Keep coming home

This is the easiest time in history to be a Jew who lives in the Land of Israel. Every Jew who makes aliyah contributes to the grand diversity that serves as the foundation of this state.

October 18, 2018 20:21
3 minute read.
Keep coming home

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh and Zev Gershinsky, Executive VP of Nefesh B'Nefesh, with new Olim at Ben Gurion Airport today. (photo credit: BEN KELMER)

Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, quoted a figure this week in honor of Aliyah Day, the annual national holiday that salutes all immigrants who chose to make their lives here: 6,253,000.

That’s the number of immigrants who have moved to Israel since the state was founded 70 years ago.
“Israel would not exist without immigrants,” said Yuli Edelstein, Knesset speaker and former prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Union, at the parliament event marking Immigration Day.

“Aliyah saved the State of Israel,” said Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, upon presenting a certificate at the Knesset ceremony to two young Tel Aviv residents who originated the idea to create Immigration Day: New York City-native Jay Shultz, founder of the grassroots community organization TLV Internationals, and London-native Jonathan Javor, who serves as an adviser on immigration to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

Kudos to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren (Kulanu), and MKs Mickey Zohar (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Zionist Union), who could have easily dismissed the overture from Shultz and Javor but instead, took the initiative to create this special day.

Think of that: two immigrants who created a national holiday. Now, of course, not everyone can create a holiday, but every single immigrant can change the future of Israel and the Jewish people.
Most of those six million immigrants of whom Neguise spoke were fleeing from adversity – be it from Yemen, Russia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, or a dozen other places.

But that is not the case any more. People are not coming here out of hardship, except under specific circumstances; they now come out of choice.

And for a reason: Things are good here.

Israelis are a happy people, ranked eleventh in the world in the 2018 Happiness Report, both in overall happiness and regarding the happiness of immigrants; Israel is seventh in the world in life expectancy; and Israelis are optimistic – the overall fertility rate is 3.11 children per woman, by far the highest birthrate in the West. And the number keeps rising.

It is said that Israel is home to immigrants from more than 100 countries. If that is an exaggeration, it is not by much. To those six million immigrants who have moved here since Israel was established, we salute you: Israel is what it is because of what that diverse population has contributed over the years. You changed the face of the country – you created the country, created the unique character called “an Israeli.”

This is the easiest time in history to be a Jew who lives in the Land of Israel. Every Jew who makes aliyah contributes to the grand diversity that serves as the foundation of this state. Olim bring energy, entrepreneurship and different ways of looking at things, all of which only helps shape a better Israel in the future.

The government should do more than create a national day honoring those 6,253,000 immigrants who have come so far. It’s not about just the numbers of olim – impressive and noteworthy though they are – as it is the number of those who have successfully integrated. The government must put greater effort into ensuring that all newcomers’ needs be met, through every ministry of the government.

The Knesset passed the law in 2016 instituting Aliyah Day, designated to take place on the seventh of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. This purposeful date coincides with the reading on Shabbat of the weekly Torah portion Lech Lecha (Gen.12:1–17:27), in which Abraham is told to leave his home and go to the Promised Land, the Land of Israel.

Aliyah is the realization of Biblical prophesies of kibbutz galuyot, the ingathering of exiles and the return of the Jewish people to its homeland.

This is indeed a great holiday for all Israeli citizens, new and old. It is also a holiday for those who have not yet moved to Israel and have the potential to do so one day. Israel is a country where Jewish destiny is playing out before our eyes. And that is cause for grand celebration.

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