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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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Shut Down the Jewish Agency!


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I find myself with mixed emotions this morning. On the one hand, I was greatly inspired and overjoyed to watch the live Jewish Press broadcast of the arrival of happy new olim to Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter. Each one of these new immigrants achieved a towering greatness today in coming to the Promised Land, fulfilling the words of the Torah and the prophets of Israel, to join with their sisters and brothers of Clal Yisrael in transcending their private, egotistical concerns, to join in the rebuilding of the Nation of Israel in its Land, the goal of the Torah and the prayers we have been reciting each day, three times a day, for almost 2000 years. In effect, they have become super Jews. There is no greater achievement than this. While man’s walking on the moon is certainly a wondrous achievement, it is dwarfed in comparison to walking even four or five cubits in the Holy Land. This morning, every one of these new olim became closer to God than Neil Armstrong, even though he traveled tens of thousands of miles through the heavens to reach the moon. Their courage, their pioneer spirit, their love for the Land of Israel, for Torah, and for God, are examples we should all admire and emulate.

On the other hand, I was saddened this morning that only half the airplane was full. Less than 300 Jews out of close to six million! True, other aliyah charter flights will follow this summer, but last year’s total from North America was merely 3000 plus. 3000 out of 6,000,000!! I am not much of a mathematician, but a simple calculator gave me the tragic figure, a rate of aliyah of .0006 percent.

.0006%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been praying to come home to Israel for nearly 2000 years. Every year, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur and the Passover Seder, we say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” God, in His infinite kindness, has given us a Jewish airline, with free tickets, to take us home to a Jewish airport in the miraculously rebuilt Jewish Homeland, and only .0006% of North American Jewry comes on aliyah each year!

Dear friends, in my humble opinion, the Jewish Agency should be closed. Imagine if we were talking about a hospital with a rate of patient survival of .0006%. Or a baseball team with a winning record of .0006%. Obviously, it wouldn’t be long before the hospital closed or the franchise folded.

Make no mistake. I am not criticizing any of the dedicated directors or employees of the Jewish Agency. Certainly, I have nothing but praise for Mr. Sharansky. But the Jewish Agency is obsolete. It is destined to failure so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t urge their students and children and members to go on aliyah. The Jewish Agency is destined for a .0006 success rate so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t teach Jewish youth in the Diaspora that Israel is their only future. The Jewish Agency is destined for a .0006 success rate so long as the Rabbis, and Roshei Yeshivot, and parents, and the heads of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora don’t teach Jewish youth in the Diaspora that the goal of the Torah is to establish a Torah Nation in Eretz Yisrael and that every Jew in the world is obligated to play his and her part in this transcendental mitzvah, blessing, and privilege.

Believe me, the same 3000 plus people would come on aliyah every year, even if the Jewish Agency didn’t exist. It could very well be that even more immigrants would come, without having been turned off and discouraged by hearing Jewish Agency shlichim tell them that they were too old, or too handicapped, or too unemployable. The annual budget of the Sachnut is 320 million dollars. The Israel Ministry of Absorption spends another 360 million (In comparison, the dynamic Nefesh B’Nefesh program has a budget of 20 million). Instead of paying Jewish Agency salaries and empty office rentals around the world, give each new immigrant an outright cash gift and you’ll get more olim by far than you’re getting today with all of the giant bureaucracy and payroll.

But once again – the blame doesn’t lie with the Jewish Agency and its bureaucracy. The fault lies with the leaders of Diaspora Jewry, and with each and every parent, for not encouraging aliyah. The failure lies with Jewish education in the galut for not telling the truth. The directors and shalichim of the Jewish Agency can scream out about aliyah at the top of their lungs, but if Ricky’s and Suzy’s parents don’t want them to be so far away, it’s a losing battle. If Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivot tell their students they can be better Jews in golus, what chance does the Jewish Agency have? If the heads of Diaspora Jewry put the focus on continuing the exile and pouring its billions into strengthening its institutions, it is no wonder that Nefesh B’Nefesh flights are half full.

Make no mistake, my friends. The Diaspora is meant to finish. The exile isn’t supposed to last forever. The exile came as a punishment, and now that the punishment has been delivered, it is time to come home. That’s what the Rabbis, presidents of Jewish organizations, and parents should be teaching instead of trying so hard to be good loyal Jews in foreign gentile lands, where assimilation is devastating our ranks, and where the day isn’t long in coming when the gentiles will once again remind us that we are unwanted guests in their lands.

Yesterday, my wife and I, and two of our younger children, visited our newly married son and his wife in Modiin. The shopping center was packed. Stores were jammed. The food court was so crowded, we had to wait to find a table. What shefa and abundant material blessing! There were mehadrin hamburgers and glatt kosher pizza, Chinese food and felafels, a MacDonald’s and an ice cream stand with 28 flavors. And everyone was Jewish! Everyone! You may read about social protests in Israel, but the economy is booming, thank God! Afterward, we went for a short hike in the woods to the gravesite of the Macabbees, and on the drive back home, we stopped at the tomb of the prophet Samuel, with its stunning, panoramic view of Yerushalayim.

I ask you – what are people waiting for? Mashiach? He’s already here!

To be continued…

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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