The Back-Forth Phenomenon

Jews leaving, Jews coming - what is the balance?What other effect could the Iranian nuclear threat have if Israel does not do something about it?

Giulio Meotti

OpEds giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

In Hebrew it is called "yerida". Emigration. Descent.

It's the opposite of "aliyah", ascent.

It's Israel's unpublicized phenomenon.

A study at Bar Ilan University now says that 100.000 Israelis have received a German passport in the last couple of years. "It's the largest group of Germans abroad," said Emmanuel Nahson, deputy head of the Israeli mission in Berlin.

In the course of history we had rarely seen a similar group of Jews who were ready to uproot themselves from home. The expats, yordim, are considered more or less as enemies of the state.

Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called them "a bunch of wimps".

Is potential emigration one of the less known effects of the Iranian nuclear race?

Under German law passed in 1949, every Jew or a descendant of Jews who left Nazi Germany has the right to become a German citizen. The Jewish population of Berlin has risen from 6.000 people in 1990 to 50.000 in 2008. Most of those are Israelis.

A 2008 survey by the Jerusalem-based Menachem Begin Heritage Center found that 59 percent of Israelis had approached or intended to approach a foreign embassy to inquire about or apply for citizenship and a passport. Today it is estimated that the figure is approaching 70 percent.

Poland, Romania and Austria have issues 6.000 passports to citizens of Israel. Every year Germany alone released 7.000 passports.

The Israeli government estimates that the 13 percent of the total Israel's population, between 800.000 and 1 million people, already live abroad.

According to the U.S.Census Bureau, the number of Israelis living in the United States has grown by 30 percent since 2000.

Last winter, the Netanyahu government ordered the removal of several government ads displayed in various American cities. The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption's 'Returning Home Project' had placed several video ads and billboards warning Israeli expatriates of the dangers of marrying American Jews.

The ads all finished with the line, “They will always remain Israelis, their children will not".

The inference was clear: most of US Jews are "lost".

U.S. commentator Jeffrey Goldberg denounced and ridiculed the campaign and the Jewish Federations of North America issued a critical statement and sent a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States. The outcry resulted in the the removal of the videos.

That has happened before. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, reacting to anti-Semitic attacks in France, said in 2004 that French aliyah is “a must and they have to move immediately,” people were embarrassed.

But these sentiments have changed. A new exodus from the Diaspora could take place. In the past few years, the number of French Jews immigrating to Israel has doubled. Hundreds of French Jews have bought apartments in Israel. It’s their “pied-a-terre” in case the situation gets darker in Europe.

There is now the possibility of a new alyah from Europe due to horrible antisemitism.

Nearly 80% of European Jews today can be found in France and in the United Kingdom. In both countries, the number of Jews is dramatically falling.

But Israel should still not understimate the threat of yerida. If Iran gets the bomb, Israel could lose entire segments of the population, foreign investments would decrease, wealthy and assimilated families will emigrate, people living abroad will not return, alyah will stop.

It would erode Zionism as we know it.

We could find ourselves witnessing the most serious phenomenon of emigration since the Six Day War, when a joke circulated in Israel that at the airport in Tel Aviv a sign reads: "The last one leaving turns off the lights".

Jews ready to emigrate, persecuted Jews ready to return? Palestinian "refugees" wanting to return?