Anglo Israelis should play a formal role in Israel-Diaspora relations

Anglo Israelis can become a source of advice and direction because we care deeply about the Diaspora on the one hand and have committed ourselves fully to Israel on the other.

American Jews marching in New York with Israeli flags. How can we bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora? (photo credit: REUTERS)
American Jews marching in New York with Israeli flags. How can we bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The now famous slogan “No taxation without representation”, formulated during the American Revolution, was an early attempt to try and find a balance between the obligations and rights of citizens.
If there should be no taxation without representation, similarly, there should be no representation without taxation. Put simply, those who pay taxes and contribute to a society should have representation and a say in the affairs of that nation.
This is a principle that has underscored the relationship of citizens to a state ever since.
Obviously, the Jewish state is a state like no other, and Israel’s relationship to the Jewish people in unique and unprecedented, as it should be.
Nevertheless, there need to remain boundaries and clear lines between those who have chosen to live in the state and those who have not.
New proposed Knesset legislation that would give Diaspora Jewish leaders a formal role in Israeli affairs is being heralded by some as the turning of a new page in Israel-Diaspora relations. The bill, which has been endorsed by Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry, would require the Israeli government to consult world Jewish leaders on issues it deems crucial to the eight million or so Jews who live outside of Israel.
However, while this is an important and genuine attempt to engage our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, it can be perceived as unfair and undemocratic and also undermine some of the essential pillars of Zionism, like encouraging aliyah and practical Zionism.
Diaspora Jews are our brothers and sisters, and we should continue to strengthen our relationship with them at all levels. We should be open and constantly listening to them, as they should be to us.
Consultation with Diaspora Jewry, at every level, should be serious and constant, but should not be formal, official, or set in law.
It privileges those who have not taken the step of making aliyah and committing their lives to Israel over those who have. We, Anglos, and other olim took the ultimate Zionist step, and we moved the center of our lives, our families, assets, experience and resources to the Jewish state and are part of its daily fabric.
A few months ago, the Anglo Vision conducted the first-ever in-depth poll to understand the attitudes, opinions and issues of importance to the English-speaking community in Israel, which totals some 300,000 to 400,000, including second-generation Anglos.
Since the proposed bill was made public, we have heard from many members and supporters of the Anglo Vision from across the political spectrum that they oppose this law.
They object to it, they say, because they pay taxes, serve in the army and contribute to all aspects of Israeli society, and believe that it is unfair to give those who do not fulfill these roles a formal voice in the affairs of this nation.
We were all formerly Diaspora Jews and we moved here to play an active and constant role in the welfare and improvement of this country. This law sends a message that you don’t need to have “skin in the game” to have a say. It can disincentivize aliyah by declaring that you can play a role in Israel and its policies without having to move.
A bill like this says that practical and active Zionism leaves you on the fringes of the global Jewish future, rather than at the heart of it.
We strongly believe in a third way, that gives the strongest voice to those of us originally from the Diaspora who now work in, contribute to and serve Israel every single day. We care deeply about those Jews who still live outside the Jewish state, as they are literally our family, friends and former communities. We speak and visit with them regularly. We understand their hopes, dreams and frustrations with Israel and the Jewish world.
As we recently explained to Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich and other senior Israeli government ministers and members of Knesset with whom we regularly meet, we are ready to assist in any and every way.
We can become a great resource to act as a bridge between our communities. We can become a source of advice and direction because we care deeply about the Diaspora on the one hand and have committed ourselves fully to Israel on the other.
Anglos and other olim can and should be that bridge.
The 300,000 to 400,000 English-speaking Jews and other hundreds of thousands of olim are the natural consultative body for issues concerning our brethren in the Western Diaspora, and any future bills on this issue should reflect this.
The writer is founder of the Anglo Vision and founder and Dean of The Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, an organization dedicated to building Israeli society one community at a time by successfully bringing Diaspora models of community building to Israel. Contact us at TheAngloVision@gmail.com