Dusty old plans stored at the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency and its affiliates are being revived. Everyone is ready to welcome the big wave of immigrants expected to move to Israel following the terrorist attacks in France and Denmark. No country in Europe is safe for Jews anymore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, not forgetting of course to remind these future refugees that the continent remains “that same old Europe.”
Actually, not only the Jews of Europe aren't safe. The Jews of Israel have a hard time being convinced that their haven can face up to the threats in the region that Netanyahu warns them of daily. But let's assume that thousands of Jews do decide to abandon their businesses, studies, homes and livelihoods and board rescue flights to Ben-Gurion International Airport. What will they find here?
They'll see right-wing videos portraying the Israeli left as Nazi collaborators out to destroy the country. They'll learn how fortunate they are not to have come here as refugees from Eritrea or Sudan, or even as Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia.
Jews who have suffered European anti-Semitism will trade it in for Israeli racism. They'll discover they've become citizens of an occupying country, the occupation that has contributed to that same anti-Semitism that made them pack their bags in the first place.
And here are two other facts that European Jews should be aware of. Israel's murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, while in France it’s 1 per 100,000 and in Denmark 0.8. Last year, 27 people were killed in terror attacks here. In France and Denmark not a single person was.
The situation in Europe could worsen, but in Israel the risk that the situation could worsen is far greater. If European Jews come to Israel immediately, they can vote in the March 17 election and support the person who promised them a safe haven and invited them to immigrate, or more accurately ordered them to.
True, quickly enough they'll discover that their safety isn't subject to the whims of the Islamic State or Al-Qaida, and they won’t suffer murderous manifestations of anti-Semitism. But to be real Israelis, they'll have to adapt to the Israeli depression and the constant fear of war or mass destruction — or both.
Of course, Jews from Europe can respond to all this with the question: “If things are so bad in Israel, why do you Israelis stay?” The answer is implied in the question: We are Israelis. Our identity is dictated to us. Hebrew isn't only our language, it's our culture. Our solidarity is limited to ourselves; our collective memory as Israelis isn't shared.
That is, there are Palestinians in Israel, but they're the enemy at the moment. The anger that some of us feel isn't directed at the country but rather at the country’s leaders, the ones who distort the national identity and dip it in racist-religious acid. We're proudly surviving with the help of the saying “We survived Pharaoh and we’ll survive this.” Survival rather than quality of life is the linchpin of our identity.
You, the Jews of Europe, were taught to demand quality of life. In Israel, anyone seeking quality of life like that in Berlin is considered a traitor. And please don’t confuse Israeliness with Jewishness. Israelis don’t go crazy for foreigners even if they're Jewish. Just ask the Russians. About 150,000 of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union have left.
And ask the Ethiopians, the Bukharans and the Kurds, who decades after arriving are still identified by where they came from. Of course, you're entitled to immigrate, and of course you'll receive a warm welcome at the airport. But remember that Israel hastily swallows its immigrants. It doesn't digest them.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now