Since Jewish sovereignty was reestablished in its ancestral and indigenous homeland, and in the decades before, millions of Jews from around the world joined the remnant of our people who never left the land or returned in the intervening millennia.
These millions of Jews come from over 100 nations, dozens of cultures and speaking a litany of different tongues. Each community brought their expertise and talents, and have contributed immeasurably to the country’s economic, scientific, academic and cultural life.
The State of Israel has never been tremendously assertive about which model for its society it seeks, whether it is a melting-pot, meaning monocultural, or a multicultural society. At different times, under different leaders it has veered towards one or the other model.
On the whole, though, Israel is a sum of its parts, and we discern those parts in every aspect of our existence here. Much of what we have come to understand as Israel’s political, legal, military, economic and cultural systems have been imported and adopted by our people from the four corners of the world.
Each major influx of Jews to Israel brought their unique character, understanding and experience to assist Israel and help it progress and develop.
The “First Aliyah” of Jews from Eastern Europe and Yemen built the foundations for an agricultural infrastructure which would prove absolutely essential during the founding years of modern political Zionism. The “Second Aliyah” brough revolutionary idealism from the Russian Empire which created communal settlements, to be called Kibbutzim, and the trappings for a social model of existence, and so on.
Even up until our days, mass Aliyah helped reform, improve and reshape the Israeli landscape.
The Russian-speaking Aliyah, which came during the 1990s after the fall of the Iron Curtain, helped develop Israel’s famed hi-tech industry into the global power it is today, and according to some commentators, “saved” Israel and its economy allowing it to join the elite group of nations as an OECD member and weather much of the recent economic recessions that affected much of the world in the last couple of decades.
The Ethiopian Aliyah brought a distinctive culture, embraced by many Israelis as demonstrated by how many outside the community now celebrate the Sigd holiday.
Nonetheless, English-speaking Aliyah was never a mass Aliyah in that a large number came at any one point in time. Anglo Israelis made Aliyah from the turn of the last century and provided many contributions to early Zionism and the foundation of Israel.
Israel’s first President Chaim Weizmann spent his formative professional years in Manchester in the UK and was seen as one of the major drivers behind the Balfour Declaration which established vital British support for a Jewish state.
Raised in Wisconsin, Golda Meir, was one of a number of American Zionists, along with Henrietta Szold, Mickey Marcus and Judah Magnes, whose imprint on Zionism and Israel was essential to what the Jewish State has become today.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised in the UK, Abba Eban, also known as Aubrey Evans, used his cosmopolitan upbringing, exceptional oratorical gifts and “Queen’s English” in the service of Israel’s foreign relations which won him the widespread admiration of foreign diplomats and international statesmen.
Chaim Herzog, born in Belfast but raised in Dublin, was another “Anglo” who served Israel with distinction its sixth president, and the list goes on.
Every one of these leaders, planted an indelible footprint on the State of Israel, and each of them and their counterparts in diplomacy, art, culture, military and economics, brought with them their knowledge and experience from their countries of birth or upbringing.
A few months ago we started The Anglo Vision, an initiative of English-speaking Israelis who seek to coalesce our community around a vision of unifying positions that can effect change, development and progress, and above all, contribute to our beloved homeland.
We wanted to stand on the shoulders of these giants and try and use our experience and knowledge to bring about improvements to Israel, just as they did, but this time as a community.
As foreign-born Israelis we have experience of multiple political systems so are able to compare and contrast with our current system and see what might be improved. As Olim, we know what it takes to encourage Aliyah, especially from the last great reservoir of potential Olim, which is situated largely in English-speaking countries. We know what it takes to fight BDS and the delegitimization of Israel because we were previously on its frontlines.
These are just some of the issues which we want, as a community, to develop and improve.
Some, however, have misinterpreted what we are trying to achieve.
We do not want to make Israel into the U.S., the UK or elsewhere. Our love and passion for Israel was demonstrated when we took that one-way flight to Ben Gurion Airport to start a life anew, frequently leaving behind family, friends and a successful career.
As English-speaking Israelis, or Anglo Israelis, we always place the emphasis on the noun and not the adjective. We see our place in Israel and as Israelis but use our distinct experience to better our surroundings. Like all groups our outlook is shaped by our upbringing and experience. We believe that we can and should become fully integrated while still retaining our identity and character.
Sometimes, our Hebrew might not be mother-tongue level or heavily accented, but our hearts beat blue and white and we have forever put our lot in with Sabras and Olim from around the world alike.
Unlike other communities, like the Russian-speaking and Druze community, we are not seen as a grouping with which to effect change. This is why our issues are ignored or not taken seriously by decision-makers and opinion-shapers.
Nonetheless, the English-speaking community, including those born here, numbers many hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
On our travels around the country meeting with many English-speaking Israelis we have seen strong identifiable issues of concern to many in our community whether they are religious or secular or lean Left or Right.
There are unifying positions within our community, and we should coalesce around them if we want to push for the changes we seek, not to replace Israel, but to develop and change it for the better, just as so many others have done.
This is why we have developed The Anglo Vision, and I hope that as many English-speaking Israelis as possible will join us on this exciting journey to leave our indelible marks on the nation that we are proud to call our home.
If you would like to be in contact with us please send an email to: TheAngloVision@gmail.com