Aliyah: Now, more than ever
By Eric Michaelson, Jerusalem Post, 3/11/2023
A well-known Israeli saying that deserves repeating, especially now, is: "Israel has two Memorial Days: Yom HaZikaron to remind us of the cost of having Israel. Yom HaShoah to remind us of the cost of not." The Jewish state is facing its worst war in 50 years. The atrocities of that dark Shabbat on October 7 will be forever etched into our collective memory. It was a blow to our notion of national security, but not of our national purpose. The State of Israel remains the national, ancestral, and indigenous homeland of the Jewish People, whose gates, as always, remain open to any Jew around the world. Especially now, With incredibly increasing antisemitism across the world, particularly in the West, in the US, the UK, and large parts of Europe, Aliyah (immigration to Israel) should be a national priority. I have heard the fear in the voices of friends and family abroad who, even while living in largely "Jewish" areas, tell me that for the first time in their lives, are nervous about going outside their homes. In parts of the world, Jews are taking down the mezuzot from their doorposts lest they become more identifiable to rampaging antisemites. While Israel has many challenges to overcome in the coming weeks, months, and even years ahead, it is precisely at this time that the significance of Aliyah cannot be overstated. Throughout Israel's history, Aliyah has played a crucial role in our country's resoluteness and its ability to weather challenges. Olim (new immigrants) many straight from the death camps of Europe, helped the Jewish State win the War of Independence in 1948, and have contributed to every war since. Remarkably, after every major war in Israel’s history, there has been an uptick in Aliyah, demonstrating a strong sense of global Jewish solidarity and unity. Aliyah has undoubtedly and indelibly shaped our economic, social, and collective national welfare for the better over the past several generations. It enhances Israel's human capital, attracting professionals, entrepreneurs, and experts who contribute to the nation’s technological, economic, and social prowess - vital at a time of regional military enmity. When Jews from varying backgrounds choose to make Israel their home, it fosters a sense of shared purpose and national identity that transcends ideological and political differences. Moreover, Aliyah is a demographic imperative. A growing population – through Aliyah – helps maintain the necessary citizen base to support social programs sustain, economic growth, and, importantly, bolster national security. As Israel faces a period of grave challenges, a steady stream of new immigrants contributes to the country’s stability. In the face of rising Jew-hatred, Jews worldwide grapple with the increase of antisemitism, inter twined with anti-Israel sentiment. Here, global Jewry is an invaluable resource. As Israel's advocates and cultural ambassadors, Jews play a pivotal role in countering misinformation, fostering international cooperation, and building understanding. ALIYAH PROVIDES a vital human bridge that reaffirms strong bonds between global Jewry and Israel. Even during times of war, the gates of Aliyah must remain open, and the increasing ease of settling in Israel must be clearly understood as a tremendous opportunity. Globalization and technological advancements have revolutionized the possibilities for Aliyah, making it more accessible and appealing than ever before. The digital age has ushered in an era where location is less of a hindrance to employment. Increasing numbers of jobs can be performed remotely, offering a financial lifeline to those considering Aliyah. Israel must leverage this trend to attract skilled professionals who can contribute to the war effort, whether economically or socially while continuing their careers living in Israel. To maximize the benefits of Aliyah and capitalize on this current unique opportunity of encouraging more Jews to make Israel their home, the Israeli government and its affiliate platforms must take proactive measures. They must streamline bureaucracy significantly by simplifying the Aliyah process and reducing bureaucratic hurdles, making it easier for potential immigrants to navigate. Israel should offer financial incentives and tax breaks to encourage professionals and entrepreneurs to relocate to Israel. We have research that demonstrates clearly that the expenses incurred in bringing over olim and helping them acclimate are massively overshadowed by the long-term economic benefits. We need to leverage technological advancements to promote remote work opportunities, allowing potential olim to maintain their careers while living in Israel; to conduct global engagement activities strengthening connections with Jewish communities worldwide by promoting cultural exchange programs, youth initiatives, and educational partnerships; invest in public relations and positive campaigns about Israel to combat antisemitism and promote Israel's positive image on the global stage, and more. In conclusion, it is precisely at this moment in time that Aliyah needs to be a strategic imperative for Israel as it faces its greatest challenges. EVEN IN the fog of war, we are witness to an increased global Jewish understanding of the national mission bf Zionism. Jews around the world understand the heavy cost of having and fighting for the national Jewish homeland, but as the attacks increase on Jews worldwide and Israel, there is an increased awareness of the cost of not having it. We must seize this moment nationally to strengthen the bond between Jews worldwide and Israel. Aliyah is not just about returning to a homeland: It's about forging a more united, resilient, and prosperous future for Israel and the Jewish people. This is needed now, more than ever. The writer is a former executive vice president of Nefesh b'Nefesh, past chief Israel officer of JNE, and served as an IDF intelligence officer. He was conscripted to emergency combat reserve duty after the massacre on October 7.