My brothers do I seek

It always amazes me that we could come here to Israel and become citizens immediately. It may be unprecedented in history. Usually, countries don’t want immigration, unless the immigrants already have something valuable to offer. But Israel is different in one respect – in that it considers all Jews to be family, brothers and sisters.

Since its founding, Israel has had the Law of Return, which allows any Jew, and certain descendants of Jews, to become automatic citizens, just by showing up. No matter how poor. No matter how sick. Even at the cost of it’s own economy, when it had no idea where to house them. Whether a Russian billionaire (as happened a few weeks ago) or penniless Moroccan.

It has not been utopian, by any means. We have discrimination and it’s tough for most imigrants, especially the language. We have imported a sizable minority of non-Jews, complicating things religiously. But, we may be the only country to have imported black people, en masse, voluntarily, as full free citizens. Because they are our family.

Unfortunately, this is a problem for the rest of the world. America is a country of immigrants, which is working hard at keeping new immigrants out. They have a valid question: How do you keep your country’s character, if you let in large numbers of immigrants? Especially, if these new people have no previous connection to the country and its culture. But that’s the problem. Because America is a melting pot – or tossed salad, or whatever is the current food analogy – Americans, as a whole don’t feel related to anyone. They’re not Mexican, nor Honduran, nor Syrian, so why should they let them in? Even Jeb Bush’s suggestion that America should take in Syrian Christians was mockingly dismissed, based on the fact that it’s not a Christian nation.

Ironically, Muhammed created the idea of a Muslim ummah, where all Muslims would be related by virtue of a shared religion. Theoretically, this should have led to a situation like Israel where, if part of the ummah was threatened, Muslim countries would open the doors wide for their coreligionists. In reality, that hasn’t worked out. While neighboring Islamic countries have taken in millions of Syrian refugees, they remain just that – refugees, with no plans to resettle them or even allow them to work.

Similarly, there are the Arab refugees from Israel’s wars. As is well known, Arab refugees from Israel’s War of Independence in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt were not granted citizenship. Their ability to work is often curtailed and they live in refugee camps. In Jordan, the situation is more complicated, since Jordan granted all Arabs in the West Bank citizenship after it conquered the territory in 1948, and since a majority of its citizens are “Palestinian”, with roots on the west side of the Jordan river. Since 1988, it has been removing citizenship from “Palestinian” Arabs in a bid to lower the demographic threat those with East Bank origins feel.

At the end of the day, I feel sorry for all these refugees we see on the news, from Latin America, from Africa, from Syria, etc. I think about what I would have done, but for me the answer is simple, I would have come here, to Israel. If only they had brothers.

About the Author
Reuven (sometimes Bobby) came from a mixed Jewish-Christian background. He became ba'al teshuva (Jewishly observant) in his 20s with the intention of making aliyah, which didn't happen until his 40s. His daughter, Shani, also blogs and serves in the IDF as a medic. She was a lone soldier until her parents made aliyah in 2017.