It's time to resurrect aliyah

Europe is facing dark days, but what’s facing the Jews of Europe is darker still. A good friend of mine, a Frenchman who lives in Paris and works in a heavily Muslim neighborhood in the north of the city, has been writing to me. His tone is calm but concerned. He wants to know what I, someone who has made Aliyah, think he should do. Should he come to Israel? Could he make a life here?
My answer should be unequivocal: Yes, come, right away, don’t hesitate, don’t look back. We’re here for you. But could I realistically answer in this way? The answer, as someone who has made the journey of Aliyah might understand, is no.
Israel has allowed the dream of Aliyah to languish. This attitude toward the foundational principle of the Jewish State cuts across the board, from government policy to the attitudes of official agencies to sentiment on the street. Aliyah is not valued as a core activity of developing Israel today but at best is seen as a quaint afterthought to the Zionist project and at worst as a thorny political issue for state officials.
Making Aliyah to Israel is a life-changing decision. More than that, it’s a decision that will affect the lives of your children, and their children, and theirs to come. Regardless of political affiliation or religious observance, it represents a re-connecting of the lines of Jewish heritage that were brutally severed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
But beyond the bigness of the dream, Aliyah is a source of personal nourishment for the simple—and quite untold—reason that life in Israel is very good. Israelis are among the world’s happiest people and Israeli society is rich and dynamic. Young people are hungry to excel, eager to make their way in the world and have little time for woe-is-me navel gazing. Of course, Israel has many problems—huge problems. But despite them there is an overall sense of health, strength and clarity, especially compared to a Europe where the streets are again running red with Jewish blood.
My French friend who wrote to me for advice is a doctor, in addition to being a writer and a musician. He is a talented, experienced and driven individual. Reaching out to Israel’s medical authorities he asked if there is an equivalence to his French medical certification. There is not. Where does that leave my friend? There is no agency, ministry, NGO or other entity in Israel that will reach out to him to show him the way forward. There is no person whose job it is to help people like him succeed in Israel—and are held accountable for that mission.
The causes of this malaise in the field of Aliyah are many and range from the positive (a relative confidence in Israel regarding its standing and wellbeing) to the very negative (the corrosive effects of post-Zionist ideologies). But none of them truly matter in the face of the growing need to provide Jews around the world, not just those in harrowing situations, a path to building new lives in Israel.
It’s time for Israel to re-ignite Aliyah. We need to inspire Jews seeking to come, as well as those who are already here with the phenomenon of a 2,000-year-old dream made real by a people who had suffered the worst of history’s blows. We need to find the essence of Aliyah and show Israelis that they too are olim, and make olim feel that they are genuinely Israeli.
This is a big and difficult task, one which requires a paradigm shift in how we conceive, plan, fund, and measure Aliyah. But if the dream of establishing the State of Israel was achievable as a matter of will, then surely so is the necessity of resurrecting the idea responsible for breathing life into the soul of this country.
We have to act now, and act fast, so the next time my friend in France asks if I think it’s possible for him to make it in Israel the difficulty answering him will lie not in determining which is the right answer but in finding the words to express how badly Israel needs him, how much we can do for him, and how bright the future will be.