This is our home, these are our people. As such, it is our duty to maintain our home for our people and to protect it from political whims and it own shortcomings. It is not a choice, it is a duty. “For wherever though goest, I will go…thy people shall be my people.” (Ruth 1:16)
In February 2012, a new initiative by concerned Olim was created to uphold this very ideal. These Olim were not forced to move to Israel due to circumstantial issues, but based upon a deep love and ideology for the State of the Jews, our one and only homeland.
In short time, the initiative became a full blown campaign. The intentions of this initiative are not only to stand up for those of us who have had the luxury of the choice to make Aliya to Israel, but to defend all Olim in Israel (Our Home), and to stand up for world Jewry (Our People), as we work to make Israel a better and more accommodating state for its immigrants.
Ours is a country of Olim, most Israelis have at least one parent or grandparent (if not more) that have made Aliya from some corner of the world. Ours is a dynamic and varied culture, a melting pot, in the truest sense of the term. It is our Jewish and Democratic home, and as its citizens, it is not just a right, but an imperative that we keep our country as such and fight to make it better. Our home is facing many issues in need of repair. As Olim by choice, we have decided to begin closest to home, with our fellow Olim.
The goal of this initiative is to physically lobby the government from the grassroots level, as concerned private citizens who possess on the ground, real-time experience. We intend to serve as an advisory body and present policy recommendations and alternatives on Oleh related topics. Ideally, individuals and committees within the lobby will also become politically involved to oversee Aliya related governmental programming and implementation, and the lobby will become an additional go-to point for government bodies to gain valuable information regarding the Oleh constituency, and the Jewish World at large.
After months of clarifying our specific needs, this initiative has chosen to tackle two specific topics:
First to be addressed is the rabbinate. We intend to put an end to discrimination within the Rabbinate by legitimizing all universally accepted streams of Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist). This will be done through the enactment of uniform and universal criteria of rabbinate authentication of Judaism based upon a pluralistic Jewish platform and upon the safety net provided by the Law of Return (1950). We also advocate putting an end to the corrupt and inconsistent practices of the Rabbinate, through the creation of an objective external watchdog, in order to hold rabbinate appointed delegates accountable to the public.
The second topic we are addressing is the integration of Olim and residents into Israeli society. There is no doubt that there are some excellent resources (both governmental and non-governmental) already available to Olim, however we feel that certain essential are missing, in particular, tools to manage a smooth transition into Israeli society and bureaucracy.
A shortlist of these needs are: To upgrade and update the Ministry of Absorption to become more available and connected to the needs of Olim; the offering of introductory courses in civics and Israeli society and working through the bureaucratic mazes; updating and enhancing the Ulpan system to achieve higher rates of success in learning the Hebrew language, and right of residency and employment in Israel for individuals married/ engaged to, and immediate family of, Israeli citizens.
Due to the nature of the current political forecasts, the immediate and urgent issue that must be addressed is the question of a pluralistic Israeli Rabbinate. Today, there are over 800,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews living in Israel. A survey by the Geocartography Institute shows that by the year 2022 there will be over a million Ultra-Orthodox Jews living in Israel, twice their number in 1999. Following 2013 elections, it has been forecasted that the sheer demographics will become large enough to tip the scales towards maintaining the status quo and allowing for more stringent and discriminatory religious law to be enacted, even at the expense of the majority non-Orthodox population.
Along with this, the current government structure allows for the stranglehold of small parties over large parties and blocs (at the expense of political suicide for non-complacency by these large parties and blocs). For this reason, the window of opportunity to effect change in this area is now.
Following the next elections, the strength of the minor religious parties and the sheer demographics of the Orthodox minority, will tip the scales in such a manner that enacting a pluralistic rabbinate will become a near impossibility, and religious policies and law will begin to take on a wider and more suffocating stronghold over the general (mostly non-Orthodox) Israeli public.
The initiative has received the blessings and support of many individuals throughout politics, the media, advisors and strategists. However, to ensure success, we need an active base of individuals to help to forward these important issues. We are looking for individuals to volunteer to help research and formulate policy recommendations, to help us to manage social media outlets, and to help make this initiative viral.
The first step is to gain support through our petition and video campaign, which will go a long way in giving us the legitimacy to forward these issues in the eyes of the Israeli public and political arena.
There are so many levels of involvement in the lobby to push for Oleh rights, and most certainly, something for everyone. Whether by choosing to sign and share the petition or through active and rewarding involvement, you can help us both to forward Oleh rights and begin to heal that constantly widening gap that has been created between Israel and the Jewish World.
This is our future, as Olim, as Jews, and as a People. The time is now for us to step up and demand positive change in the world we came here to be a part of. It IS our prerogative.