On a personal level, Israel’s connection to Diaspora Jewry is very important to me. I devote many hours every week to strengthen this relationship. I’ve embarked on missions to all corners of the globe, ranging from snowy Alaska all the way to sunny Australia in the hope of bringing the hearts of those communities closer to Israel; and I’ve worked with all kinds of Jews from all over the world. I believe that a strong Israel means a strong Jewish Diaspora and vice versa, and we must therefore work hand-in-hand not only because of our common interests but simply because it is the right thing to do. However, I am not optimistic about the relationship between Israel and Diaspora.
Diaspora Jews are a minority group, which in most cases identify their Judaism as a group with a cultural religion. The Jews in Israel, on the other hand, see their Judaism as a unified national group with a common religion. These differences in identity, together with the fact that Jews in Israel are the demographic majority, results in different ideological gaps and misunderstanding between the two groups.
For many years, it has been argued that Diaspora Jewry, which is often dissatisfied with Israel’s internal affairs, especially when it comes to the precarious balance between security and human rights, may sever it’s ties with Israel.
Of course this would be very sad for me, and I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the relationship does not collapse even when there are strong disagreements. But it seems to me that it is time for Diaspora Jewry to know that there indeed exists a possibility that Israel, acting on it’s own accord, will disengage from Diaspora Jewry. I write this not with the intention of threatening, and certainly not with any semblance of happiness. I am merely describing what I think will unfold in Israel in the next five years, for better or for worse.
While many Jews, including those who routinely visit Israel, believe that in an emergency, they will simply be able to reach Israel and Israel will receive them with open arms (and a lot of bureaucracy and poor customer service), the Law of Return may no longer exist in its current framework. It may be that the gates are about to close.
How could such a thing be possible? Well, ironically, it comes precisely because of the hyper-liberal ideologies emanating from many of the Diaspora communities around the world. These universal ideas have infiltrated the Israeli radical left, who despise the Law of Return on the grounds that Israel should not give any special preference to the Jewish people. They want Israel to be a state with no hidden or explicit preference for any national identity group.
On the other hand, segments of the extreme right say that if what is received from Diaspora Jewry is money that goes to radical leftist organizations whose essence is to vilify Israel’s reputation in the world, then such family ties are not needed. Anyone who has not come to Israel during the 72 years that Israel exists missed the opportunity
American and Israeli Jewry constitute almost the entire global Jewish population- between eighty and ninety percent. In 1948 there were about 600,000 Jews in Israel, and in the United States about 4.5 million. Today, there are over six million Jews in Israel and less than six million Jews in the United States. If it was a business project, it is clear that the State of Israel is the place to invest in. European Jewry, Latin America, Africa and Asia are unfortunately mainly extinct or rapidly shrinking communities.
No, I don’t think all Jews should move to Israel. It would make me happy, but I believe in liberty and understand that there are myriad other considerations that keep people from emigrating here. A livelihood, family life, a cultural preference or simply a lack of affection for Israel (which is okay too!); or a variety of other worthy considerations.
But it’s worth remembering that it’s a two way street. It is conceivable that in a few years, the gates will be closed. I do not write this with joy, but with fear. Just as the Jewish world only recently heard the deafening blasts of the shofar, so too it may be time for the diaspora communities to respond to the alarm.