The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization are holding their meetings in
Jerusalem during this week. Alas, the issue of aliya, which warrants priority on
their agenda, beyond a few words of lip service, will almost certainly be
shunted to the sidelines.
Despite the dramatic erosion in the status of
Diaspora Jewish communities, with the exception of North America and Australia,
short of cataclysmic developments, a mass influx of Jews to Israel in the
immediate future is highly unlikely. Aside from other considerations, the
perception of ongoing terrorism confronting Israeli citizens, not to mention the
long-term existential threat posed by a potentially nuclear Iran, deters many
who might otherwise be tempted to come.
Yet despite this, a climate
prevails today which may encourage a limited but high-quality Western aliya
based on choice.
Europe is likely to be the greatest source for aliya
because anti-Israeli hysteria, the surrogate employed by anti-Semites to vilify
the Jewish people, has now reached feverish levels.
During the Middle
Ages, the “Satanic Jews” were blamed for plagues, poisoned wells and all natural
In the 20th century Jews were blamed for foisting both
capitalism and communism on mankind.
For a short period immediately
following the Holocaust, when the horrors of unbridled anti-Semitism were
exposed, anti-Semites were considered to be an extinct species. But today the
world’s oldest hatred has reemerged as the greatest global political growth
industry and Israel, the state of the Jews, has been transformed into the
embodiment of all evil. It is depicted as the greatest threat to global
stability and peace. European opinion polls even assert that the Jewish state
poses a greater menace to mankind than the rogue states of Iran, Syria and North
A review of the media is sufficient to gauge the extent to which
Europeans at the grassroots level loathe Israel and Jews. Media talkbacks
representing primitive vox populi make frightening reading. But even liberal
editorials and features by purportedly respectable commentators relate to Jews
and Israel in a manner that would have been inconceivable only a decade
In fact even Holocaust inversion has become the order of the day and
is sickeningly exploited against Israelis who are being accused of behaving like
Nazis. This even applies in Germany as exemplified by the “popular” response to
Günter Grass’s obscene anti-Semitic diatribe.
Robert Wistrich, a world
expert on anti-Semitism, is of the view that European anti-Semitism is today, in
some respects, worse than the 1930s, when at least a number of left-wing and
liberal groups defended Jews.
Not surprisingly, as was the case
throughout much of Jewish history – and not least of all before the Holocaust –
many Jews living in a hostile environment simply bury their heads and live in a
state of denial. They understate their Jewish identity and are inclined to avoid
expressing public support for Israel. Some distance themselves or even criticize
Israel in order to achieve social respectability.
The impact is felt
especially on young people during their formative years at schools and
universities where they increasingly face physical violence as well as verbal
hostility. There are even cases of Jewish children attending non-Jewish schools
no longer absenting themselves on Jewish holidays in order to avoid drawing
attention to their Jewish affiliation.
Many Europeans Jews are conscious
of the impact of being domiciled in countries surrounded by people who despise
them and in which they and, especially, their children are obliged to suppress
pride in their Jewishness.
Some have concluded that there is no long-term
future for Jewish life in Europe and even if it is too late or problematic for
them to leave, encourage their children to settle in Israel in order to live as
self-respecting Jews in pride and dignity unassociated with complexes and
In North America and Australia where anti-Semitism is less
overt, there are other factors encouraging aliya. Jewish continuity has become a
serious issue for the Diaspora community as rates of intermarriage and
assimilation have grown exponentially over the past few decades, with no family
immune. It is even beginning to encroach on the most ethnocentric sector– the
Orthodox Jewish community.
Providing a basic Jewish education is no
guarantee but is at least a prerequisite for continuity. Yet in most Diaspora
communities, a Jewish education is increasingly becoming the exclusive domain of
the wealthy because it has become prohibitively expensive. This applies
especially in North America and Australia where parents providing their children
with an integrated Jewish schooling are then obliged to cover the total costs of
the broader secular education.
Only in Israel are Jewish children
automatically provided with a state-sponsored Jewish education – religious or
secular – as an extension of their overall education. For some Jewish families
committed to providing their children with a Jewish education, this itself
represents a major incentive for aliya.
In addition, whereas in the past
making aliya from Western countries was usually associated with economic
sacrifice and a lowering of living standards, immigrating to Israel today in
many cases actually provides economic benefits. Indeed, unless the prevailing
resilient Israeli economy reverses itself, there are greater opportunities,
especially for young people, for economic self-advancement than in many Western
countries which are in the grip of painful recessions.
It is a
combination of all of these factors which could generate increasing numbers of
Jews from affluent Western societies, even those not suffused with
anti-Semitism, to settle in Israel. As to security, while the den of scorpions
surrounding Israel certainly places the Jewish state on constant alert,
terrorism and the nuclear threat are global issues as testified by the violent
attacks happening throughout the entire world.
The discordant note is
that today, when prospects for high quality Western aliya out of choice have
never been so good, the state’s aliya instrumentalities seem to have hibernated.
It is utterly shameful that the Jewish Agency has effectively sidelined aliya
from being a primary objective, concentrating instead on a nebulous aim of
“reinforcing Jewish identity” – meaningless rhetoric which assuages the American
Jewish establishment that Israel is not seeking to lure away its youngsters. The
Jewish Agency has in fact formally abrogated its primary aliya role to Nefesh
B’Nefesh, which provides an excellent service but is limited to assisting olim
Our government should encourage aliya as a major
This year, while the numbers of Jews in most Diaspora
communities continue shrinking due to assimilation and intermarriage, the Jewish
population of Israel is projected to exceed 6 million. Increased Western aliya
would be a boon for the Jewish state which would benefit from an infusion of
highly motivated, primarily professional and cultured Jews. It will also
strengthen ties with the Diaspora because every Jew who settles here maintains
connection with families who invariably become more closely engaged with the
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