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Israel’s Multi-Faceted Aliyah Problem

You’d think that if you invested blood, sweat and tears into finding the right location for a new restaurant, making it a place where people would like to come and having enough food to feed everyone, that the last thing that would happen is that you’d be caught without chairs to seat your customers.

In some ways, that’s exactly what has happened to the nation of Israel whose raison d’etre was to provide the only Jewish homeland in the world which would facilitate the children and grandchildren of Jews at any time during history when the need would arise for them to feel safe.

Yet, despite the perilous times in which we live, a period accompanied by so much unrest, violence and propensity to blame Jews for whatever goes wrong, Israel has found itself ill-equipped to adequately process and receive those who assumed they’d be able to enter the Promised Land when need be.

Almost as a footnote, a very small article appeared in the Jerusalem Post entitled, “Aliyah Unit Unable to Cope with Large Influx of Refugees.” (3/30/22) Explaining that the process is too slow to efficiently deal with the unexpectedly large numbers totaling 12,651 applications as of last Saturday, the lack of sufficient manpower is blamed on the inability to take in this massive wave which is due to the war in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t go into much detail and never addresses why, when threatening conditions by Russia have already existed for several years, most notably the 2014 takeover of Crimea from Ukraine, did no one have the foresight to see Putin’s geographic aspirations and where this was all leading?  Why did no one think it might be an opportune time to make detailed plans for a mass exodus which could possibly be necessitated as a maniacal and unprincipled despot felt more and more emboldened to annex land he wanted – especially land with a large Jewish presence?

There is a Biblical passage found in I Chronicles 12:33 which speaks of the tribe of Issachar containing “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” Israel seems to be sorely lacking in that department these days.

Yes, there is apparently a great shortage of manpower in order to absorb large numbers of Jews who feel threatened and, consequently, turning to Israel for a safe haven, but it is far from the central problem of Israel’s aliyah problem as the article would have us believe.

Everything begins with understanding the times and, as a result, knowing what we need to do.  Being caught off guard is never a good thing, but it is especially grievous when it involves the welfare and survival of fellow Jews who we covenanted to collectively receive and who counted on us to be there when they needed our help.

Sadly, we haven’t even been there for the relatively small trickling of prospective immigrants who, over the past 5-10 years have often been turned away unless they were Orthodox with a long pedigree of observance and deep involvement into their Jewish communities.  For anyone who defined themselves as more culturally Jewish, less or non-observant, their applications were generally met with suspicion, doubt and, in some cases, outright disapproval.

To the great embarrassment of Israel’s Interior Ministry, not a few have had to take on costly and lengthy court battles in order to gain what is both theirs by birth as well as the promises afforded to them of a homeland under the secular Law of Return, insuring the children and grandchildren of Jews entrance into their ancestral land regardless of their level of observance.

Now, in the year 2022, as many nations of the world become an even more uncertain venue for Jews, this is no time for Israel to find herself rudderless with no clear sense of already established parameters of eligibility and with a woefully inadequate amount of manpower in order to efficiently absorb those crying out for help.

While it’s nice to read that 5,064 applications were approved out of the 12,651 which were received, we’d like to know what’s happening to the other 7,587 who have applied. These cases are time-sensitive and need to be decided quickly.  Because of these delays and complications, some Ukrainian Jews are said to have opted to flee to other countries where they feel they will encounter less hassle.

What is clear is that some serious oversight is needed in order to make sure that the rights of ALL Jews and those with Jewish blood are protected at a time when their survival is crucial.  Such an individual or committee would need to meticulously review applications, interview the clerks who suggested that certain people were ineligible and possibly understand the great need to gather all Interior Ministry workers to outline proper and lawful eligibility per previous legal standards before overzealous clerks began to arbitrarily ban whomever they didn’t want.

Another proposal is to call on the Israeli public to volunteer their time and help.  A great number of us are retired and have the luxury of free time.  Who among us would not be prepared to help the cause of Aliyah and saving our brethren from the hand of tyrants and oppressors who would be more than happy to rid the world of its remaining Jews who are viewed as those who cause all of society’s ills?

The tribes who voluntarily joined King David in the account of I Chronicles 12 were committed warriors who not only understood the times but who were also loyal to their king.  As equally loyal citizens of Israel, who care for our people (as we’re supposed to), it would be a privilege to play a part in welcoming our people, observant and non-observant to their ancestral home at this particular time in history.

United and determined, we can and must prevail over Israel’s enemies by first and foremost living out our goal of being “The Hope” to every Jewish soul (nefesh Yehudi) per the words of our national anthem, HaTikvah.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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