Aliyah and painful concessions

North London, 2025. The economy struggled to recover after the pandemic. Left-wing anti-Semites were constantly at the BBC. On the streets, Far-Right thugs were targeting Muslims and Jews (in this order). The Israeli economy, on the contrary, was thriving and, as the clerk at the Jewish Agency had explained, local businesses were certainly in need of accountants.

Jonathan had decided to make aliyah. The clerk at the Jewish Agency gave him a folder with some forms to complete, which Jonathan took home to carefully look over.

Proof of a synagogue’s membership was required as evidence of Jewish status, and of being entitled to benefit from the Law of Return. Easy. Check.

A bit perplexing was the “Shared Jerusalem” form. Under a statement that sounded familiar “A solution regarding the sovereignty over the holy sites in East Jerusalem will need to be negotiated by both sides” there was the commitment not to visit the Old City in Jerusalem (“except on the evening of Tisha beAv”).

Jonathan never liked Jerusalem, so full of crazy religious people of all the possible faiths, so he could live without visiting the Kotel. Besides that, what was there to see? The Jerusalem Council was planning to rebuild the ancient neighbourhood there, with the public toilet adjacent to the Wall. “Painful concessions will need to be made on both sides” was the slogan.

“Painful concessions” were also mentioned by the clerk of the Jewish Agency who just called him. “Good news, your application for aliyah has been accepted”, Jonathan was told, “soon you will receive your temporary passport, but do not use it right now!”

“Why?”

“This passport is temporary; it proves that you are eligible for citizenship”

“I see. When will I become an Israeli citizen?”

“Haven’t you heard about our “PC, Painful Concessions policy?”

“To be honest no… except about that toilet at the Kotel…”

The clerk ignored the joke and started explaining  “As Jews who have a long history of displacement, we understand the pain of exile. An intractable element of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has been that both sides have a strong relationship to the land. We recognise that painful concessions will need to be made

“Fine” These words sounded familiar to Jonathan “But what has this got to do with my aliyah?”

“You see, we recognise the need for compensation to be granted to Palestinians, as an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made“.

“And…?” Jonathan was confused.

“Let me explain,” said the voice patiently on the telephone. “The current implementation of the PC policy is as follows; every year Israel accepts a limited number of Jewish immigrants and an equivalent number of descendants of Palestinian refugees. So, in order for you to receive a valid Israeli passport, we need to give citizenship to at least one family of Middle Eastern non-Jewish refugees”

“I see. I can become an Israeli citizen only if some Palestinian…”

“and his family!”

“…and his family, yes, wants to do the same”

“Precisely”

“I see. Any idea when this can happen?”

“Here’s another one for you to consider. Israel can only accept a certain number of immigrants (only half of them Jewish!), which is, per year…” [Jonathan knew about numbers, after all, he was an accountant. But that number looked terribly high and terribly small at the same time]. “at the moment the quota of Jewish immigrants is already filled, and so, it is I am afraid, for another three or four years”

“So, I cannot immigrate to Israel!”

“I did not say you cannot. I’m just saying it will be possible to talk about it in four years time, once we have granted to a randomly selected group of Palestinians the compensations as an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made in the creation of two states”

“Sorry, but at the moment there is only one State, Israel…”

“Precisely! There is not yet a Palestinian State, since the Palestinians have never stopped calling for the “return of the refugees.” So, we have to show that “History confirms that time and time again, warring societies have only achieved peace because of individuals and groups who were prepared to shift their own paradigms and in doing so, shift the paradigms of the other side. And we are doing our best to swift the paradigm. A similar process is happening on the other side. We do not see it of course…”

Jonathan was a practical person. Complicated words such as “paradigm” made him feel dumb. The only thing he understood was that he could not move out of the UK. He had considered immigrating to the USA but the economy looked very grim. Europe was not an option. No European Country was open to Jewish immigrants anymore, since the time of the Belgium presidency.  The only possible option was Israel. And now he has been told he had to wait at least four years.

Jonathan realised he was stuck in the UK while the clerk of the Jewish Agency was going on with his talk, about paradigms… “Relinquishing sovereignty over these areas will be painful for many people. However if we are to safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state” The clerk was probably reading from a script.

Jonathan was lost. He looked out of the window. On a wall facing his home, someone had started painting another copy of the famous mural by Meir One: Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the back of non-Jewish exploited workers.  Over the last few months, that mural has been painted at night-time, in several spots in North London, usually in front of buildings where Jewish families resided.

Things did not look good.

NOTE: This story is fiction. The quotes in italics are real, though, and courtesy of Yachad. See Jerusalem; Refugees; Palestinian Unity Government and Hamas; Settlements filed under Policy www.yachad.org.uk  [01/07/2020/]

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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