Will Israel abandon non-Religious Jews trying to escape persecution?

The question has, perhaps, never been more relevant than now, as the bubbling cauldron of anti-Semitism has risen to the surface, right on the heels of a two-week onslaught of endless rockets launched into Israeli cities by the Hamas terrorist regime. 

Although those events unfolded thousands of miles away from America and Europe, it, nonetheless, spontaneously ignited passions in many major cities which can no longer be contained or ignored.  

Who would have thought that a private land dispute would turn into the catalyst which would cause American and European Jews to no longer feel safe on the streets, in their businesses or at school because they are suddenly being seen as an extension of Israeli governance and policy even though they don’t live there or may even not feel a close association to a country they’ve never even visited?

Yet, Israel is being used as a justification to persecute, vilify and shame Jews throughout North America and Europe.  

The shocking televised images of massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations against Israel, many of which turned violent against Jewish individuals on the street, were a great wake-up call to those who saw them and caught a glimpse of the new reality for Jews living outside the land of Israel. Places such as London, Paris, Los Angeles, New York and many other venues, where Jews always felt safe and part of the landscape, has turned into a hotbed of violent sentiment where they are no longer welcomed.  

Consequently, Jewish friends, who have never considered emigrating from their countries of birth are now inquiring as to whether or not they will be able to seek refuge here if they are not religious Jews. What if they cannot produce that coveted letter from a rabbi who will vouch for their ethnic authenticity solely on the basis of being a member of his synagogue? Will their own family paperwork not suffice?  What if they intermarried and their children are being raised without religious affiliation or in a different faith – are they no longer eligible to seek a safe haven in their cultural homeland?  

These are vital questions which necessitate an immediate answer, because there may not be much time left before the present hatred and abhorrence of diaspora Jews turns into the wholesale murder of the entire race who, sadly, may find themselves disenfranchised from their own homeland for lack of meeting the present stringent requirements which grants a safe haven to those born of at least one Jewish grandparent.

I recently received a text from my old high school friend who, by birth, is a “Cohen.” Both her parents were fully Jewish, all four of her grandparents as well. The absurdity of her question made me think long and hard as to whether or not her fears were founded when she asked if she would have to provide a letter from a rabbi in order to prove her Jewishness. My friend does not nor has she ever attended a synagogue. She was raised secular but traditional inasmuch as she celebrated the more popular Jewish holidays when growing up in New York, a place where her Jewishness was never in question.

Today, she and her Jewish husband feel vulnerable, as do their three grown children and three grandchildren. At a time when Jews are being forced to carry and shoulder the weight of a Jewish state to which they yet have no personal connection or association, wouldn’t it be ironic for the state to let them suffer persecution for a homeland which will not even welcome them with open arms during one of the most critical and dangerous crossroads in history?

Today’s Interior Ministry is controlled by a small group of powerful zealots who have locked arms in disavowing cultural Jews who are eligible to immigrate in accordance with the parameters set forth within Israel’s secular Law of Return which categorically states that all that is required is to have at least one Jewish grandparent. It does not say that you must be a member of an orthodox synagogue, which is not the case of most individuals who have only one Jewish grandparent. In fact, the reality in such situations is that they are not affiliated with the Jewish religion at all but still meet the genealogical requirement. It would be good to hear how, when and by whom that was changed, denying these grandchildren their right of return.

It would also be good to know when being a religiously observant Jew became the only acid test to being fully recognized as someone who is part of the ethnic Jewish race. Why are the two symbiotically meshed together when that is clearly not the reality of most diaspora Jews?  

We are, indeed, at a historical crossroads which all too eerily resembles the dark and looming period preceding the slaughter of six million Jews. It is for that reason that Israel was birthed – so that such an unthinkable and barbaric act could never again be perpetrated on a people who, due to the lack of not having their own homeland, found themselves defenseless and easy prey to those who, at a moment’s notice, could viciously turn on them. Today, there is a Jewish homeland, a place which was set up to accept persecuted Jews who are now seen as an extension of a government which the world is so quick to hold in contempt.

The question begs to be answered – will Israel abandon non-religious Jews who are now feeling betrayed by their country of birth which they thought would never turn on them? Will Israel choose to recognize Jews solely by the ethnic birthright of their parents or grandparents and nothing else? Or will they be complicit in the persecution and even possibly the demise of their fellow countrymen? It’s time that Israel comes to terms with a fast-growing and rapidly spreading Jew-hatred which is arising from what is seen as her sins for even daring to exist!

Israel prides herself on being the world’s moral compass, showing mercy, compassion, heart and conscience in a morass of growing evil and wickedness. How would she be able to explain herself to the nations who will neither protect the Jews residing in them nor speak out on their behalf in order to reject another budding Holocaust in their midst?

Israel has no choice. She must send a clear message to any and all Jews who want to take advantage of the right of return to their homeland at a time when it is a matter of life or death. If that demands the removal of unwilling Interior Ministry operatives, then that’s what must be done. Israel can no longer play a high stakes game in allowing entrance to only a select few. It must rule in accordance with the words of the prophet Micah: “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before your God.” 6:8

Doing justice begins with Israel mercifully and rightly opening her doors to all Jews who seek refuge in the homeland which was established to protect, accept and warmly welcome all of her family!