Behind the Headlines Updating the Approach to Aliya

Since assuming his duties in June, as the new director of the Israel Aliya Center, Yeshayahu Tadmor has turned his attention from organizational changes to the task of creating a new atmosphere in which people will regard the notion of aliya as a “legitimate value,” or concept, that people will feel comfortable discussing and seriously considering, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview.

“My major purpose is to encourage aliya by encouraging the philosophy of aliya…and by expanding the option of involvement in Israel through programs in Israel,” he said.

So far, Tadmor has been busy helping to settle the new shlichim (emissaries) in their aliya centers, as 15 of the 29 aliya representatives in North America have been replaced. He said the shlichim serve two years with an option for a third year. There are 17 aliya centers throughout the U.S. and Canada, he said, with an individual shaliach often responsible for five or six states. He said the quality he is looking for in his shichim is the ability to make aliya an active topic of discussion within the community.

Tadmor said he feels the nature of life in America requires a new approach to encouraging aliya. “I can’t expect American Jews to move to Israel in the same mood as people at the beginning of the century, fleeing pogroms, did,” he said. He added: “People now will go for positive reasons, not negative reasons as in the past.”

ALIYA AS A PROCESS

Thus, “Aliya from the U.S. cannot be as in history…(where) you cut all ties to your past. It is a process and should be a process. And we Israelis should understand this,” Tadmor said. “We have to use a different terminology. Some of the terms of historical Zionism are irrelevant to American Jewry.”

He said he regards certain older interpretations of Zionism, such as the notion that all Jews should live in Israel, as “naive.” “Life is more complicated” than that, he said, adding that “We need a strong Jewish community in America, too.” As a result, in America, “We can’t find a background of a philosophy with aliya as the top value.” He added: “We must encourage aliya not only by numbers and figures (of those who actually move to Israel permanently).”

With this understanding, Tadmor said that even more important in judging the effectiveness of the aliya movement than doubling to about 5000 the number of people who make aliya, would be the participation of 10,000 Americans in different programs that would strengthen ties to Israel. Programs typical of this would be: professors on sabbatical being able to teach in Israel; and inviting nurses to work in Israeli hospitals for a certain length of time.

PROGRAMS TO DEVELOP PERMANENT TIES

Although Tadmor encourages family tours of Israel, he said he would like to see more programs whereby families would develop more permanent ties to Israel, whether they be emotional, economic or ideological. “I would like to develop more programs with people coming for three months, six months, a year, or longer,” he said. He added that he would like to see more people invest in Israel, one even make money there, by, for example, setting up a branch of their business there. He also said he would like to see Americans build “second homes” in Israel rather than, for example, Miami.

“This makes aliya because the families and people will get involved. They and their children may want to stay,” he said, adding that even if they don’t the American Jewish community would gain people more knowledgeable about Israel.

Of great concern to Tadmor is keeping track of people who have been to Israel. “A major defect in our system is that we have no contact with the people who went on programs to Israel,” he said. He added that he feels many visitors to Israel develop a “positive conflict” whereby they are struggling within themselves to decide if living in Israel is for them. Asserting that these people are “ignored,” he said: “We must follow the people who went to Israel.”

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