Photo Credit: Composit images from Wikimedia
Map of Israel with flag superimposed

Tzvi Fishman is probably best known for his popular novel “Tevye in the Promised Land” and for the commentaries on the teachings of Rabbi Kook which he wrote with Rabbi David Samson. In almost all of his twenty books, the ingathering of the exiles is a central theme, whether in Tevye’s dramatic journey to Eretz Yisrael or in the teachings of Rabbi Kook. 

Tzvi Fishman

Therefore it is not surprising that Tzvi was a main organizer of last week’s “Emergency Aliyah Conference” in Jerusalem. During the four-hour gathering, Aliyah activists dealing with Latin America, France, England, Belgium, Russian, Ukraine, Canada and the United States described the challenges facing those Diaspora communities since October 7 and the outbreak of the war with Hamas. Representatives of some twenty Facebook groups dedicated to helping olim were also present.  


“Why is the subject of Aliyah an emergency?” I asked Fishman. 

“For two reasons,” he answered. “First the anti-Semitism throughout the Diaspora is increasing each day. As long as Israel must defend itself against its enemies, the anti-Semitism will become more and more violent as we have witnessed in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. A scenario could arise where for political reasons European countries and even the United States could cancel all air travel to Israel including El Al flights. If an emergency situation like this happens, how will the Jews escape? Does the Government of Israel have a plan to evacuate them? And if, God willing, the millions of Jews of the Diaspora wake up from their denial and begin making Aliyah in droves, where will we house them?  In tent cities? Is the Ministry of Aliyah and Klita developing solutions for this? We have to formulate strategies now.” 

“Could it be that your years in Hollywood as a screenwriter have led your imagination to dream up this fantasy?” I asked. 

“It is no more imaginary than Hamas’s attack on Israel on Simchat Torah. Who dreamed about such a horror? We were caught completely off guard. So too in the case of mass Aliyah. We have to make plans now.”  

Another organizer of the conference, Joshua Wander, just came back from a fact-finding mission to New York where he spoke to hundreds of Jews. “Unfortunately, they are still living a fairytale that everything will turn out OK in the end, allowing them to continue living the ‘good life,’ in exile,” Wander says. “I countered their denial, telling them that the “footsteps of Mashiach” were becoming quicker each day just as Hashem and the Prophets of Israel all promised. It may happen this month or perhaps in another year or two, but the end of the exile is coming, and it looks like it isn’t going to unfold in a pleasant manner. I encouraged the Jews I met to begin making their Aliyah plans today – to have their birth certificates and a letter from a Rabbi in their valises confirming that they were Jews. But most of the people I spoke to merely shrugged and told me that I was crazy.”  

Fishman says the other reason behind the Emergency Aliyah Conference is to pressure the Israeli Government to promote Aliyah in a far more widespread and inspiring fashion.  

“A large group of Aliyah activists believe that the official Aliyah agencies are not doing enough to bring Jews home to Israel. During the Shalom HaGalil War in Lebanon, when I was just starting to become a baal tshuva, Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, of blessed memory, and Meir Indor came to New York to recruit America Jews to help out on army bases during the war. Inspired by their passionate enthusiasm for Israel, I signed up to help. But instead of shipping me off on the first flight, the charismatic Israeli recruiters (who set up their headquarters in the old The Jewish Press building in Brooklyn) asked me to remain in New York to run the emergency recruitment campaign which became Sarel.   

The organization continues to bring volunteers to Israel from all over the Diaspora, a great many of whom have made Aliyah. Since Indor and HaRav Hazani didn’t have a budget to pay me, they arranged for me to work in the Public Relations department of the Israel Aliyah Center of the Jewish Agency in New York which handled Aliyah from North America long before Nefesh b’Nefesh was created in 2002. In 1983, decades before the hi-tech explosion in Israel and long before Israel developed into a world leader in all fields with a booming economy, we sent 3806 new olim to Israel. The only time Nefesh B’Nefesh reached that number was in 2021, almost 40 years later, due to the Corona scare. For most of its 22 years of operation, Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought around 2500 – 3000 new olim to Israel each year. That’s .06 percent of North American Jewry. Not even a drop in the bucket. This summer, they are bringing 2500 new olim from North America, but it’s the same 2500 who would come every year whether there was an official Aliyah agency or not. This dismal situation demands a thorough analysis. I am not putting the blame on Nefesh B’Nefesh and its dedicated team. They work hard and merit a big yasher koach. The sad fact is that until today Diaspora Jews from the West have not wanted to give up the prosperity and religious freedom which they enjoy in America. The Aliyah activists who attended the emergency conference feel that the government’s Aliyah outreach is not inspiring and aggressive enough. The various agencies are far too soft on Diaspora Jewry. Like many other things in Israel the Aliyah conception needs to be changed. It must be made clear that there is one and only one true home for the Jews. Today, the Master of the World is bursting the bubble of Diaspora Jewry with the global outbreak of Jew hatred, forcing Diaspora Jews to rethink their future. To have a real and immediate impact on the decision to make Aliyah we want to send 100 spirited shlichim, “Aliyah Commandos,” filled with optimism and faith, to America to fifty Jewish communities to help the Jews wake up – especially the young Jews in their last year of high school and those in American colleges where they are literally under siege. Hopefully, Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Jewish Agency will pick up the tab and make this rescue operation possible.” 

Joshua Wander relates: “My meeting with Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of America’s leading Halachic authorities,  was an important part of our Aliyah Commando tour in New York. I spoke to him about a disturbing phenomenon which is prevalent among American Rabbi’s today – the reluctance to speak publicly about  Aliyah. Many excuses are given for their hesitancy, including feeling hypocritical telling their congregants and followers to make Aliyah when they themselves are still living outside of the Land. Others don’t want to upset their boards of directors, or they find it difficult to promote Aliyah and then try to raise millions of dollars to build a new synagogue. Rabbi Schachter was clear that just like Rabbis have an obligation to speak to their communities about all aspects of religious affairs, Shabbat, Kashrut etc. they likewise have an obligation to speak about the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael and they shouldn’t neglect to speak about it at the pulpit. Hopefully his words will resonate amongst the thousands of American communal Rabbis to whom he has granted Rabbinic Ordination and give them necessary courage to speak up about this unfortunately sensitive subject.” [The video link of Rav Hershel Schachter on the Role of a Rabbi Regarding Aliyah can be seen here:] 

I asked Tzvi Fishman why the need to change the Law of Return was given center stage at the conference.    

“Over half of the new immigrants to Israel today are not Jewish,” he revealed based on figures recently published by the Israel Bureau of Statistics. “That’s why we invited Knesset Member Simcha Rothman to the conference to speak about the need to delete the ‘grandfather clause’ from the Law of Return whereby a non-Jew can become a citizen of Israel if he or she had a Jewish grandfather. Because of the great numbers of immigrants from Russia and the Ukraine this is bringing a demographic disaster upon Israel leading to increasing intermarriage and a weakening of the Jewish Identity of the State.”  

Prisoners of Zion Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich.

Former Prisoner of Zion, HaRav Yosef Mendelevich, told the conference attendees: “In my day the cry was ‘Let my People go’ Today, throughout the Diaspora, the Jewish leadership cries out, ‘Let my People stay!’ The Jews of the Diaspora are prisoners like I was but at least I could see the bars. They don’t realize that they are trapped by a prison of materialism. ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ has become a slogan lacking real yearning. That’s why we have to do whatever we can to open their eyes.”  

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleSuspect Arrested for Vandalizing Kosher Miami Bagel Shop
Next articleIDF’s Netzach Yehuda Battalion Marches with New Torah from Gaza Border to Erez Base Synagogue
David Bannister is the creator of “Aliyah Magazine” and the show “Aliyah Time” on Israel National News. Today he is the CEO of which provides a platform for pro-Israel activists, encouraging the strengthening of bonds between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora