This week, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the pre-state organization created to encourage and facilitate Jews’ settlement in their ancestral homeland, announced that it is “refining” its “strategic mission.” According to its chairman, the former Labor-party leader Isaac Herzog, it will now seek to “provide concrete solutions to the greatest challenges facing the Jewish people at this time: mending the rifts among our people, building a two-way bridge between Israel and world Jewry, . . . and providing security for Jews around the world”—as well as “encouraging aliyah.” Ruthie Blum comments:
The only thing really new in this mission lies in its reduced emphasis on immigration to Israel. . . . This subtle yet significant . . . shift in the perception and description of the Jewish Agency’s job has coincided with the evolution of the concept of “Zionism,” . . . now a general term denoting anything from a strong love or political backing for Israel to the wishy-washy, often veiled anti-Israel claim that it has a “right to exist.” So long as it behaves itself, of course.
Long gone are the days when the legendary Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was able to cause Diaspora Jews ill ease—even outright guilt—for remaining in their comfort zone abroad. Passed, too, is the time when Israelis were viewed as traitors for moving to greener pastures in America and Europe, and referred to as such by the likes of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzḥak Rabin.
Ironically, this move away from shaming Jews for not settling or staying in Israel to embracing and strengthening Jewish life in the Diaspora began to take place alongside the re-emergence of anti-Semitism worldwide. . . . Strikingly, whenever a pubic Israeli figure responds to the above by urging Jews to “come home,” or even suggesting that they might, he is chastised for it.
That the Jewish Agency is altering its course somewhat may be unavoidable, particularly in a world that deems “causing offense” to someone practically worthy of the electric chair. But if Herzog imagines that the kind of Israel-Diaspora unity he has in mind will put even the slightest dent in the deep political and ideological rifts at the heart of the divide, he has another think coming.