Israel needs to find ways to allow Diaspora Jews to visit - Herzog

“This is the first time in the history of the country that it is closed to Diaspora Jews,” Herzog said.

 President Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Isaac Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Israel needs to find ways to allow Jews from around the world to enter the country even during times of coronavirus lockdowns and closures, President Isaac Herzog declared on Wednesday.

Herzog spoke at an economic conference organized by Calcalist. In response to a question about divisive political language that is often heard in the Knesset, the president said Israelis need to understand that what happens in Israeli society radiates outward, to Diaspora Jews.

“Diaspora Jewry is also going through a difficult time now with the coronavirus,” said Herzog, who before becoming president served as chairman of the Jewish Agency.

He said he receives a large number of requests from schools and Jewish communities around the world that are struggling with the inability to visit Israel.

“This is the first time in the history of the country that it is closed to Diaspora Jews,” Herzog said. “We have not closed for aliyah [immigration], and aliyah has grown in the last two years, but it is closed to people who have family here. I think that we need to take this into consideration in the current debate about opening Israel’s skies.”

  Travelers seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on December 22, 2021. (credit: FLASH90) Travelers seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on December 22, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)

Herzog spoke a day after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that while he feels the pain of Diaspora Jews, he does not plan on opening Israel’s borders to them.

“The topic of Diaspora Jews is very important to me,” Bennett said at a briefing. “It is very close to my heart, and we will do everything to bring things back on track as quickly as possible.”

Several Diaspora Jewish leaders expressed disappointment at Israel’s closed borders in recent weeks.

South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said closing the borders was a “moral disgrace,” and that Israel was essentially saying, “You are not part of us; we are not part of you.”

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations CEO William Daroff said that, in his view, the State of Israel is supposed to have a contract with the Diaspora, and “that contract has been suspended.”