Sitting next to Josh Markovitz, a recent UCLA law school graduate from Hancock Park, on the Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight on August 18, he told me about the moment his dream of making aliyah became more urgent.
“What sticks out is the day Barack Obama got elected, especially when I was in UCLA, which was an Obama shrine,” he said from the El Al coach seat, just after breakfast, about an hour away from touching down on Israeli soil. “Everyone knew about his alliances with people who generally felt ill will towards Jews and the Jewish state, and the people didn’t really care. I think at that moment, I suppose, I understand that it isn’t their fault, but my values and things I care about are not necessarily the same things shared by the majority of Americans.”
The most well known of these “alliances” is Obama’s Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose anti-American and Israel statements are well-publicized. Markovitz was the only law student who wore a McCain/Palin kippah during elections.
I wondered how many people on this flight to Israel felt the same as Markovitz. Suspicions of Obama’s anti-Israel bias are strong among Orthodox Jews, who, judging from appearances, made up the majority on this particular charter flight. Since Obama was elected, aliyah across the board in North America and Israel has risen about 20 percent, although a variety of factors, such as the economy and normalization of aliyah, have served as an aliyah trigger, as discussed in my article on this year’s aliyah from LA.
Markovitz is the only one I interviewed in my series of aliyah articles who mentioned America’s political landscape. On the plane, one Nefesh B’Nefesh rep told me he heard some people say, during the presidential elections, that if Obama were elected, that’s it, they’re heading out. When Obama was elected, they didn’t exactly follow through.
But Markovitz, 25 and single, knew he wanted to make aliyah for a long time.
“We have all these prayers that are part of the liturgy and we say them all the time, but they’re meant to be fulfilled, not just recited,” said the Yeshiva Gedola High school alum. Now, he said, Jews have a chance to realize 2,000 years of prayers of returning to Zion.
After high school, he spent three years in Israel studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he earned his BA in Talmudic Literature, qualifying him for entrance into UCLA law school. At UCLA, he served as the Articles Editor for the Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law.
“I wanted to understand the other side and not just from other people’s reports but from their own un-self-conscious omission,” he said. Suspicious of the political intentions of the Muslim establishment, he opted to take a class on Islamic law for some reconnaissance.
His studies convinced him that most Muslims “don’t try to convince you of the rectitude of their beliefs or the superiority of their faith. It’s actually the opposite. They try to flatter you so if and when their movement gains control of the country, you won’t pose an objection to their exerting political influence because you see them and they’re nice.”
Waiting for his bar exam results, he’s not sure if he’ll practice law in Israel. He’ll be staying with relatives in Jerusalem as he determines the next steps in the fulfillment of his prayers. He’s considering volunteering in the IDF in a position that would allow him to apply his education in law and Islam.