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Author Expresses Anger At Jews Who Do Not Live In Israel; Many Believe Aliyah Is Now Over

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May-June 1997

Expressing anger at Jews who do not leave their homes and move to Israel, Hillel Halkin, an essayist and translator, writes in Commentary (June 1997) that if Israel ever ceased to exist he would want Jews elsewhere also to come to an end.  

While discussing the revival of Jewish life in Eastern Europe with a friend, Halkin writes, "I found myself remarking heatedly that Jews living in America were one thing, but deliberately to start Jewish life all over again in a part of the world where Jews had been reviled and massacred for centuries -- the only word I could think of for it was shameful. ‘Well,’ someone said with the cheerful Israeli cynicism that passes for humor in these parts, ‘when we are all dead from Arab nerve gas, you’ll be happy there are Jews in other places.’ That was too much for me. ‘If we’re going to be dead here, I’d rather they were dead there, too,’ I said."  

Halkin continues: "On the way home, my wife remarked, ‘That was a terrible thing to say. I hope you didn’t mean it.’ I thought about that. Did I mean it? Yes, I meant it. Not literally, I’m not that vengeful. But if Israel should ever go under -- and I do not find it inconceivable -- I would not want the Diaspora to continue. I would not want there to be any more Jews in the world . . ."  

The cover story of The Jerusalem Report (July 24, 1997) is titled "The End Of Aliyah." Authors David Horovitz and Vince Beiser write that, "The centennial of Zionism, ironically, seems to be coinciding with the end of aliyah. Aliyah appeared to be dying even a decade ago, when Western aliyah was no more than a trickle and draconian exit restrictions prevented hundreds of thousands of would-be Soviet emigrants from realizing their dream. The Gorbachev era and the end of Communism changed that picture dramatically: almost 800,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union have made their homes in Israel within the past 10 years. But now that last major reservoir of ‘distressed’ Jewry is emptying out . . ."  

Israeli leaders continue to promote emigration from the U.S. Avraham Burg, head of the Jewish Agency, the quasi-governmental body charged with promoting emigration to Israel, "definitely" foresees 50,000 Western Jews a year moving to Israel.  

According to The Jerusalem Report, " . . . staff within the Agency-World Zionist Organization deride such talk as absurd. The current rate of immigration from the U.S. barely tops an annual 2,000 . . . Far from being baffled or troubled as to why this number is so low, ‘we’re actually quite surprised that it’s as high as it is,’ says one official. ‘It’s such a dramatic change of lifestyle to come here from the West. Our feeling is almost, and I really don’t like to say this, that there must be something wrong with an American family that wants to come and live here, certainly if they’re not extremely religiously or politically driven.’ American Jewish officials also ridicule the notion of a huge upsurge in Western aliyah . . ."  

Political scientist Yehezkel Dror, author of a new book Refounding Zionism, rejects the idea of an end to the Diaspora and argues that, "There have always been many streams of Zionism. Now, we are rejecting parts of classical Zionism which negated the Diaspora, and highlighting those parts relating to the survival and thriving of the Jewish people as a whole."  

Menachem Brinker, a Hebrew University professor of Hebrew literature and Judaic studies, says that an end to aliyah marks an end to Zionism itself: "Ben-Gurion put it best. ‘Only those who make aliyah are Zionists. The rest are just friends of Israel.’ Pro-Zionists, yes. But not Zionists. When the last Jews who feel they would be better off in Israel make aliyah, Zionism will be over and the connection between Israel and the Diaspora will fall apart. Aliyah was the link; it’s now disappearing."

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