Promoting Immigration Is a Central Tenet of Zionism

January 18, 2022 | Michael Oren
About the author: Michael Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a member of the Knesset, and a deputy minister for diplomacy, is the author of the forthcoming Swann’s War.

“The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles,” reads the Israeli declaration of independence. Yet, drawing on his experience sitting on the Knesset’s Aliyah and Absorption Committee, Michael Oren argues that the Jewish state isn’t doing enough to encourage and facilitate Jews to settle in its borders. He writes:

Miraculously, it would seem, in the throes of the coronavirus and in the face of continuing terrorist attacks, aliyah from the North America climbed last year by an astonishing 31 percent. The increase reflects several factors, among them expanding employment opportunities in Israel, especially in high-tech, and the relative strength of the Israeli economy. The major cause, though, is anti-Semitism. The sharp rise in Jew-hatred both from the right and the left has convinced a growing number of American and European Jews that their only secure future lies in the Jewish state.

Olim from countries such as France, Belgium, and the United States, over half of whom are young and educated, bring both skills and capital to the country. Within a year, on average, their economic contributions more than pay the costs of their absorption. The 18,000 Americans who made aliyah between 2002 and 2008, for example, brought in more than a billion shekels. Olim improve medical and educational standards in Israel, enrich our cultural life, and defend our borders.

Yet, far beyond the professional, educational, and military benefits brought by olim, aliyah was and remains a central Zionist tenet. Without it, we are in danger of devolving into just another developed country concerned only with sealing its borders to immigrants. Precisely at a time of rampant anti-Semitism, Israel will fail to fulfill its primary historical mission of providing shelter for oppressed Jews worldwide. . . . Aliyah is not just immigration but part of the moral underpinning—the raison d’être—of our state.

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