A beautiful song titled “The Aliyah Song” was born in Queens and has been viewed by over 10,000 people on YouTube and 100,000 on Facebook. Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, Founder and Director of Shabbat.com, composed the lyrics and the upbeat melody.
This writer interviewed Mrs. Yaffi Dyckman, a Kew Gardens Hills resident, to learn how the spark was ignited for this incredible song. Several months ago, Mrs. Dyckman saw an article about an organization and website started by Josh Wander called bringthemhome.org.il. At that time, the website featured brief video clips of prominent rabbanim in both the United States and Israel discussing the importance of aliyah. Mrs. Dyckman reached out to Mr. Wander through the website to find out if she could be of further assistance with his work, since she feels very strongly about living in Israel and wanted to help further the process of the return. A few weeks later, after scheduling a trip to Israel for her niece’s wedding, she arranged to meet with Mr. Wander to learn more about his work and how she could help.
“I met with him in the beginning of March in the Old City, not far from where he lives. I then made a few suggestions, which he followed up on. Then coronavirus hit, as well as protests and a rise in anti-Semitism in America and worldwide. I sensed a greater urgency for aliyah in myself and in others, and a need for chizuk. I called Josh and suggested we have a song created to inspire a movement towards mass aliyah.”
Mr. Wander knows Rabbi Klatzko and he told him about the idea. He suggested she speak with Rabbi Klatzko to work out the details.
Mrs. Dyckman shared, “I then spoke with Rabbi Klatzko, and the rest is history, literally. With this song, we are furthering the prophecy of the Jews returning home after our long exile. I had a son named Benzion, just like our songwriter’s name. My son Benzion passed away 17 years ago, and I have always wanted to create something in his memory. I associate my son with Eretz Yisrael because of his name and because he rests upon a mountaintop overlooking the entrance into Yerushalayim, an unlikely burial place for a baby who passed away on a Thursday afternoon in New York City. With persistence, I managed to get him to Eretz Yisrael shortly before Shabbos. The song/video seemed suited to be in his memory. The song/video is also in memory of Rabbi Klatzko’s brother Gavriel.”
Rabbi Klatzko shared that his whole family is involved in music. It is clear that they live by the idea expressed in T’hilim 147: “Hallelukah! For it is good to make music to our G-d, for praise is pleasant and befitting.” His children play different instruments and he puts out a music video weekly. Rabbi Klatzko shared his deep connection to Eretz Yisrael. Many of his children made aliyah, he travels there often, and he and his wife plan to make aliyah.
He explained his music-writing process for this song. The tune came to him and some of the words: “Once I have the melody then I put it in a voice recorder. Then I develop it over time.” For this song, Rabbi Klatzko had an arranger, Yisroel Ament.
His favorite line is “Living lives as strangers in a strange land is not for you.” When writing this song, he realized many songs about aliyah say how wonderful Israel is, but they don’t tell people to make aliyah. This song says very bluntly, “Pack your bags, board your flight, aliyah is right.” No more excuses.
“When the pandemic hit and anti-Semitism reared its ugly head, it was like the writing was on the wall. We’ve become complacent, thinking that our end of the story is going to be America. How many times did we think this in various places in history?”
The video part of the song is special, because many of the students shown in the video are Rabbi Klatzko’s students from Olami, an organization that he works for. Olami is a worldwide Jewish outreach organization that services college-age and young professional Jewish students looking to re-engage with their heritage. Olami’s website states: “Life is not about the search for happiness, but the search for meaning. Judaism can help us to be the greatest version of ourselves. Have a browse through our programs and join one today, to unlock your potential. Your greatness.”
Rabbi Klatzko decided to dedicate “The Aliyah Song” in memory of his brother Gavriel. “My brother loved Israel. Many years ago, he said we have to buy houses in Israel. He bought one of the first houses in Kiryat Sefer.”
Mr. Josh Wander is the Director and Founder of BringThemHome, a website dedicated to educating Jews on the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael. His site started as a video series a year ago with speeches from prominent rabbanim and rebbetzins speaking about the importance of Eretz Yisrael. Then the coronavirus started and he needed a new way to convey the message, since there was no more face-to-face communication. It evolved into a project, IsraelTorah.org, and it includes 30 bloggers, a daily podcast, a live aliyah show on the radio, videos, and live webinars. They continue to expand, and he is working on an Israeli Television show. “We are trying whatever we can to reach people.”
Mrs. Dyckman approached him with the idea to create an aliyah song that would be upbeat and like an anthem. He liked the idea but he didn’t want another song like others that speak about coming to Israel in a passive way. “We wanted something proactive with a strong message. The time is now to move. This is the first song like this. Baruch Hashem, its message is spreading with 1,000 views and many platforms. The goal of the song and lyrics is to inspire, and it’s also meant to move people onto the BringThemHome website to help them take the next step.”
He pointed out there are many aliyah organizations that are active and successful. They deal exclusively with the how – the logistics of aliyah. “Our mission is different. Our goal is to teach the why, because if we don’t teach the why, we won’t get to the how.” He pointed out that today people use scare tactics to convince people to move to Israel. They mention the coronavirus, financial instability, anti-Semitism, riots, etc. “If they’re running away and that is the only reason they are coming to Israel, then they won’t stay here.” He explained that it is important to instill in people an understanding of why you should be here. “We hope the song is an impetus to learn more.”
He shared how for him, personally, living in Israel is so special. A day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t marvel at how wonderful it is to be living there. He wants to share with everyone that “there is no better time to come. Hashem gave us eagle’s wings: El Al airplanes. We have to take the steps to make it happen.”
Every time I think of you. Every day I long for you. Anticipation grows for you to come.
Two thousand years is way too long. For me to hear your holy song. And your roots – returning back – to where they started from.
The world is crashing down all around. Your dream is here, you’re homeward bound. It’s the call of our historic destiny.
A place that welcomes young and old. Fulfilling words so long foretold. Yisrael belongs to us eternally.
Ancient roads call out your name. My holy places do the same. It’s clear the time is now to come back to your land.
My olive trees and beaches white, reminding you, our future’s bright. In Israel, united we’ll stand.
Jewish Nation, come back home. You are no longer on your own. Living lives as strangers in a strange land’s not for you.
Pack your bags and board your flight. For aliyah the moment’s right. The time has come; your heart knows it’s true.
Rabbi Klatzko shares: “We are living in extremely scary and unprecedented times: coronavirus, financial instability, anti-Semitism, and civil unrest. The signs are clearly written on the wall for all to see that it is time for the Jewish people to return home. As was the case with every exile in history, it’s time will come to a close and this one is no different. We hope and pray that our people make the move while they can do so freely and comfortably and that their transition to their new and everlasting home will be rooted in the fundamentals of what it means to live in our homeland and fulfill our national destiny. May this song help bring some inspiration to all those who hear it, to help them take the next step to aliyah.”
Visit https://bringthemhome.org.il/ to learn more. This project is dedicated to the memory of Gavriel Klatzko and Benzion Yechiel Michel Dyckman.
By Susie Garber