The Myth of Israel as the home of the Jews gives way to reality
The Myth of Israel as the home of the Jews gives way to reality
Like many Jews I was brought up
on the myth of Israel as the Jews real home. Britain was, at best, our
temporary home. Yet my parents, like
most Jews, have resisted this idea that we should live in Israel.
Israeli propaganda is having less effect today as the reality of an Apartheid Jewish state sinks in
In fact the whole idea of the Jews
‘return’ to Israel is a Christian myth, dating from the era of Oliver
Cromwell. It was born of the age of
colonialism and imperialism. Jewish history
is the history of what is called the Jewish diaspora.
Israel today is the home of Jewish
chauvinism. It has turned the religion
away from a religion of worship of a mythical god into worship of the
land. It has introduce the idea of the
demographic fears of too great an Arab birthrate.
Organisations like Birthright
exist in order to encourage young Jews to visit Israel as a precursor to living
there. All such programmes are racist to
the core. If Israel needs Jewish migrants
why doesn’t it accept the return of the Palestinian refugees?
Israel could, of course, be a Jewish
state, in the same way as Britain is a Christian state. The official religion could be Jewish but the
state would be secular. Like in Britain
no rights or privileges would attach to the fact of being Jewish. But in such a society, Judaism would wither
just as in Britain Christianity withers. Less than a million people attend
church each Sunday.
In Israel what keeps the Jewish religion
going is its harnessing to Jewish nationalism and colonialism. Judaism has
become the religion of conquest and colonisation and in the process has become
little more than a justification for the worst bigotry and racism. That is why we have Jewish rabbis like Shmuel
Eliyahu who justify
the rape of non-Jews in war.
But however slick the PR is most Jews
outside Israel don’t want to come to a chauvinistic and racist hot house. That is why more Jews go from Israel to
America than the other way around.
Below are two articles on the
subject. One from the Mondoweiss site
and the other from the Jerusalem Post.
A promotion by Nefesh b’Nefesh, an Israeli group that promotes aliyah, or Jews moving to Israel. Screenshot.
“Can Israel bring home its 1
million US Expats?” was the headline on an article in
the Jerusalem Post 3 weeks ago; and it has gotten very little attention,
though the article states bluntly that as many as 1 million Israelis are now
living in the U.S.
“[B]etween 750,000 and 1 million Israelis live in the country,” says
Israel’s US Embassy, though others put the figure as low as 200,000.
If you walk around the Upper West Side, you know something’s up, from
the Hebrew you can hear on Broadway; but this is an important story for two
reasons, demographic and spiritual.
First, Israel has long claimed to be a majority Jewish state (as if that
justifies Jews’ higher status). Right
now the numbers of Jews and Palestinians between the river and the sea
are said to be equal, 6.5 million to 6.5 million. If 1 million Jews are living
outside the country– and
the Post article refers to the expats as “Jews” — that means it’s
likely that there are more Palestinians than Jews in the lands over which
Israel is exercising sovereignty.
happy smiling faces can’t disguise the reality of a military occupation
That would mean a Jewish minority ruling a non-Jewish majority under the
aegis of “the Jewish state”: which just seals the deal on the contested
The other reason this story is important is that it shows that for all
the propaganda about Israel being the safest place in the world for Jews, and
Israel being the Jewish “home,” and Jews in Israel
“living the dream,” Jews themselves do not seem to be swayed by the
argument. Israel has never traditionally been the top choice for emigrating
Jews; and it’s not now, either.
“In recent years, Israel has lost more people to the United States than
it has gained,” the article says– by 17,700 to 13,000 over three years.
If our forefathers dreamt of an Israeli passport to escape from Europe,
there are many among us who are now dreaming of a second passport to escape to
He also said the crisis was generated by the fact that Israel hadn’t
figured out its constitutional structure:
If the Palestinian people already had one real passport, maybe the
Israelis wouldn’t need two.
We have heard many anecdotal stories about Israelis leaving, because
they do not see a future in living in a state increasingly isolated from the
world. This article is more evidence of that trend. It deserves a lot more
attention– a 60 Minutes report exposing the claim that Israel is the
safest place for Jews, or some other investigative project on why these
Israelis are leaving. Don’t hold your breath.
Here are four things you ought to know about the Israeli-American
People take part in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, New York May 31, 2015.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
NEW YORK — Six years ago, the Israeli government released a series
of controversial ads to show its expatriates that they would never feel at home
in the United States.
But last year, Israeli Cabinet members lined up to address a
Washington, DC, conference celebrating Israeli-American identity.
The ad campaign, which was pulled
following a backlash from Israelis and Jews abroad, represented Israel’s
traditional attitude toward citizens who left its borders. Emphasizing its
image as the Jewish national homeland — and ever concerned about its
Jewish-Arab demographic balance — Israel’s government has long encouraged Jews
not only to move to Israel but to stay there. In 2014, then-Finance Minister
Yair Lapid called Israelis who moved to Berlin “anti-Zionists.”
But the parade of Israeli
ministers who spoke at the 2016 conference of the Israeli-American Council
attested to a shifting reality: Whether the Israeli government likes it or not,
the Israeli-American diaspora is real, growing and leaving its mark on the
Here are four things to know
about the Israelis who live in the United States.
No one knows how many
Israelis live in the United States — but it could be a million.
There’s no real way to know how
many Israelis are living in the United States. Any first-generation child of
Israelis is considered an Israeli citizen, and Israel can’t force its
expatriates to register with their local consulate.
Estimates of Israelis in America
vary widely — from about 200,000 to as many as a million. According to
statistics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, some 250,000 Israelis
acquired permanent residence in the United States between 1949 (when 98
Israelis left the infant state) to 2015 (which saw about 4,000 Israelis move
stateside). But that number does not chart deaths or Israelis who moved back.
The 2013 Pew Research Forum study
on American Jews found a similar number: About 300,000 Jews in America were
either born in Israel or born to an Israeli parent. In total, Pew found that
first- or second-generation Israelis account for about 5 percent of American
People participate in the “Celebrate
Israel” parade along 5th Ave. in New York City, US, June 4, 2017.
Even the Israeli government
produces two different numbers. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports
that a little more than 500,000 Israelis in total moved abroad from 1990 to
2014 — and nearly 230,000 came back. But Israel’s US Embassy told JTA that
between 750,000 and 1 million Israelis live in the country. Adam Milstein,
chairman of the Israeli-American Council, an umbrella group for Israelis here,
told JTA that includes 400,000 children born to an Israeli parent.
In recent years, Israel has lost
more people to the United States than it has gained. From 2012 to 2015,
according to Homeland Security, 17,770 Israelis took up residence in the United
States. During that span, fewer than 13,000 people made the move from the
United States to Israel.
They are centered in New York
and Los Angeles.
Israelis tend to go where the
Jews are. Milstein estimates that about 250,000 Israelis each live in the Los
Angeles and New York City metro areas, which also boast the two largest Jewish
communities in the United States. Smaller concentrations of Israelis (and Jews)
live in South Florida, Chicago and San Francisco.
Those cities, in turn, have
developed a range of services for their Israeli diasporas. Israel’s Immigrant
Absorption Ministry maintains Israeli Houses in nine American cities that host
cultural events and political activism. The Israeli-American Council has
chapters in 15 cities. And communities boast active Facebook groups: “Israelis
in New York” includes 18,000 members.
The cities also provide ample
opportunities for Israeli culture. Israeli cuisine is a staple of New York’s
restaurant scene, from chef Einat Admony’s mini empire of eateries, to
Dizengoff, an Israeli restaurant with branches in Philadelphia and New York.
Aroma, the iconic Israeli coffee chain, has branches in New York, New Jersey,
Washington, DC, and Miami.
And Israeli musicians — from Idan
Raichel to Shlomo Artzi to Sarit Hadad — are never hard to find on New York’s
concert scene. An adaptation of Israeli novelist David Grossman’s book “To the
End of the Land” opened recently at the the annual Lincoln Center Festival.
They come for education and
Neither the Israeli Embassy nor
the Israeli-American Council tracks why Israelis move to the US, but Milstein
suspects it’s for professional and academic reasons. Israel’s small size means
Israelis with college or advanced degrees often seek to advance their careers
in places with more opportunities abroad.
Israelis “don’t have the roots
[of] someone whose family lived in Italy for 20 generations, or who lived in
America for the last 150 years,” Milstein said. “The Jewish people, the most
valuable asset they have is their brain. They can take their brain[s]
Israel, conversely, has begun to
worry about its “brain drain” recently. A 2013 study by the Taub Center for
Social Policy Studies found that for every 100 Israeli scholars who stayed in
Israel, 29 left for positions abroad in 2008.
The drain is happening in the
tech industry, too: According to the Israeli Executives and Founders Forum, an
Israeli tech association, there are nearly 150 Israeli startups in Silicon
Israel still wants them back.
Israel’s government may have
recognized that it can’t bring back all the Israelis from the United States,
but it’s still trying. The appeal is both emotional and economic.
The 2011 ad campaign, for
example, featured a series of shorts highlighting the Israeli-American cultural
divide. In one, a child of Israelis in America, video chatting with Israeli
grandparents, talks about the upcoming winter holiday of Christmas, not
Hanukkah. In another, an Israeli woman comes home to commemorate Memorial Day
in Israel with a candle — her American boyfriend mistakes it for romantic
More recently, Israel has also
laid out financial incentives to draw expatriates back, including a program set
to launch later this year called “Returning at 70,” a reference to Israel’s
70th Independence Day in 2018. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry will provide
returning Israelis with financial assistance for six months, and will even
cover a portion of their salaries in order to ensure they can find work in
their old-new home. The government is also offering free professional
development courses and consulting.
Israelis who have opened
businesses stateside, meanwhile, will receive about $14,000 for the costs of
relocating the business. And Israelis who move to the country’s underdeveloped
northern and southern regions are eligible for grants as well as loans with low
But Milstein says that even with
these programs, Israeli officials still understand that it’s better to embrace
expatriates than shame them into coming home.
“By trying to raise our guilt
feeling, it backfired,” he said. “The State of Israel is getting to the
realization that [our] being here, they can’t do too much about it. We can help
the State of Israel a lot. They understand we can be their strategic asset.”