Right on the heels of Rosh HaShana, and as we approach Judaism’s most solemn holiday, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, when each of us are called upon to undergo personal soul searching, it is also incumbent upon Israel to collectively do some serious soul searching of her own.
As a country which was founded upon the principles of saving worldwide Jewry, recreating the ancient homeland of our people and seeking to fulfill our destiny of being a light to the world, Israel, the country that is always seeking to help the world’s least, more than ever, must show its humanity – first and foremost to her own people.
Israel cannot afford to morph into an exclusive club whose only members are vetted and deemed worthy of entrance by prejudiced and condescending overlords who claim to have the lock on the only acceptable way to live as a Jew. Such a practice excludes large swaths of those born into the tribe (not faith) by asserting that a birthright is intrinsically tied to the observance of today’s rabbinic Judaism, with the absence of such making the ethnicity null and void.
As political and cultural turmoil invade the largest diaspora home of today’s Jews, there is little doubt that a great portion of those individuals will seriously begin to consider escaping the growing anarchy in favor of a move to Israel. Among those numbers are intermarried Jews, their children and grandchildren, atheistic Jews, unobservant but cultural Jews, Jews who have adopted another faith but, nonetheless are still ethnically Jewish and much more. What will become of those Jews, who when fleeing a country which has tried to take away their freedoms, will yet again, be faced with the decision of abandoning their right of choice to live as they so desire?
A June article appearing in Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz quoted newly appointed Immigration Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata as forecasting up to 90,000 new immigrants moving to Israel over the next 18 months. (Haaretz.com, 6/17/20). Equally optimistic was the Jewish Agency which estimates the arrival of 45,000 immigrants in 2021. Despite a sharp slowdown due to the COVID-19 virus, global unrest has been a sure catalyst for this trend. Perhaps Tamano-Shata is basing her figures on the 2019 Israel model which took in more than 35,000 new Jewish immigrants. A five-year plan for the promotion of Aliyah is already underway at the Immigration Ministry, but if the much threatened volatility of the upcoming U.S. elections comes to fruition, the five-year plan could easily be condensed into a one or two-year plan if American Jews opt to make a quick exit.
Israel, in the year 2020, must be willing to recognize and acknowledge the fact that Jews, for centuries, have not agreed on a great variety of subjects, perhaps none being more prevalent than the issue of faith. Within Judaism, there is a plethora of religious streams, thought and persuasion. Yet only one has emerged as being the controlling arbiter when it comes to matters of birth registration, death, marriage and Israeli citizenship. How is that possible?
We at KNI take seriously the words of the biblical prophets who foretold the regathering of the exiles to their land. We believe we are living at such a time and that necessitates our country to exercise their greatest level of tolerance, inclusiveness and, most of all, humanity. Whether or not the agents of government agree with one’s faith or lack of it, must cease to be the sole criteria of who is eligible to enter the Promised Land at a time when Jewish safety and security is at stake.
May God Almighty overrule the powers that be and with His outstretched arm, personally return His people to their land by turning the hearts of the leaders of Israel to allow all of our people to come home.