Despite Bennett's pleas, Western Jews don't want to immigrate to Israel

Opinion: PM's call to bring 500,000 Olim from U.S., France and South America to Israel in the next decade is just another example of how regressive the state is in its views, continuing to ignore tens of thousands of Eastern European Jews who arrive at its shores every year

Liran Friedmann|
Those who wish to understand how Israel truly views the Jewish Diaspora in Eastern Europe can look for a clue in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's opening remarks at Ynet's conference marking Absorption and Immigration Week.
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  • "Our goal is to bring 500,000 Jewish immigrants from the strong communities in the U.S., South America and France," he said.
    2 View gallery
    שיא של עולים חדשים מ ארה"ב
    שיא של עולים חדשים מ ארה"ב
    Jewish immigrants from the U.S. arrive in Israel
    (Photo: Nathaniel Cohen)
    At first, this seems a pretty reasonable objective for a country established by immigrants. Jewish communities in the Western world are very prosperous and talented, and will likely do wonders for Israel.
    However, looking deeper you see a serious problem.
    This is not a plea for these Jews to come along for the ride, but more of a cry for help to save the country from the "onslaught" of Aliyah from Eastern Europe.
    Over the past decade, even after the massive immigration wave from the former Soviet Union in the 90s officially ended, Eastern Europe in general and Russia in particular, continued to massively outrank all other regions when it comes to immigration to Israel. On average, between 19,000 to 25,000 immigrants arrive from that region annually, while Olim from Europe, North and South America barely reach that number combined.
    The reason Israel is not boasting about these numbers can be found in the sentence Bennett said right before presenting the country's new grandiose objective. "Immigration not only strengthens us as a country, but it also maintains our continued existence as Jews in the face of increasing assimilation, especially in the United States. This is a trend that should worry each and every one of us, regardless of one's religious affiliation or another."
    Israel, despite claiming to be the home of all Jews, still continues its racist and segregationist mentality towards the Diaspora from Eastern Europe. Those 20,000 people who immigrate to Israel from Eastern Europe every year are lucky if the state even gives them the courtesy to call themselves Jews.
    Israel continues to protect the outdated and discriminatory "holy and clean Jewish blood" dogma — which has been eradicated from most Jewish communities around the world and even within Israel, with many Jews tying the knot with non-Jews or opting not to marry with the Chief Rabbinate. Instead, holding civil ceremonies to show their love for one another without having the need for a rabbi to ask them if they can prove that their great-great-grandfather on their mother's side was Jewish.
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    ארכיון 1990 עולים מברית המועצות
    ארכיון 1990 עולים מברית המועצות
    Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union at Ben-Gurion Airport in 1990
    (Photo: David Rubinger)
    It is hard to be proud of so many immigrants from Moscow, Tashkent or Minsk, who have done so much for the state but aren't as cool and hip as their Jewish peers from Paris or New York.
    Another issue that Bennett might be ignoring is that maybe French and American Jews do not want to come to Israel because it is so far from what they are used to in their local communities — who are more open and liberal.
    What Bennett fails to understand is that there needs to be a drastic change in how Israel views its Jewish immigrants. Telling Americans and French that it's cool here is not enough. They know too well where they would be headed if they make Aliyah — a country whose bureaucracy and institutions refuse to acknowledge their belief system.
    So, Mr. prime minister, instead of opening your arms wide open to Jeff from Los Angeles or Marie from Toulouse, maybe you should instead give some credit to those "Russkies" who keep coming here — despite this country's establishment wishing they would just stay where they are.
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