יום שלישי, ינואר 02, 2007

 

Aliya Jewish immigration to Israel, but what kind?

Extensive excerpts here from Anshel Pfeffer in The Jerusalem Post:

Israel doesn't have a constitution, but the Law of Return, one of its most fundamental documents, defines the nation's raison d'etre - to be a haven for the entire Jewish people.

This is Israel's DNA. But almost six decades after the country's rebirth, the definitions of statehood, emigration, nationality, citizenship, borders and travel have been revolutionized, while the state's and the Jewish Agency's definition of aliya is still stuck in the early '50s.

Take some fundamental questions: Is aliya automatically the best solution to an outbreak of anti-Semitism anywhere in the world, or should Jews maybe stick around and fight? Should Israel encourage the younger generation in successful communities to emigrate when it might deprive that particular outpost of the Diaspora of its best and brightest?

And should we be flexible with our definitions of Jewishness just to boost the aliya numbers? Does that mean accepting as citizens every tribe and indigenous people who have memories of their great-grandmothers lighting candles?

Moreover, what will we do when the reservoir of potential olim runs out, begin converting foreign workers so we can keep the aliya machine running?

The article notes that aliya Jewish immigration to Israel overall is down, yet from English-speaking countries, it is up. (More in another JPost article.) This creates a bit of a contradiction:

Sometimes it seems as if Israeli politicians want to have it both ways: to enjoy the support of strong and influential Jewish communities in places like the US and Britain, and to tell the children of these communities that the only place they belong in is Israel.
And the contradiction deepens:

The two biggest initiatives established over the last decade to link the Diaspora and Israel have been birthright israel/Taglit and Nefesh B'Nefesh. Both were dreamt up by private sector activists and donors, with the Jewish Agency and the government tagging along.

Did anyone sit down and think about the implications of these ventures? There is even a certain contradiction between the two, with birthright/Taglit designed to return Jewish teenagers to their communities with an imbued sense of their Jewish heritage, while Nefesh B'Nefesh is helping them leave those very communities.

Various news reports over the past year indicated that probably a plurality of the world's Jews now live in Israel, and it could become a majority relatively soon. Various other news reports have suggested that acts of antisemitism are on the upswing in many parts of the world, especially Australia and the U.K. These trends imply that the issues raised by Pfeffer will become ever more important for the Israeli government and Diaspora World Jewish leadership alike.


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