World Jewish News
Sharansky with Jewish Agency program participants Photo: Courtesy JAFI
Sharansky: ‘Anti-Semitism does not encourage aliya'
“Today in the free world, anti-Semitism does not encourage aliya,” Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Sharansky was responding to a report by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) claiming that between 40 and 50 percent of Jews polled in Belgium, France and Hungary had “considered emigrating from their country of residence because they did not feel safe there.”
According to the report, entitled “European Jewry – Signals and Noise,” there is “no Israeli political determination to set up appropriate structures to ease the professional and educational integration of new immigrants from non-Russian speaking European countries.”
Sharansky believes that anti- Semitism is causing the “younger generation of Jews to distance themselves from Israel” rather than pushing them to move here and said that, as such, the Jewish Agency focuses on the “more positive message” that life is more “interesting and meaningful life in Israel than in any other place.”
“We don’t say to people ‘look around, it’s dangerous where you are – you should make aliya,’” he said.
Sharansky also cited an “increase in the number of people making aliya from France, from Hungary and from other places” as proof that Israel has not fallen down on the job regarding immigration.
According to the JPPI, 50,000 French Jews have come to Israel since 1990 and there may be an additional 20,000-30,000 living here part-time without having accepted citizenship.
Speaking with the Post in Kiev last week, Jewish Agency director-general Alan Hoffman said that Israel is at the end of the “epoch of aliya of rescue.”
“We don’t think that there are more than 60,000 Jews living anywhere in the world today that in some future [situation] could [require to] be rescued,” he told the Post.
As such, the way to bring immigrants to the Jewish state from Europe and elsewhere is to create what he called a “ladder of engagement” in which participation in Jewish summer camps as well as Birthright and Masa programs which bring young Jews to Israel would tighten the connection that they feel with the state.
Without that connection, he said, there can be no expectation of aliya.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry also took issue with the JPPI report’s conclusions.
According to the JPPI, one possible “solution” to the issue of European aliya could be the removal of “bureaucratic barriers, such as those involved in gaining recognition of foreign degrees and professional licenses, and a reexamination of the military enlistment regulations.”
“The ministry is well aware of the issues at hand that Jewish communities have to face abroad,” a spokesman responded.
“The ministry is prepared today to provide varied solutions in a variety of [spheres] in order to absorb new olim in Israel.”
Moreover, the spokesman told the Post, his department is working with the Health and Industry, Trade and Labor Ministries to “assist in all matters regarding professional licensing.
“In general, the ministry is prepared to absorb” Europe’s Jews and is “not scared of the numbers,” he said.
Aliya to Israel was temporarily halted last week as a strike by Foreign Ministry workers has prevented the issuance of new aliya visas.
By SAM SOKOL