Are Jews being discouraged from immigrating to Israel?

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Illustrative: Immigrants arriving in Israel at Ben-Gurion Airport (Photo: Nir Kafri/ The Jewish Agency for Israel)

The question sounds absurd and unthinkable. After all, the whole reason for the existence of Israel was to be a sure and safe refuge, a place where Jews could live without fear of eventually being banished or exiled from their home. It was intended to offer a secure alternative for both religious and non-religious Jews – a welcoming embrace and a better way of life for the world’s millions who belong to the Hebrew race. Conversely, greater numbers of Jews choosing to make Israel their home, would, likewise, yield the fruits of strength, ingenuity and self-determination.

As the end of WW II came to a close, those who managed to survive the ravages of the Nazi Holocaust, which had enveloped most of Europe, flocked to the fledgling State which, above all else, offered them hope and safety despite the many enemies surrounding their very small strip of land. It may not have been much back then, but we had an army, a flag and an anthem which so beautifully expressed the culmination of 2,000 years of Jewish longing to return to their land. What had previously been inhabited by approximately 630,000 Jews, more than doubled as another 688,000 immigrants landed on Israel’s shores within the first three and a half years after the birth of the nation – an average of nearly 200,000 per year.  

Since that time, millions more Jews have come to the decision that Israel is their destiny, and, up until the last few years, making that move was a fairly uncomplicated step. It was as easy as hopping on a plane, walking into the Interior Ministry office with documented evidence that you were either born Jewish or at least have one Jewish grandparent. Those were the simple requirements in order to be accepted as a citizen of the Jewish homeland.

So what changed, and why does the welcome mat seem to be turned upside down? If you are a Messianic Jew, you might be aware that over the past 15 years or so, there has been a coordinated effort by orthodox groups who have, by and large, been running the offices of immigration. Their full-scale mission has tried to weed out, in any way they could, Jewish individuals who believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah as spoken of in the Law and the Prophets. It’s not that hard, these days, to discover who is a believer in today’s world of Google, Facebook and other social media. Everything you do, say, eat or wear is posted for all the world to see, and so once the discovery has been made, immigration is only something attainable by a long, protracted and costly court battle.  Consequently, such a daunting undertaking has stopped many in their tracks who just gave up the dream, feeling that the fight would be too draining. Sadly, it has turned out to be a clever and effective plan of keeping out Jewish believers for the time being.

But wait, there’s more….

All of a sudden, stories of ordinary, traditional Jewish individuals have begun to emerge.  While expressing a desire to immigrate due to a variety of hardships and frightening circumstances, such as Covid, anti-Semitism, Marxist leanings of their new progressive government, the Jewish homeland has suddenly become a very attractive option. For them, what should have been a simple visit to their local Jewish Agency or a quick phone call to Nefesh b’Nefesh, an organization which was designed to facilitate Aliyah, turned into one long series of headaches and never-ending demands which started to feel like one roadblock after another.

In Steve Rodan’s Times of Israel blog article of May 28, 2021 entitled, “Israel’s White Paper? US Jews Find Locked Doors,” he states:

“The Law of Return isn’t working. American Jews aren’t being allowed to move to Israel. What is going on?!”

He continues by illustrating this point as he shares the story of one particular Jewish woman, who after seeing the violence in her State of N.Y., decided that it was time to immigrate to Israel. Although turning to Nefesh b’Nefesh, she had not been given the go-ahead to move over the course of nearly a year. Bombarded by bureaucracy, she was told that she had to provide documents from as long as 60 years ago in order to be approved. In the end, she was advised that the U.S. would have the final word as to whether or not she would be permitted to leave the country.  

Rodan says that, “Over the last year, Israel has essentially suspended the Law of Return and that Aliyah, particularly from the U.S,. has never been lower while American Jewish applications have never been higher.”

Rodan quotes Nefesh b’Nefesh’s vice-president, Mark Rosenberg who says, “Past national or international events sparked inquiries and applications — but never like this.”

Rodan continues by saying, “Still, Israel is determined to keep its doors locked to American Jews. In June 2020, the Jewish Agency predicted that 50,000 Jews overall would resettle in Israel. Instead, only 20,000 were reported to have been allowed in the country. Jews who applied under the Law of Return were told to wait and wait for a decision by the Israeli government. Last spring, the drop in Aliyah reached 70 percent, compared to the same period in the previous year.”

This was not an isolated incident. Yet another very perplexing incident occurred just a few days ago as Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told Jews NOT to make Aliyah, (Israel Today, July 9,2021) In the article, he states that “there’s a problem.” 

After being asked at a recent visit to Tunisia whether or not Jews should move to Israel, he told them, “It depends on where they live.” He went on to say, “If they were going to live in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, then they should immigrate to Israel, but if they were going to live in a place like Herzliya or another one of the secular locations, they should stay where they are. Yosef went on to argue that sin is worse than death, and that a religious Jew’s spiritual well-being would be harmed by living in a secular environment.” In the end, he recommended that “Jews already living in ultra-Orthodox communities in the diaspora should probably remain there.”

To quote Steve Rodan, “What is going on?”

According to the data of the Jewish Agency, an estimated 250,000 Jews would be eager to immigrate to Israel if such a move would be allowed. Rodan says that once applications were forwarded to Israeli consulates by Nefesh b’Nefesh, “the process virtually stopped.”

Following Rodan’s description of a harsh and overbearing interrogation, he seems to believe that only a select few are getting in on the basis of specific criteria formulated by the Israeli government itself.  

Rodan states, “Washington has long indicated that it does not want its Jews to resettle in Israel. The reason is capital flight: once an American Jew settles in Israel, regardless of whether he is a tourist, permanent resident or citizen, he can withdraw his money from his US bank account, sell his home, and essentially transfer his assets.”

In fact, Rodan claims that since 2010, Jews flying to Israel have often been searched to see if they are bringing large amounts of cash with them. So is it really just a matter of money? There has also been speculation that Israel’s infrastructure is not in a position to absorb vast numbers of new immigrants despite many of them coming with significant finances, thereby not being a burden on the State.

While many Jews feel that they are, once again, living in perilous times, it begs the question, “Will Israel return to her original stated vision and aspiration of providing a safe refuge for all Jews regardless of their level of religious observance?” Will Jews be permitted to return to their ancestral homeland for whatever reason they see fit? Will their intended homeland view them as valuable assets who will strengthen and bolster the Zionist dream? And, if not, what will become of Theodor Herzl’s inspiring words, “If you will it, it is no dream”?

Must we repeat the words of the revered prophet, Moses, “Let My People Go” to our own Israeli government so that the dream can become the reality which is spoken of throughout the Jewish prophecies? 

Ezekiel 36: 24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.”