Saturday, June 25

The Relevance of Aliyah to Israel is Questionable

Israel during its formative years was in need of aliyah. Today the situation here is different. Israel has absorbed a mixed bag of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Many of these immigrants had come from dubious backgrounds and their link to the Jewish people is questionable.

Apart from that, many social problems, previously unknown in Israel had come to the fore. Alcoholism, drugs and violence has increased. Education and values are on the decline as society becomes less caring and more materialistic. The youth are losing direction and adolescent violence is reaching proportions previously unknown in Israel.

Israel is not the welfare state that it once was. A capitalist society is incompatible with the welfare state and this is the direction that Israel is moving. The first few years after Israel's establishment, everybody was in the same boat economically. Today we are a society of "haves" and "have-nots". If this trend continues, the successful absorption of new immigrants is at stake.

If I may be cynical for the moment and say that society in Israel is divided into two main groups and each group has their subdivision. These two groups are:

1. The "Combinot".


2. The "Friarim".

The latter usually works for the former and remains subservient less he be replaced and be reduced to an unemployed status. The former usually prospers at the expense of the latter. "Friarim" never die - they are only replaced is an old saying but still rings true.

After spending over 30 years in Israel, and having been through many phases in my relationship with this country, I have concluded that Israeli Society is becoming less caring and considerate. This is reflected in reckless driving and inconsiderate behavior in public places. Bad manners have always been a problem in Israel since its establishment.

Many of the problems, such as salary erosion and not paying salary on time to many sectors of society, is a practice that ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms. Firing of teachers, which will result in the already faltering educational system deteriorating even further, should be a major concern. As it is, we are witnessing adolescent crime and violence that seems to be on the increase. The police are so busy gearing up for disengagement that there is no police force to combat juvenile crime. Family violence - hardly reported a generation ago has become prevalent. Much of it is due to stress. Damage to public and private property is on the rise. Police never catch the culprits. Patrolling police officers, who could act as a crime deterrent, are not there.

We cannot live on idealism alone and Israel, like every country in the world, is no different. Zionism has lost its meaning today and there are remnants of it in armchair and intellectual discussions in the Diaspora. Its relevance in Israel is small.

The immigrants that arrive in Israel come from countries with weak economies and they themselves are poor financially.

Israel is in dire need of professional people, but their salaries are not competitive enough to encourage them to stay. Those who get high salaries are usually people connected with the political hierarchy and are members of a "combina".

Those who make it in Israel are those who come with a big fortune and can invest it to make an even bigger one. One has to be prepared to battle with overdrafts all one's working life, as salaries for professionals are poor.

Another serious problem is the migrant worker. These people come to Israel under various contracts to do much of the work that Israelis dislike. The foreign worker is employed in agriculture and building in Israel. These foreign workers receive poor salaries and their living conditions in many cases are intolerable. They are subjected to harassment by the Immigration Police. There have been many cases of these workers being kept in special prison cells awaiting deportation once their time is up. Some of these workers have children born in Israel and they are separated from their parents in a very cruel fashion because of deportation.

What has happened to Jewish values in Israel? Religion in Israel has become the monopoly of two main groups:

1. The ultra-Orthodox, who have much influence in political deals.

2. The Right wing Zionist National Religious many of whom are extreme in their political outlook and believe in colonization of the occupied territories.

Mainstream moderate Judaism, with its history of tolerance, is not the name of the game in Israel. All these groups have one main aim in common and that is dislike of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism such as the Conservative and Reform movements. Pluralism in Judaism as well as tolerance for those who are different is not part of mainstream Orthodox Judaism as practiced in Israel. These people are paternalistic towards the Arab Community at best or racist at worst.This has resulted in many people becoming estranged and moving towards total secularism. Many of us have no spiritual home in Israel because of establishment Judaism and its practice.

There is a certain emptiness and sadness because the values that we held in the Diaspora have become eroded and has been replaced by a struggle for survival. Israeli-style Orthodox Judaism does not have any common language for many people. It is full of doctrinarism, outmoded rituals and drives many people out of the fold.

Those who decide to come on Aliyah will find that their expectations in the social and religious sphere will be thwarted. They will have to adjust to a rough and ready society, less caring than a generation ago.

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