On July 6, 1989, Abed al-Hadi Ganaim grabbed the steering wheel of an Egged bus and drove it off the road, murdering 16 people. After the massacre, Rabbi Meir Kahane wrote:
“More Jewish victims within the State of Israel, who make a mockery of the lie and fraud emanating from the Ministry of Tourism, travel bureaus and cynically deceitful Jewish leaders who babble about how much safer it is in Israel than in Harlem.”
Rabbi Kahane’s comments resonate – both because Israel is once again experiencing a wave of terror and because, as Professor Moshe Koppel has written, “many religious Zionists have evolved into what seem to be earnest caricatures: more Zionist than the Zionists….”
In promoting aliyah, these religious Zionists – usually olim – bash Jews who live in chutz la’aretz and misrepresent the degree of security in Israel. Indeed, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, once referred to “the rejoicing you encounter among certain staunch advocates of aliya every time they read about a murder in Brooklyn or Long Beach; they make sure to republish it in their newspaper in large type.”
Replace “newspaper” with “Facebook page” and his remark could have been made yesterday.
These people not only smugly post about anti-Semitic crimes in diaspora countries; they also tend to falsely portray conditions in Israel. “Come…to a land that is safe for Jews,” one blogger wrote, addressing French Jews in January 2015, telling them to leave France “now.”
She made these remarks just two weeks before a terrorist went on a stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv and soon after a mother in Israel described Jewish children in her home city of Lod being “attacked with curses and physical violence…cases that sound like they were taken from 1939 Austria.”
Ironically, just a few months ago, that same blogger wrote, “As I drove to the gas station, I saw a balloon floating in the air. Normal people would think, ‘oh, that poor child lost his/her balloon.’ In Israel, the heart races just a bit. Instead of turning right to enter the gas station, I drove forward and made a left. Careful to drive on the road and not off it, I kept looking at the floating balloon, and more, at the string dangling from it.”
Some olim, however, act as if these threats and attacks don’t exist. “Much safer in Israel than the US,” one of them wrote online on August 8 right before summer camp activities and other events were canceled in various parts of Israel due to terror attacks. Where else in the world do anti-Semites throw rocks at Jewish motorists and buses on what seems like a daily basis?
In a lecture to overseas students in 1998, Rabbi Lichtenstein remarked concerning aliya, “Historically, Klal Yisrael has always been bound up with Eretz Yisrael. These are our roots, and ultimately, this is our future.” That is why people should make aliya – not because Israel is a safer country. Empirically, it isn’t.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook observes in Orot, “Anything that has to do with Israel is not limited to it, but is just concentrated in Israel, and this core influences the rest.” If advocates of aliya truly care about anti-Semitic violence in the diaspora, they should focus on eradicating anti-Semitic violence in Israel.