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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
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Shut Down the Jewish Agency!


Fly Israel

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…

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." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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14 Responses to “Shut Down the Jewish Agency!”

  1. Adam Cailler says:

    Really? They can only work with those who choose to take the leap into Aliyah. Not everyone can afford to just give up what they have wherever they currently reside and move to another country. You're being very narrow minded and short sighted in your outlook on this. The JT do great work, but can only do so much. You can't force people to make Aliyah.

  2. Pninah Means Millson Mason says:

    One of the problems with the agency and NBN is that they look for young professional Jews to make aliyah. They do not want a Jew who is in their 50's-60's, they do not want a disabled Jew, they do not want a Jew who is not a doctor, lawyer, computer geek, and they do not want a Jew who does not have a substantial savings account. I have heard many horror stories of experiences of attempting to make aliyah through the Jewish Agency/NBN.

  3. Bet Tefillah says:

    Tzvi makes a good point… We as the now older generation of Jews and the younger generations that are right behind us MUST teach that the purpose of our existence is the service of G-d and that G-d Himself commanded us to live in Israel. He is also correct that the diaspora is not supposed to last forever. The prophets tell us that we will see the exiles return before our own eyes. This is what is happening right now. As to American Jewry, we have become so Americanized that we sometimes forget to put the emPHasis on the correct SYllabLE. We need to change our focus from what can we do today for our communities in America to how can we move these communities to Israel. Israel is the land that G-d Swore to our forefathers It is the place where the Beis HaMikdash will once again be. It is the place where mitzvot of G-d have meaning and the only way to fulfill our obligation to G-d is through the performance of His commandments, many many many of which CANNOT be fulfilled anywhere else on earth. Therefore it is our duty and the holiest of mitzvot to teach our young and convince our elderly that Israel is the one and only true home of the Jewish people and we must make it a priority to get ourselves there. That will mean the end of the diaspora and we will have stopped wondering. May it come speedily along with the rebuilding of the Temple on the Mount of Olives. Amen

  4. Anonymous says:

    European Jews are flocking to Israel. And you know why. The same things will soon happen in North America. And the aliyah will begin. Better to avoid the crowds and start planning now.

  5. Liad Bar-el says:

    I understand fully what you're saying. IMO, Tzvi, even if EL AL had only ONE Jew on the plane making Aliyah, it would be worth every dollar, every effort and all the time it took to make it happen.

  6. Liad Bar-el says:

    Pninah, you are right. I can say also that the Israeli government could be more supportive of those who are in their 50's-60's, disabled and unskilled; however, just as a leaf of a tree does not fall without G-d's approval, so to these restrictions are being placed on Aliyah making it harder to accomplish. In this sense, could we say that the doors of Aliyah are slowly closing?

  7. Pninah Means Millson Mason says:

    Liad Bar-el, you could say that. But then we could also say that HaShem will keep some Jews in the diaspora to come and rebuild and pick up the pieces in Israel after HaShem deals with Israel and the abominations that have been allowed to exist in His land. There are consequences coming. Even our prophets knew that.

  8. Liad Bar-el says:

    Adam, I am very sure that Tzvi does not want the Jewish Agency to be closed. Tzvi’s point is that the American Rabbis, Jewish Institutions, parents and others are not educating the children properly so as to help them understand the great religious value of Aliyah and so that they will then “choose to take the leap into Aliyah.” This is a very astute concept and very broad minded.

    “Not everyone can afford to just give up what they have ….” Adam, if everyone would understand the extreme importance to their souls of making Aliyah, they would afford to give up what they have and more. The Aliyah stories of what people gave up to make Aliyah are overwhelming and this in and of itself makes Aliyah more meaningful. I gave up a lot to make Aliyah and it was worth every sacrifice.

    The need for a spiritual Aliyah is what is needed to be learned and worked for, not the financial aspects of Aliyah for “the person who has $100 will want $200”, etc, etc. Pnina made a good comment about NBN wanting only doctors, etc; however, I have worked with doctors in high tech. I was in administration and they were in the assembly lines far away from medicine. They wanted to make Aliyah at all costs. Once they will become practicing doctors, their salaries will not be much different and probably lower than high tech administrators. What I’m trying to say is that there will be sacrifices at every level of life and that is the way it should be…to follow in the steps of Avraham Avenu who also was willing to make great sacrifices to come close to HaShem.

    I hope you have great success in your work at the UJIA.

  9. Liad Bar-el says:

    Humble sacrifices are what make Aliyah successful, IMO. As in days of old when sacrifices were made to Hashem so too today HaShem says that it is we who need the sacrifices not Hashem. Psalm 50:8-13 states that He has no need of the sacrifices that He rebukes us about them. For if there was any possibility that He required offerings, He would not require us to bring them, since the world and its fullness belong to Him. Nor is He flesh and blood to require food and drink. It is rather to subdue our hearts that He has commanded us in days of old and today to bring/make the sacrifices. Learning this humbleness of heart is a daily experience in Israel and it is very much worth it for one feels closer to Hashem.

  10. Josh Berkman says:

    With great respect for Mr. Fishman, "screaming out about aliyah" is precisely what we at The Jewish Agency are not doing. We also know that lecturing people about their Torah obligations is as much of a non-starter in a pluralistic Jewish world as writing that "ego" is motivating Jews who don't choose to leave their jobs and families.

    In the Galut, we must compete with an infinite array of channels and options for Jews to find meaning in their lives. Aliyah is a process that begins at a young age, where personal connections to the Jewish people and Israel can be strengthened over time.

    Please take a few minutes to read my piece recently published by the Jerusalem Post to understand how we are investing in the long game.

    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=275494

  11. Emet Sheva says:

    TZVI – THE USUAL TREAT TO NESHAMA TO READ THIS. Thank you! May our nation come come "bemeheira be yameynu" and may we see rebulding of Beit Hakidash me and you and all of us together…. Amen!

  12. Very well spoken….would expect nothing less from you.

  13. Josh Berkman says:

    Thanks, dude. Great to hear from you.

  14. Isaac Keil says:

    .0006% is not a fair number, because each year more people come. Therefore that number increases. A baseball players batting average, is an average. This.0006% is just not. And guess what, if everyone came at once, Israel would not be able to support it. The language would almost certainly become more english then hebrew, so it is best for thousands to come each year and learn hebrew and integrate. I think this article is silly and I don't know why it was written. The Jewish Agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh are amazing organizations.

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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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