Tuesday, July 5th | 6 Tammuz 5782

August 15, 2014 11:34 am

Aliyah — If Not Now, When?

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

A group of 125 future IDF soldiers at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, before they depart for their Nefesh B'Nefesh aliyah flight. Photo: Shahar Azran.

More than 5,000 Jewish immigrants are expected to arrive in Israel from France in 2014, and more than 1,000 olim arrived from the U.S., France and other countries during the 30-day war in Gaza. As impressive as this is, the potential for aliyah is much more dramatic.

The current wave of European anti-Semitism — fueled by centuries-old anti-Jewish culture and an unprecedented wave of Islamic immigration to Europe — behooves Israel to proactively generate (and not just absorb) a game-changing wave of aliyah.

A proactive aliyah policy aimed at triggering a massive wave of immigration to Israel (not just a few tens of thousands of olim per year), as was initiated and implemented by Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Yitzhak Shamir, who valued aliyah as a top priority, must be put on the fast track, not planned as a medium- or long-term policy.

A proactive aliyah policy constitutes an appropriate follow-up to the war in Gaza, demonstrating and feeding Israel’s resourcefulness, exhibiting defiance in the face of threats and challenges, and reaffirming confidence in the long-term viability of the Jewish state.

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The window of opportunity for the arrival of 500,000 olim over the next five years is wide open — temporarily — in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, England, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Argentina and other countries. It is wide open due to the intensification of anti-Semitism; non-democratic trends and instability in Russia and Ukraine; the expansion of aggressive (and soon terrorist) Islam in Europe; Israel’s relative economic edge; and the impressive Jewish/Zionist education infrastructure in those countries, which have cultivated pro-aliyah sentiments. Additional tailwind to aliyah from Russia and Ukraine would be provided by a formal conversion of the 300,000 olim from the former Soviet Union, whose children serve in the IDF, who are targeted by Palestinian terrorism, contribute immensely to Israel’s well-being, consider themselves Jews and are recognized as Jews by Israel’s Law of Return, but not by Israel’s rabbinate. The temporary nature of this window of opportunity requires immediate action, lest it be missed.

In order to raise the substantial funds required — which are scarce due to the cost of the war in Gaza — Israel’s prime minister should convene an emergency session of leading Jewish businessmen from the U.S., Canada and Australia (which also constitute a considerable aliyah source), Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Panama, Brazil and Argentina, and reclaim aliyah as a moral and strategic priority of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, irrespective of circumstances.

The prime minister should present a proactive aliyah policy in response to the growing predicament of Jewish communities, which would enhance Israel’s economic, transportation, telecommunications, education, medicine, science, technological and national security infrastructures, catapulting Israel’s posture of deterrence to unprecedented heights. Moreover, the Israel Development Corporation is able to significantly expand the sale of highly competitive Israel Bonds to local and state governments, unions, financial institutions and individuals, raising billions of dollars for an historical, job-creating, research and development-enhancing, export-increasing and national security-upgrading initiative.

The prime minister should establish a 24/7 proactive taskforces dedicated to maximizing aliyah. Another taskforce should initiate a series of fast-track statutes, executive orders and legislation to reduce bureaucracy for absorbing the expected wave of immigration. This taskforce should identify sectors that are essential for Israel, such as doctors, nurses, engineers, technicians, scientists, natural gas experts, and more.

Leveraging this rare window of opportunity for half a million olim in five years would constitute a dramatic growth engine to lift the Jewish state to unprecedented heights — commercially, militarily and diplomatically. On the other hand, missing such an immense and rare opportunity, and being satisfied with just tens of thousands of olim annually, will haunt the Jewish people for generations to come.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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