(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
On Friday, The Jerusalem Post published a story that incorrectly claimed that I stated in a closed meeting that "there is no future for Jewish life in the Diaspora." I neither said nor believe that. What I said was that there is no future for Jewish life in the Diaspora without the State of Israel.
Israel not only guarantees the life of the Jews living in the Jewish state, it also gives focus, purpose and identity to Jewish people everywhere. That is why I believe that without a state of Israel, Diaspora Jewry will be dealt a fatal blow.
The importance of Israel to the collective destiny of the Jewish people should be obvious to anyone with a sense of history. The fact is that had there been a Jewish state before World War II, there would have been no Holocaust. It is equally true that had there not been a Jewish state after the Holocaust, there would be many fewer Jews in the world today.
Simply look at the numbers. In 1948, there were 12 million Jews in the world, with only 600,000 (5% of world Jewry) in our embryonic state.
With even a slow population growth rate over the last 60 years, world Jewry should have at least doubled. Unfortunately it hasn't. Growth has remained flat because we have lost countless Jews in the Diaspora to assimilation and intermarriage.
Though there are roughly the same number of Jews in the world today as there were 60 years ago, now almost six million Jews (well over 40% of world Jewry) live in Israel. In fact, this year, the Jewish community in Israel became the largest Jewish community in the world for the first time in nearly two millennia.
Still, the centrality of Israel is not merely due to the fact that the physical center of collective Jewish life has shifted here. Israel also continues to play an important role in the life of Diaspora Jewry.
Many Diaspora Jews work tirelessly to strengthen their own communities' connection to Israel, recognizing that in doing so they not only are supporting the only Jewish state we have but also strengthening their own Jewish communities.
I applaud efforts to deepen the ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry and I was proud to be the first Israeli prime minister to invest in programs such as birthright that help achieve this important objective.
I did so because just as I believe that a strong Israel makes for a strong Diaspora, I also believe that a strong Diaspora makes for a strong Israel.
For the last half-century, the two pillars of Jewish life have been a strong Israel and a strong Diaspora. I hope to continue to fortify these pillars so that we can secure what will always be our common future.
The writer is the leader of the Opposition.
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