Mizrachi France’s mission to Israel

A Million Jews on the Way to Jerusalem

BY GAEL GRUNEWALD

When a young journalist in nineteenth-century Europe covered the Dreyfus affair, he was shocked by the blood libel, recognized the antisemitism at play, and envisioned the dangers it leads to. This young Jew understood that the only way for his people to deal with this evil was to establish a state. Within two years, he published The Jewish State. About fifty years later – too late – the State of Israel was established. “A safe haven for the Jewish people,” as he put it.

During its seventy-five years, the State of Israel was called time and time again to defend this mission, and it fought for the right of the Jewish people to live in the Land of Israel. From the day of its founding it has grappled with wars, intifadas, terrorist attacks, withdrawals, and ceaseless attacks – but there was not one day that the State of Israel did not devote its utmost attention to fulfilling this promise.

As a country desiring life, Israel did not remain at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and developed Israel into a prosperous, strong and leading society. The largest Jewish community in the world lives in Israel and lives well. Although antisemitism continues to rear its ugly head throughout the world, here in Israel there is no place where a person is required to hide Jewish symbols in the public domain.

On Shemini Atzeret, the IDF blinked for a moment – and we immediately received a painful reminder of our enemy’s evil desires. In a blackout lasting several hours, they killed, massacred, raped, and kidnapped our families, our sons and daughters.

Images of riots, pogroms and horrors that we remembered through black and white photos on European soil came to life in 4K resolution, here in Israel, before our eyes.

With one difference: the nation of Israel stood up to defend itself.

Wherever this satanic evil came to harm, it met the absolute good – fighting for its life and values. Hundreds of young people left their homes on Shemini Atzeret, getting into their cars and driving south to fight the enemy. Within hours, we drove the enemy back to the trenches from which they came and hundreds of thousands of reservists were standing at the front ready to defend the right of the Jewish people to live in their land.

Within a few hours, the State of Israel responded with all its strength. Our air force, armored corps and infantry have bombarded the enemy non-stop for over two months.

It seems that on the seventh of October, the antisemitic dam was opened all over the world. Demonstrations in support of Hamas are held every week in capitals throughout the world. And many Jewish communities are suffering from unprecedented manifestations of antisemitism. In Los Angeles, a Jew who demonstrated for Israel was killed. In Paris, Jewish homes and shops were marked with stars of David. Jewish students are afraid to go to campuses in the USA. 87% of the respondents who belong to the Jewish community in the Diaspora reported a dramatic decrease in their sense of personal security. Global antisemitism has reared its head again, and the Jewish people bow their heads.

Recently, I was on a lecture tour in France. I visited several cities and gave lectures to thousands of Jews. I have never felt so uncomfortable in France as I did on this last visit. The stories coming from communities around the world leave no doubt. I met a student who says she walks across her college campus with her head down and with quick steps. Children are afraid to go to school alone, and public gatherings have been canceled. In too many places in the world, it is not pleasant to be Jewish in the public square. 

In these places there is no IDF to protect and no IDF to respond.

This war has made more and more Jews sharply aware that their Jewish identity is a significant component of their lives. Judaism is not just an ethnicity. It is a sense of belonging, tradition and values.

These two forces, antisemitism on the one hand and Jewish identity on the other, are together producing the next wave of immigration that is expected to reach Israel in the coming years.

Diaspora Jewry has a seismograph that is particularly sensitive to antisemitic vibrations. The Jews of Europe learned firsthand that the distance from marking Jewish shops to spilling their blood may be shorter than we imagine. Today more than ever, it is clear that the State of Israel was and still is a safe haven for the Jewish people.

The State of Israel has already experienced large waves of increased Aliyah, as we saw after the Six Day War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and other large Aliyot. Six months after this war is over, our fighter planes will be replaced by ElAl planes that will arrive here from all over the world.

A challenge is set before us which is a tremendous opportunity: a million new Jewish immigrants. This is a national mission. This will not be an increase in the number of sporadic families making Aliyah from a community here and a community there. This will be a massive Aliyah of communities, cities and entire countries, an Aliyah that will strengthen society and the economy in Israel.

Gael Grunewald, Yohan Botbol, Isaac Barchichat and Rabbi Avraham Dray, Director of Mizrachi France, visiting Kfar Aza.

Let us examine the Jewish community in South Africa, which these days must recalculate its course. The South African government is considering severing diplomatic relations with Israel. There is no doubt that such a step will further burden Jewish life in an already unsympathetic country. The community is considering its future outside of Africa, in either Israel or Australia. The State of Israel must do everything it can to be the best option for this community and many others that will follow in its footsteps.

To allow this blessed wave of immigration to wash over Israeli cities and towns, the State of Israel must first and foremost mark the issue of absorption as a central goal in the years ahead. We must create different immigration and absorption paths that will be adapted to the needs of these communities and families, modular absorption programs that assist with housing, professions and learning Hebrew. With a focused and smart plan, the government can create an absorption basket that will encourage immigrants to settle in areas of national priority, provide vocational training subsidies, and operate thousands of ulpanim for Hebrew.

The seventh of October was a wake-up call for the people of Israel to stand up to defend themselves. At the same time, the Shemini Atzeret pogrom was also a wake-up call for the Diaspora Jews to arise and immigrate to Israel.

A million Jews going up to Jerusalem…

 

Gael Grunewald is Vice Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Chairman of the Mizrachi faction in the national institutions and head of the education department.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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