The Art of Aliyah

Against the backdrop of the horrific events unfolding in Paris, the Jewish community once again finds itself questioning their future in Europe. This uncertainty seems to be growing with each passing act of anti-Semitism. Comparisons to the last time European Jews felt this threatened and vulnerable are understandable with one major difference. The presence of a strong Jewish State will not only prevent history repeating itself, but also ensure the continued existence of the Jewish people.

As a result, it seems only logical to ask what role Israel can play in responding to these attacks.

In the days following the brutal Paris attacks, Israel’s leadership issued repeated calls for French Jews to hastily make Aliyah and move to Israel. Such a response is misguided.

Don’t misunderstand me; encouraging Jewish Aliyah is not only valid but a critical step in strengthening Israel. Aliyah is in Israel’s national interest and should be openly encouraged by Israel’s leadership.  The focus of Modern Zionism is now to build the strongest Jewish State possible, serving as the brightest light attracting Jews from all over the world.

While the spreading Anti-Semitism serves as strong validation for the existence of a Jewish Homeland, it can’t be the basis for Jews to make Aliyah. This not only puts remaining Diaspora Jews in a tough situation in the countries they already feel so uncomfortable, but also compromises their ability to effectively combat anti-Semitism in the very communities driving Jews out.

Anti-Semitism and fear cannot be the only driving force behind making Aliyah. Relying on hatred towards Jews alone cannot motivate the Diaspora to move and more importantly build a life in Israel. Israel’s Aliyah policy must be based on the continued strengthening of Israel, thus providing a brighter future for Diaspora Jews than the communities they are currently living.

A strong, vibrant, growing, secure Jewish community in Israel will serve as the most powerful motivation for any Diaspora Jew, threatened or not, to consider making a future in Israel.

While encouraging Jewish immigration to Israel as a result of anti-Semitism may be fulfilling one of Israel’s fundamental purposes, it is unsustainable and short term. The spread of western democratic values provides various options for endangered Jews in the modern era. The US, Canada and Australia to name a few all have dynamic secure Jewish communities.

The full potential of Israel will be unlocked when the State is strong and vibrant enough to convince more Jews from non-threatened communities that Israel can provide them with a stronger Jewish future. While thousands of Jews in France consider Aliyah at this very moment, Israel will only truly be a regional, economic and spiritual powerhouse when it attracts large numbers of Jews who are not in distress. I could argue that this point has never been closer.

Israel needs Diaspora Jewry more than ever and conversely Israel’s existence has never been more essential to Jews worldwide. The Jewish State empowers Diaspora Jewry amidst ever increasing insecurities. At the same time, Israel is also growing more isolated and needs world Jewry to help combat this concerning trend. The international community seems intent on imposing escalating consequences for the lack of resolution to the Palestinian issue while also having fundamentally differing views on the Iranian nuclear threat.

In a country where everyone’s child is called upon to defend the Jewish State, a clear vision and strategy for the country is essential to strengthening Israeli society and encouraging Aliyah. The current Israeli leadership is not presenting this vision. Israel cannot grow solely by luring Jews from one uncertain future to another.  Motivation for Aliyah cannot stem only from European instability, but rather because Zionism provides a brighter Jewish future in a strong Israel.

A clear vision for the future is needed in order for Israel to truly attract large segments of the Diaspora. Today’s Israeli society is extremely strong and has the potential to lead a Jewish Renaissance with the help of Aliyah.

About the Author
Mark Silberstein was born in Cape Town, South Africa and currently resides in La Jolla, California. He studied at Tel Aviv University and worked as a Public Relations Director at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles 1999/2000. More recently, he and his wife spent 18 months in their home in Zichron Yaacov and they have plans to return in the near future.