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Don’t like the rules? Make Aliyah!

Andrea Samuels is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her Aliyah. She recommends in the article below that Jews living abroad not complain about the rules Israel enacts but make Aliyah instead . Don’t like the rules? Make Aliyah! The Law of Return gives Jews and their descendants the right to live in Israel, and those who choose not to do so cannot expect to have the same rights as those who have made the difficult decision. Israel recently imposed greater restrictions on non-Israelis entering the country and Jews across the world are up in arms. “What about us?!” is a common refrain. Many complain that it just isn’t fair to prevent Jews from visiting Israel, their “homeland.” Regardless of whether or not they live in Israel, Jews should always have the right to come and go as they please, they assert. The point many in the Diaspora fail to appreciate, however, is the fact that they have chosen not to live in Israel and as such, they can not expect to have the same rights as Israelis. While those of us who live in Israel can, to a limited degree, come and go as we please, the restrictions placed on non-Israelis in this regard are far more stringent. In short, tourists must go through hoops to get permission to visit. The Law of Return gives every Jew and his or her descendants the right to live in Israel. In fact, a person only needs one Jewish grandparent to make Israel their home. Those who choose not to exercise this right cannot expect to have the same rights as those who have made the often difficult choice to up sticks, leave their families and friends and come and live here. It’s never easy to make that choice and actually put it into practice. There’s never a “right time” to make Aliyah and sacrifices inevitably have to be made by those who do. The army beckons for families who make Aliyah with children, for example. Parents make the move knowing that the best years of their children’s lives will be given over to defending the state. A very high price to pay, on any view.

New careers also have to be forged, leading to financial hardship for many who would otherwise have had the good fortune to lead a very comfortable existence in the Diaspora. Then there are all of the other practicalities, such as the language, housing, schooling and finding a community.

The whole process is exhausting. Even the most successful Aliyah is fraught with difficulties. For some, supporting Israel while maintaining their comfortable, familiar existence in the Diaspora is the more attractive option. There are those who even make it their life’s work to support Israel in whichever way they can, while never actually making a permanent home here. Of course everyone is free to choose whether or not to make Aliyah, however, those who do not, should not expect to be afforded the same rights and opportunities as those who do. It is those who vote with their feet by coming to live here who ultimately are responsible for ensuring that there will always be a safe haven for all Jews; a country where any Jew who wishes, is welcome to become a citizen. Thus, it is somewhat misguided for Jews in the Diaspora to moan and bleat about not being able to visit Israel as tourists. To say that they should have the same rights as Israeli citizens to enter the country is ludicrous. For almost two years we have all had to live with restrictions on our movement. Many have been forced to miss family smachot and other special occasions, such as a wedding or the birth of a grandchild. Others, sadly, have missed the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones as was the case with my own family when my father-in-law passed away in Manchester two months ago. The pandemic has left its mark on us all in one way or another and we must adapt to the situation as best we can.

For some, it has highlighted things that had, in days gone by, been taken for granted. Visiting Israel is one of them. Now that her doors are firmly shut to the outside world, including those who have family here, discontent is growing.

Of course, this is not an ideal situation for anyone and will hopefully be short lived. In the meantime, however, to those who choose to remain on the outside, while beating a path to our door, I say this: you do in fact have the key to open it. Whether you choose to turn that key by making Aliyah is up to you. Andrea Samuels, December 15, 2021

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