There about 6.5 million Jews living in each of Israel and the USA, and another two million in the rest of the world. As everyone knows, the great Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, the Muslim world and Russia have declined precipitously as a result of the Holocaust, expulsions and voluntary emigration.
In some places, like the UK, Sweden, France, Poland and Venezuela, Jews who had no problem with diaspora life a short time ago are discovering that their neighbors (in the case of the UK, Sweden and France, we are particularly talking about their new Muslim neighbors) are not as friendly as they previously thought.
Good riddance to those places, many say. And I agree. In fact, in light of recent developments, I have decided to change my general recommendation about aliyah to Israel. In the past, my view has been that you should make aliyah only if you find yourself driven by love for the idea of a Jewish state, or if your life or well-being are endangered by Jew-hatred.
My new advice is this: if you are a Jew and not an anti-Zionist (either the religious or leftist kind), then it is past time for you to make aliyah.
Right now some of you are saying that you are perfectly happy in London or Los Angeles and I have no right to tell you what to do. That’s true, but I’m doing it anyway.
Here are some reasons to not make aliyah: if you are middle class, your standard of living will probably decline. If you live in the US now, you will almost certainly end up with less living space. If you are young you will have to do military service, and if you are older your children will. If you are a professional like a doctor, lawyer or architect, you will have to jump through hoops to be permitted to practice your profession in Israel. Unless you are lucky enough to have a Jewish education, you will have to learn the Hebrew language starting from zero. There will probably be a war here within the next couple of years, during which rockets will hit our cities.
I could go on, but you get the idea. So why am I urging that you make aliyah? Two reasons:
One is that I care about the survival of the Jewish people as a people, and I am convinced that this depends on the survival of the Jewish state. And the Jewish state needs you. We need your Jewish DNA, we need you and your children to be soldiers, and we need your children and their children to give birth to more Jews. This is the place to do it, the place in which it will be most likely that they will remain Jews.
Let me interject a short true story: I knew a man in California that I will call Avraham. Avraham was a survivor of the camps and an artist. His wife and children and other relatives had all been murdered by the Nazis. Only Hashem knows how he managed to survive. In America he painted pictures of destroyed synagogues that he remembered from before, married a nice (non-Jewish) Mexican woman and had numerous children. “This is my answer to the Nazis,” he said. When he died and was buried, I went to a big party at his house in his honor. I looked around, and there was his big Mexican family. Not one of his children or his wife had wanted to convert to Judaism or had the slightest interest in it. There was absolutely nothing Jewish left except his paintings and some incomprehensible books that the family would give away. So much for his answer to the Nazis.
The other reason is that the diaspora is coming apart. Europe’s Islamification is proceeding apace, and will either make countries like France or the UK as inhospitable to Jews as Iraq is today, or give rise to a bloody civil struggle, like in Syria. Do you want to live – do you want your children to live – in an Iraq or a Syria?
America is another, different story. Although I wouldn’t try to predict what will happen there as a result of its crazy politics and growing social unrest, one thing that I can be sure of is that the non-Orthodox community is hemorrhaging Jews. More than half are intermarried, and the ones that aren’t are having children at a rate way below what is required to maintain a stable population. Many are drifting off into a totally secular condition, where all that is left of their Jewishness is nostalgia for “Jewish food.” Many of them, formerly traditional pro-Israel Jewish liberals, have become political progressives and adopted the conventional wisdom of the Left, which sees Israel as the villain in the Mideast conflict. This is the lost generation of American Jews, and most of them are lost forever. Those who still crave some connection to either Judaism or the Jewish people might or might not find it in Israel – but they certainly won’t find it in America.
Orthodox American Jews do have more stable communities, but the demise of the “lost generation” will leave them a tiny minority in an increasingly hostile gentile society. What progressives call tolerance and diversity, things that should theoretically make the lives of all minorities better, are actually forms of identity politics in which Jews, especially visible Jews, are the losers. Clearly, the writing is on the wall.
And despite all of the things on my list above about why aliyah and living in Israel can be hard, the fact is that Israelis, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report, are happier than the great majority of people in the world, coming in 13th out of 156 countries (the US only made 19th place). Israelis prove it by having children: even secular people have 3-4 children, and religious families even more. There is something special here. In my opinion, it is a sense of national purpose that no longer exists in France, for example (in 24th place).
If you are Jewish, not anti-Zionist (members of Neturei Karta, Jewish Voice for Peace, or If Not Now are excluded from my invitation), then start thinking seriously about aliyah. The world is changing – maybe faster than you expect.
Update [12 July 2019]: I’ve replaced a bad link to the 2017 World Happiness Report with one to the latest (2019) version, and adjusted the numbers in the text. Israel is now 13th instead of 11th, and the US has fallen from 14th to 19th. France, surprisingly, rose all the way from 44th to 24th. None of these changes affect my overall point.