The state of Israel and the Diaspora Jewry


The state of Israel will be celebrating 74 years to its establishment and this important historical event is commemorated in most Jewish communities both in Israel and abroad.

The Jewish prophets envisioned the return of the Jewish nation to its homeland from the four corners of the earth but the reality, 74 years into Israel's history, is different. The Jewish people have undergone demographic, social and religious changes over the past century that have led to a host of ideological, cultural and religious views in Israel and outside it. Whereas Jewish communities that have existed for centuries vanished or greatly diminished, new communities were formed and other existing ones greatly expanded. A change is also felt in the Jews' social, economic and political status.

Half of the Jewish nation still lives outside Israel, mostly in North America, and has no intention of relocating. These Jews are in hundreds of well established congregations with synagogues and schools, religious and communal services, and the countries in which they live are the only places they see themselves in.

The majority of Diaspora Jews do not feel as if they are living in exile. They live wherever they are of their own free will and do not perceive themselves as forced to dwell there or inferior to those around them, since, unlike other times throughout history, they can now choose to move to Israel whenever and from anywhere they like. Moreover, their Jewish identity may be kept anywhere, and displayed publicly, and they are free to lead a full Jewish life. They also claim that Israel is not the spiritual center of the Jewish people.

When looking at Diaspora Jewry and its attitude towards the state of Israel one finds that there has been some deterioration in the status and centrality of Israel in the life of Diaspora Jews. It seems that a "New York vs. Jerusalem" trend is evolving for several reasons, some of which are objective while others are subjective. The generation that survived the holocaust and reached North America saw in the establishment of Israel both a practical and emotional event and that dictated the way it felt about Israel in practice. Having survived such atrocities, they perceived their dwelling place as transitory. Their attitude towards Israel was therefore mostly emotional, manifested in generous donations and solidarity with the Jewish homeland mostly as the center of existence for the Jewish people returning from exile. Over the years, however, this attitude has changed, and these days, the third generation of holocaust survivors sees Israel as one more place Jews dwell in, among many others.

This lessened regard for Israel can be felt in several areas, but nowhere as strongly as in the education system, where any learning on Israel and other topics associated with it receives little time. True, many events surrounding Israel such as Independence Day or Jerusalem Day are held in schools and attended by large crowds, but studies on these matters are rare. Hebrew has also lost its former glory. As a language it is studied in very few places, the language spoken by Jews is the local one and even Jewish studies are taught in other languages, as schools hardly teach Hebrew in Hebrew.

Many claim that we are living in a post-Zionist era, mainly since the foundations of Zionism were the need to find a national solution to the Jewish problem. But if this is not true, Zionism is not in any way in a "post" era, but rather in the midst of returning to Zion. Zionism began thousands of years ago, with the Divine command to Abraham Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee, and continued throughout the Jewish people's long history, when Eretz Yisrael was on the lips and in the heart of every Jew around the world.

Zionist sources are based on the writings of great Jewish rabbis and spiritual leaders, and lay leaders who, throughout the generations, have never stopped saying And let our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion, never ceased to hope When will You reign in Zion, speedily in our days You will dwell there forever. It has religious roots and is based on faith in G-d's promise to the Jewish people through our forefather, Unto thy seed have I given this land. Upon the return of the Jewish people to its homeland, we are undergoing a long process, and unfortunately at times a difficult and painful one. We are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance.

Over the pasts since its establishment Israel absorbed to three million ‘Olim’- immigrants from more than 71 countries. Immigrants from western countries, countries of Prosperity and also from the east, especially from the FSU and Ethiopia. This is a tremendous economical Undertaking for a young and developing country. Can you think of a country that absorbed one million immigrants in a period of five years?! What country has done anything of the sort?!

Israel is immensely developed: we have strong economics, and wonderful science institutions, worldwide level of medicine. We have wonderful agriculture, and of course we are known for our high level of high tech.

When we look over the spiritual life in Israel we can also be satisfied. There never have been such a large Jewish prayers and Torah study yesihvot and as we have nowadays in our country. A lot of, people, adults and youngsters are sitting and learning torah.

There are four points in the relationship between the state of Israel and the Diaspora Jewry.

1. The State of Israel is the focal point for Jewish People who live all over the world.

2. In the course of 74 years, the State of Israel has developed in amazing ways, and has attained incredible achievements in all areas: science, medicine, transportation, industry – achievements which no other country has achieved in so short a time. But together with this, due to its unique geopolitical position, the State of Israel must confront issues of its physical security, and is still struggling for its existence. To this end the State must put forth huge financial and human resources. In addition, the State of Israel constitutes the “National Home” of the Jewish People and must meet the challenge of immigrant absorption from all over the world. In the course of the 74 years since its founding, nearly three million people from dozens of countries immigrated to Israel, requiring the State to deal with varied problems of housing, employment and education.

3.the state of Israel is the homeland all Jewish people all over the world and every Jew has the right and the possibility to come and live here.

4. The state of Israel has the commitment and the The Jewish Diaspora is a full partner of what is happening in Israel, and it is out of this deep sense of partnership that it has extended assistance in all areas of development.

At this current crossroads we are faced with the challenge to strengthen Israel's centrality in the life of Diaspora Jews and to maintain their connection with Israel in three areas: (1) through experiences and emotions – sympathy with Israel must be evoked through events and activities; (2) by cognitive means – widening knowledge on the various aspects of Israel: the historical, geographical, social, security and economic; (3) through values - raising awareness to the fact that Israel is the eternal center of the Jewish people while explaining the significance of a national homeland and Israel's role. We must make it clear that the fundamental Zionist principle is that the Jewish people yearned for Eretz Yisrael in every generation, wherever they were. Israel cannot be perceived simply as one more place of residence for Jews; thousands of years of history and tradition in which Israel was the center of Jewish and spiritual living cannot be overlooked. Throughout its existence, Israel has known many glorious moments and plenty of hardships. The Diaspora Jewry must place Israel at the center of Jewish life in the Diaspora and help it continue to base itself and develop.