One thing the coronavirus and the economic and environmental crises have taught us is that Israel must make preparations to ensure our country’s independence and self-reliance in all fields. Israel must also make immediate preparations for mass aliyah from Western countries.
Our worldwide culture of competition, over-consumption and over-population combined with increasing gaps between the rich and poor and the destruction of the earth’s eco-systems can only lead to calamity. The coronavirus and current economic collapse are just the beginning. Jews in the Western world will be affected by these crises and by rising anti-Semitism. Israel, which is known for its Zionist spirit of self-reliance and abilitiy to adapt in times of crisis – such as its success in combating the current pandemic – has the opportunity to attract hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews from the Western world.
New policies to attract Western Jews
New situations call for new policies. The first waves of aliyah originated for the most part in Eastern Europe, where the rulers were anti-Semitic dictators and the majority of the population lived in near slavery. The fact that most Jews also opposed the Czarist and monarchic systems and yearned for a just society does not mean that they wished for the socialist dictatorships, such as the anti-Semitic and murderous systems which materialized following the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The Zionist collectives (kibbutzim and moshavim) that were established in the decades before and following 1948 played a vital role in creating Israel and in defending it in the decades to come. At first nearly the entire Jewish population lived in a small area in the center of the country. The fact that hundreds of thousands of Zionist idealists established hundreds of kibbutzim and moshavim in the north and south of the country were imperative in establishing and defending the country’s borders. These, for the most part highly-educated and competent founders of the collectives endured decades of attacks and made great sacrifices. They absorbed or served as a starting point for many olim and hundreds of thousands of foreign volunteers spent the happiest years of their lives on kibbutzim.
Let’s agree that Zionism succeeded, no matter how we defined ourselves politically
These collectives were economically successful – less than 3% of the population were responsible for around 10% of GNP. However the economic crises of the 1970s and 1980s combined with the rise to power of right-wing parties made the survival of the kibbutzim impossible. The capitalistic policies during the Cold War were also successful, and probably necessary since we relied on the United States.
Today there are some 70 cooperative kibbutzim and some 200 privatized kibbutzim. The privatized kibbutzim are depressing places. No matter how hard they tried the lack of investments, enormous interest rates and plethora of government restrictions turned them into depressing suburbs in areas without medical care and public transport.
Politics should not impede the aliyah of Western Jews
Most Western Jews are fairly liberal. I have met many who would love to live on a kibbutz – as well as many Israelis. The government, JNF and Jewish Agency must make land available in the Negev, Arava and Galilee where hundreds of new settlements can be built. Jews from around the world can then build collective settlements, religious settlements or privatized settlements – without restrictions. Policies should not only benefit the wealthy, young and religious.
Israel grew tremendously during its pre-State socialist era and its globalized era of the past four decades. Now we are entering a new era. Today there are too many government restrictions which hinder the aliyah of Jews from the West. We must get rid of outdated Cold War polemics.
Israel must also be a homeland for liberal Jews and older Jews, including those of pension age. We must all consider ourselves Zionists and we must all have the opportunity to live as we please.