Israelis say they love the idea of aliyah – that is, Jewish immigrants coming to Israel and making their lives here. But the reality falls far short of the ideal. Most recently, that came across in a scene at Georgia’s Tbilisi airport in the waning days of the short Russian-Georgian War. According to this report in Haaretz, Israelis seeking to leave Georgia ahead of the conflict verbally attacked Israeli ambassador to Georgia Yitzhak Gerber with complaints that Georgians were boarding the flight to Israel ahead of them. It didn’t help him, Haaretz reported, to say that the Georgians were Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live abroad, primarily in the U.S., but also in the U.K., France, Russia, and elsewhere. This article talks about how modern Israeli Jews can live outside the Holy Land and still retain their identity.
And in another development in this area, the Jewish Agency has formally privatized the job of directing aliyah from North America to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the six-year-old Florida-based group that has reenergized American aliyah. This article in the Jerusalem Post makes a startling assertion after saying that the Jewish Agency has come to understand that Nefesh B’Nefesh understands the unique character of American Jewry and its aliyah needs better than the hoary Israeli bureaucracy:
A similar realization has been growing in the halls of power in Israel in recent months, a recognition that Israel faces an American Jewish world that is independent and culturally distinct.
In response to this realization, the government has launched new programs and announced new “paradigms” for its relationship with this enormous component of the Diaspora.
Hartman Institute’s Donniel Hartman has taken this issue even further in many recent commentaries and essays. He says not only must Israelis look at their American Jewish cousins differently, but Americans must get over their fairyland view of Israel, as well. If the Jewish Agency-Nefesh B’Nefesh deal is one step in that direction, then the situation may truly be on the verge of improvement.