OK, I’ll admit it; I just don’t get it. Can someone out there please explain it to me? I’m sitting with my wife at one of Ra’anana’s 18 kosher restaurants and we are discussing the movement to ban kosher shechita (slaughter) that is gaining momentum all over Europe. Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have already banned the production of kosher meat in their countries, and Slovenia, Estonia and the Netherlands are bullish on starting their own boycotts. While the excuse used by these governments is excessive cruelty to animals, we all know that the real motivation behind their actions is bad, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

As the wife takes a bite out of her rare and juicy steak (I don’t eat red meat), I ask her, “Why would Jews actually want to live in a place that clearly doesn’t want them?” Last week we attended a double brit (circumcision ceremony) for two boys born in a set of triplets. Israel, it should be noted, is currently experiencing a baby boom (these are the kinds of “booms” we actually like!). While the number of Jewish children being born worldwide is shrinking far beyond zero population growth, our birthrate in Israel, thank God, is skyrocketing – now up to three children per family and rising. A large part of the reason, beyond the fact that “kids love Israel and Israel loves kids,” is the amazing work – of almost biblical proportions – that we are doing to facilitate multiple births.

Israel is now the world capital of in-vitro fertilization. Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv alone performs 7,000 procedures each year and is one of the busiest fertilization clinics in the world. Unlike countries where couples can go broke trying to conceive with the assistance of costly medical technology, Israel provides free, unlimited IVF procedures for up to two “take-home” babies until a woman is 45. This policy has made Israelis the highest per-capita users of the procedure in the world.

In between bites of lox and bagels at the brit, we reflected on the attempt to ban ritual circumcision in Germany (ironically, one of the few places in the world outside of Israel where the Jewish population has actually grown in the last decade). “Imagine that,” said the wife with a bit of kugel-in-cheek. “Jews being singled out for discrimination and unable to freely practice their religion. In Germany, of all places.

Shocking!” And we telepathically share the same thought, “Why, in God’s name, would a Jew want to live in Germany?” And then there is South Africa. Arguably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, it has played host to a Jewish community that is among the finest in the history of the Diaspora, a place where you could hunt the Big Five and observe the Bigger 613 all at once. But that was then and this is now; the South Africa of the past is not the South Africa of the present. (Jay Shapiro, a friend of mine sent by the Jewish Agency to survey the state of South African Jewry, ingeniously labeled his report: “Past Perfect, Present Tense.”) South Africa today has turned into one of, if not the most viciously anti-Israel nations on the planet. It has a 100-percent negative voting record in the United Nations on Israel and it leads the world in promoting boycotts of Jewish products and services. Its “favorite son” is Rev. Desmond Tutu, who has dedicated his life to demonizing and denigrating the Jewish state. And yet, while cities like Ra’anana, Modi’in and Beit Shemesh do, thankfully, contain large numbers of wonderful South African immigrants, Jewish emigration to Israel from Johannesburg and Cape Town has slowed down to a mere trickle.

Why? What is it, other than sentimental memories of the past, that binds these Jews – especially the younger generation – to countries that despise them, or at least despise their homeland? Why would they not rush home to a country that welcomes them with open arms, offers numerous incentives to live here, boasts a world-class economy and and extremely high standard of living, and, not least of all, is the embodiment of Jewish destiny? In France, in Belgium, in the UK, the stench of anti- Jewish sentiment – thinly disguised as anti-Israelism – permeates the press and all too often spills over into the streets. In Malmo, Sweden, hundreds protest local Jew-hatred by “daring” to actually wear a kippa in public. (Imagine that!) The mosques continue to proliferate, Islam grows exponentially and the ghosts of the Holocaust lurk eerily in the shadows.

WHICH BRINGS us to the United States and Canada: magnificent nations that span from sea to shining sea and have afforded our people an unprecedented freedom to be who we want to be and live in affluence and anonymity.

But who can predict what the future holds? Who knows with certainty just how long American benevolence will hold? What scenario, what combination of economic, geopolitical or sociological factors might combine to turn paradise into purgatory? And even if the good times do continue to roll, how dare we reject our own God-given land for a place in the Exile, no matter how sunny it may be? This past week, a Jewish cultural center, including a Holocaust museum, was dedicated in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. This seven-tower, 20-story center and museum complex includes an Institute for Jewish Culture as well as a memorial to 40 of the major synagogues that existed in Dnepropetrovsk before the savage reign of the Nazis. It cost an estimated $60 million to build – that is six-oh, folks. Jewish dignitaries from all over the world attended the opening, including Israel’s chief rabbi, who proudly affixed a mezuza to the door, and my dear friend, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, who waxed poetic about this great achievement.

“Great achievement?” With all due respect, I have a slightly different word for the event: Obscene. Sixty million dollars – much of it Jewish money – meant to prop up and promote Jewish life in Ukraine? Ukraine – arguably among the very worst populations, along with the Latvians, the Lithuanians and the Dutch – which gleefully, zealously assisted the Germans in their obsessive attempt to murder every Jew on Earth.

And we want to glorify and expand Jewish life there? Had I been the minister invited to speak at the event, I would have emphasized three words only: “Location, location, location.” Israel is the place where we build Jewish life. Israel is where the arrow of history is pointing. Israel is the future.

If Holocaust and pogrom and radical Islam is the question, then Israel is the answer. The only answer.

There are two eras in Jewish history. The first era, which lasted approximately 2,000 years, began with Abraham, Isaac and then Jacob, who led his family into exile, where we survived the ravages of Egyptian slavery, among other indignities, until finally making our way back to the Holy Land, where we built two Temples and were forged into a nation. We lost our independence when Jerusalem was destroyed, but we have spent the last 2,000 years – the second era – clawing our way out of the black hole and reestablishing ourselves as a whole people once more, complete with our own native land.

Our accomplishments are many and mighty, but the challenge still remains. It is a call to faith to every Jew who believes in God, or in his rightful place in history.

It is the affirmation of our right to be, the justification of our very existence since the day we first crossed the Euphrates River. It is a cause both holy and happy, rigorous but supremely rewarding. But it is not to be met in Malmo or Marseille, in Cape Town or Cologne, in Dallas or Dnepropetrovsk.

It has only one address, read from right to left. All the other locales are just stops along the way; lovely places to visit, but we should not want to live there.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana and a Ra’anana city councilman; www.rabbistewartweiss.com; jocmtv@netvision.net.il

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