The Dream and the Tears
by Guy Cohen and wife Tali, Harvest of Asher Congregation leader, Tents of Mercy Network

"When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion we were like those who dream ... those who sow in tears shall reap in joy." (Psalm 126:1,5)

An iconic Israeli song, "Oy, Dear God" illustrates the tension of the rapturous, romantic dream of returning to the land of the fathers, juxtaposed with the very coarse, down-to-earth reality of interaction with "fellow sinner" Israelis already living here. Poor treatment and discrimination toward new immigrants is common in all countries, but here it comes from fellow Jews - and in the very land of promise where we would hope to live in godly harmony.

It is very exciting to return from the exile to Israel - the fulfillment of our ancestors' dream. At the end of every Passover they proclaimed, "Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem!" However, every wave of returnees has met with difficulties, including learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. My grandparents on my father's side came from Morocco, and on my mother's side, from Yemen. Making aliyah from Morocco was especially challenging. The Jewish community there was very well established economically and culturally. Yet when they came to Israel, they were looked down upon by the Jews already living in the land, causing tension and disappointment.

The iconic song, "Oy Dear God", debuted in the most famous Israeli movie of all times, Sallah Shabbati, about a returnee from Morocco. The trials of his absorption into Israel were much the same as today, 50 years later.

Words by Haim Hefer; Main translator: G. Jakubovits

What am I doing here - I have no idea.
What is this here anyway, I ask.
From all sides I hear ...
"This is the Land of Israel, Sallah"
Here was where King David lived,
Here you'll live too, may it be God's will,
In the land of Zion, as God promised.

Oy dear God, dear God, Oy Vey, Oy Vey
Where, oh where, oh where is the Land of Israel?

How could we have left our home there
and put everything into a suitcase? ...
We came just like the Exodus from Egypt:
the kids, the luggage, my wife ...

How we saw the footsteps of the Messiah,
How we heard the call of the Shofar ...
How we said, "God is watching over us.
We won't want for anything here ..."

And now there's no one to help us.
There's no Messiah, just Sallah Shabbati,
Who uses his back for loads, like a donkey.
Oy dear God ...

Returning by boat
While the people of Israel were still in the desert, the LORD made a covenant with them, including promises conditional on them keeping His instructions. Leviticus 26 lays out the promises and the conditions rather starkly, including the punishment of being exiled from the land of Israel for disobedience.

"Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies ... I will remember the covenant of their ancestors." (Leviticus 26:44-45)

Then, "I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land ..." (Ezekiel 36:24)

The land of Israel was promised to the people of Israel. However, the land vomits out those who will not walk in His ways (Leviticus 18).

Aliyah camp in 1952
The first exile of Israel lasted seven decades in Babylon. The returning immigrants included Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah and Haggai. Later, in 70 A.D., Rome destroyed the Temple in which Yeshua had taught, and exiled the Jews again.

The second exile of Israel lasted two millennia, with the Jewish people scattered among the nations, persecuted and accused. But God preserved them by His Torah, and indeed the return to Zion began in 1881, and continues to this day.

Sallah's Song describes the heart being drawn to Israel, the immigrant's trials and the desire to integrate into society. Yet hidden in the lyrics, more important than everything else, is the reference to the approaching footsteps of the Messiah. I do not belittle the many difficulties that both new and old immigrants deal with. They are often devastatingly real. However, in the midst of testing, we remind ourselves that Yeshua is the reason we have been drawn back to the land. And here we will stand, in spite of the challenges, until He returns to redeem our people.

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