcome Home! The Law Of Return And Israel’s Rich Cultural Environment

By Tom Brennan

In the 1980’s the world thrilled to the sight of Ethiopian Jews, in their colorful clothing and looking around in wonder, as they de-planed in Israel. Ethiopia had been dragged into a world of Marxism. The Emperor, Haile Selassie, considered a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, had been imprisoned. Jews were no longer welcome in a land in which they had lived for generations.

Ethiopian Jews celebrate their first Passover in Israel – Photo by Ouria Tadmor

America has been called “the melting pot” where newcomers meet and seek new lives. A unique culture has resulted with us here by this mixing. New languages “Spanglish”, “Port ingles” and others which meld English into new tongues never heard before come to life. Colors and clothing styles mix and are adopted by others from other cultures. Foods combine and new tastes develop from them that take on a life of their own. Still, too many nations today seem to have mixed themselves into such a state of affairs that the people find themselves seeking their identity. Too many have become so individualistic that they feel rootless. Israel is about a people returning to their roots and to the Land promised to them in solid form and in spirit. Christian travelers, pilgrims and tourists can feel that emotion as they arrive in a place that echoes and shines with a sense of Return. Where other nations have become a multitude of mixed ideas, tastes and tongues, often in conflict, Israel is more like a festival.
Where else in the world can a nation as small as Israel contain a world in itself? The Law of Return has opened the doors and invited the Exiles to come home. And return is exactly what they are doing. When it was a mere two years in existence as a State, the Knesset of Israel passed a law that gave citizenship to every Jew, no matter from where they came, in the Homeland of Israel. After the last stone had been overturned in 135 CE by the vengeful Roman Army Jerusalem and even Judea were blotted out in the eyes of the so-called civilized world. The arenas and slave markets of Rome were supplied with those who survived Judea’s last revolt and the escapees from the last Roman campaign in what is now Israel dispersed into the world. Their descendants saw continual Inquisitions, persecutions, pogroms and a Holocaust. In 1948 their descendants re-established a State and named it Israel.

Today Israel welcomes those who want to go home and live among their extended family, worship and speak the Holy Language. They want to wear the tallit and tzeit-tzeit and not fear retribution. Here in Israel they can. But these world travelers and refugees bring back from where they were the cultures which left with them. The Hasidic live together in Easter n European fashion and fashion. Signs in two languages greet visitors to Hasidic enclaves. These signs advise women to dress modestly as they consider entering these places. Americans and Europeans can learn a lesson here about how to respect the opinions of others here. Not everyone considers “casual” to be appropriate for dress in public. Tourists should pack clothing that will comply with what “modest” means to a Hasidic.

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