This week we celebrated Yom HaAliyah, a day to commemorate and celebrate Aliyah as a core value of the State of Israel, and honor the ongoing contributions of Olim, Jewish immigrants, to Israeli society.
It is a strange day for many Anglo Olim, because while on one hand, many Anglo immigrants were behind pushing for the creation of this day, on the other, we do not celebrate our contributions to Israel as a community in the way that others do.
While some might bristle at the thought that English-speaking Israelis constitute a community, the first ever survey of the attitudes of Anglos living in Israel undertaken recently by The Anglo Vision, tells us an interesting secret about our community.
The fact is, that the overwhelming majority, three-quarters of respondents to the poll, said they identify as part of the Anglo or English-speaking community, regardless of where they live, the length of time they have been in Israel, or their religious or political beliefs.
This amply demonstrates that we see ourselves as part of a community, and like all communities, it must have a history and its heroes, and we certainly do.
From the earliest days of modern political Zionism, Jews in English-speaking countries were centrally involved in ensuring its success.
Chaim Weizmann moved to the UK in 1904, after being offered the role of senior lecture at the Chemistry Department of the University of Manchester. It was in Manchester that Weizmann met Arthur Balfour, a Member of Parliament for a district in Manchester, during one of his electoral campaigns. Weizmann, with the assistance of others, like Moses Gaster, the spiritual head of the British Sephardi community and vice-president of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, convinced Balfour to support the idea of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel, which he famously later did as Foreign Secretary in 1917.
David "Mickey" Marcus was a United States Army colonel, who went on to become Israel’s first general, because of his vital assistance in restructuring the Haganah, providing the necessary impetus to change the course of the war at crucial moments, resulting in the war being won by the fledgling Jewish State against the odds.
Raised in Wisconsin, Golda Meir,was one of a number of American Zionists, along with Henrietta Szold, Mickey Marcus and Judah Magnes, whose imprint on Zionism and Israel was essential to what the Jewish State has become today.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised in the UK, Abba Eban, also known as Aubrey Evans, used his cosmopolitan upbringing, exceptional oratorical gifts and “Queen’s English” in the service of Israel’s foreign relations which won him the widespread admiration of foreign diplomats and international statesmen.
Chaim Herzog, born in Belfast but raised in Dublin, was another “Anglo” who served Israel with distinction its sixth president, and the list goes on.
Every one of these leaders, planted an indelible footprint on the State of Israel, and each of them and their counterparts in diplomacy, art, culture, military and economics, brought with them their knowledge and experience from their countries of birth or upbringing.
We have much to be proud of as Anglos, and big shoes to fill in continuing to make our mark and contribute to our ancestral homeland.
Anglos have not created ghettos and have in the main tried to integrate as best as possible into the fabric of the country. Many well-known NGOs of the Left, Right, religious and not, were founded or led by Anglos.
English-speaking Israelis continue to contribute to many fields but have never before coalesced our numbers into a potent group that become even greater as a collective rather than a sum of its parts.
As an “Aliyah” in its own right, it is time for the English-speaking community to come together to chart a course which pools our talents and contributions for the betterment of our nation and society.
Yom HaAliyah should be a day of reflection, but also a day of pride and of reflection.
A day to be proud at what all Olim have brought to this country, whether from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe or the Americas.
We came to build the country but also to be built through it.
There is so much that is great and historic about the State of Israel, but it still has many challenges facing it.
Many communities have organized unabashedly to try and press issues of importance to it. The Anglo community in Israel has an opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants, like Weizmann, Meir and Herzog.
We can and should bring our knowledge and experience to make the necessary improvements so we can meet all of the social, political, diplomatic, economic and security challenges that lie in wait in the years ahead.
This is perhaps the best way to celebrate Yom HaAliyah.
The writer is founder of the Anglo Vision and founder and Dean of The Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, an organization dedicated to building Israeli society one community at a time by successfully bringing Diaspora models of community building to Israel. To contact us TheAngloVision@gmail.com