Recent newspaper reports have shown a 50% rise in aliyah applications from the US, with the Jewish Agency expecting many more.
This increase in the number of American Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel seems to be a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. The US, especially New York and New Jersey with their large Jewish populations, has been badly affected. Israel’s record has, so far, been a lot better. (Of course, as we say here, Al Tiftach Peh LaSatan – Don’t tempt fate – we don’t yet know the end of this story.)
According to Ariel Kandel, head of the Qualita organisation for assisting French immigrants in Israel, “Many Jews around the world have suffered or been negatively affected by coronavirus and now want to come to Israel.” The key word in this statement is, of course, “now”.
We ask ourselves, why now? Israel, as an independent, sovereign state has been open to immigration for the last 72 years. These American Jews, clamouring at our gates, could have made aliyah many years ago. The French Jews have known for most of their lives that, while coronavirus is a new threat, France has not always been welcoming to Jews.
So do we really need these people? We want people that are running to Israel, not running from the US or France. We have seen in the past that olim who have made Aliyah against their will have not been able to leave their original country behind. Some three decades after the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union, many have not been able to integrate into Israeli society. Some have returned to the same Moscow that they ran from.
Of the million immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel some 40,000 to 45,000 have returned to the Federation of Independent States, a group of nine Russian-speaking countries. Others have sought to make their new lives in the United States or Canada. Unbelievably, some with defective memories have made their homes in Germany.
Jews from the UK have also not showed much staying power. Over the years, I have met many British immigrants at Hitachdut Olei Britannia (Association of British Immigrants) meetings only to look for them in vain some months later.
Many American Jews have been forced to wake up; seeing America as a first-world country, while viewing Israel as part of the third world, is no longer possible. The images of Americans, holed up in their apartments in coronavirus-ridden New York, listening to the wailing ambulance sirens by day and by night, while watching TV reports showing Israelis singing Ma Nishtana from their balconies, are still fresh in everyone’s memories.
Israel’s technological, governmental, and medical superiority in looking after its citizens was in stark contrast to the slow reaction and inadequate measures taken by most states in the US. In proportion to its population, Israel suffered a much lower number of coronavirus fatalities than most other nations.
Back in 1948, the fledgling Jewish state welcomed refugees fleeing the horrors of European Antisemitism. These Jews had good reason to leave behind their native lands. Today’s “refugees”, running from the high costs of health care, should stay where they are.
To borrow the slogan from the UK, perhaps my message to American and French would-be immigrants should be: Save Israel’s Health Services – Stay At Home.