Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog issued his first public reaction to the current upheaval in Israel on Thursday, cautioning against eliminating the Law of Return’s Grandchild Clause, in an address he made to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP).
The clause, which the coalition suggested be removed, allows any person with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel, as long as they do not practice a religion other than Judaism..
Almog said that abolishing it “is unacceptable for us, out of genuine concern that it will create a rift among the Jewish people – in Israel and among world Jewry. It stigmatizes sectors of the Israeli population that contribute to the state and are an integral part of it. This change would also detach millions of Jews around the world from Israel,” he said.
“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the agency chairman said. “It is the home of every Jew from all denominations and circles. We will promote an open and inclusive dialogue regarding these sensitive matters, for our brothers and sisters who live in Israel by virtue of the Law of Return, as we have a moral obligation to them.”
The Jewish Agency, he added, “will continue opening Israel’s gates for any oleh [new immigrant] who meets the criteria established by the Law of Return, and for all members of the Jewish nation. This is our mission in ordinary times, and certainly in emergency situations.”
Almog on the Judicial reform
Almog has been surprisingly quiet in the past few weeks, as most leaders in Israel and in the Jewish world have spoken for or against the compromise that President Isaac Herzog offered to soften the judicial reform and heal the nation.
With tensions rising in Israel and worldwide as a result, Almog called on global Jewish communities to strengthen their involvement with Israel and not pull away from it, especially now. “In the face of the severe political disagreements in Israel, there are voices among Jews overseas who say that now is the time to disconnect from Zionist activities and from Israel. I wish to tell them that the exact opposite is true,” he said.
Addressing the 52 member organizations of the COP, he said, “This is the time to strengthen your involvement, to make your voice heard and support the State of Israel – each organization among the audience that shares its views, but also in the unity that is above the disagreements, in which our strength lies.”
Within a time of divisiveness, Almog emphasized his support for Herzog’s compromise plan – and that it is necessary for members of the Jewish community to act in sync and make every effort to avoid turning against one another.
“We need to remember and remind ourselves that the government of Israel was democratically elected, and that public protest is also one of the most important principles of democracy,” the Jewish Agency head said. “We need to make sure that the public discourse, heated as it may be, will remain within the boundaries of democratic debate and not spill over into hatred of our brethren.”