Israel’s ties with Diaspora Jewry reach back to before Israel’s birth. Jews across the world were instrumental in building a case for our nation-state and like proud parents they were delighted when Israel declared its independence in May 1948. As a young Israel took its first steps and began to flourish, Diaspora Jewry was right behind us, propping us up if we stumbled and catching us before we fell. Diaspora Jewry has looked on proudly as year after year Israel continued to flourish and grow, and as Israel developed into a strong, independent nation they have always stood by to assist if help was needed.
Today, as world Jewry cries out to visit their homeland, we must be there for them. Diaspora Jewry has been patient. For many months now they have waited for the opportunity to visit; to see family and friends, to come for business or simply to enjoy the beauty of our country. That’s bad enough but the really heartbreaking cases are the children who have not been able to see elderly parents who made aliyah, lone soldiers who have not had personal visits from parents or siblings, and families who have made aliyah and have been cut off from their first-degree relatives.
COVID has ravaged the society we once knew but we must not let it ravage the deep bonds we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Just as they have had our backs, and continue to support us in our times of need, we must have theirs. Israel must hear their voice and ensure it does everything it can, in accordance with all necessary health and safety requirements for COVID, to assist our brethren. We must continue to welcome them warmly to Israel.
To date, this approach has not been entirely forthcoming. The latest COVID regulations have once again closed Israel’s skies to all. We must urgently work to change this now. We need to review all existing criteria and expand the list of eligible criteria to ensure that all legitimate requests are granted to those who are property owners, visiting first-degree relatives or those celebrating simchas or attending funerals. The current system must be simplified so that applications can be easily processed. Finally, the timeline must be made far more efficient so that all requests are reviewed and responded to within a time limit of 24-48 hours.
Friendship is measured during trying times. This is one of them. So it is high time the situation is reviewed and amended and action is taken to meet the needs of our Jewish brothers and sisters abroad. Our doors must remain firmly open. We must not abandon Diaspora Jewry in their hour of need.