After greeting 250 new immigrants to Israel from the United States and Canada Tuesday morning, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky told The Times of Israel that not only aren’t there any postponements or cancellations, “We’ve had more new immigrants than missiles.”
While Sharansky may have slightly exaggerated — approximately 2,050 rockets have been fired at Israel since Operation Protective Edge began while 1,500 Diaspora Jews immigrated during the same time period — he said interest in information on aliya, or immigration to Israel, has only increased in the past two weeks of conflict.
Sharansky related how new immigrants at Ben-Gurion Airport told him this morning how meaningful it is for them to be moving to Israel at this time “to join the fighting family.”
“I told them it is even more meaningful for us that you’ve come,” said Sharansky.
There are a few thousand immigrants already “in the pipeline” for this year and some 10,000 scheduled briefings. Aliya, he said, generally takes about six months from Western countries. “This is not an evacuation, like in the recent cases of Ukraine,” he said.
Interest has markedly risen in the Jewish Agency’s “Tsabar” immigration program, earmarked for children of Israelis abroad who wish to join the Israel Defense Forces but open to other young immigrants as well. Sharansky said the current financing cannot meet demand in this program.
On the other hand, relief aid for residents of Israel’s beleaguered south is almost “an open check,” said Sharansky.
The Jewish Agency is daily transporting some 6,000 children on vacation from schools to other parts of the country for respite and relaxation.
“This means a lot of money, but we’ve been given almost an open check from our partners in the Jewish Federations and Keren Hayesod, who have allowed us to act as if there is no doubt that the money will be raised.”
“The feeling of solidarity in the organized Jewish community is very high,” he said.
For unaffiliated Jews, however, the fallout of Operation Protective Edge will be most felt in September, at the start of the university school year.
“We’re expecting huge attacks on campuses,” said Sharansky, who has grown the Israel Fellows program of university emissaries from five to 65 in recent years. He hopes it will soon reach 100 and more.
“The campus is where the real struggle for the hearts and minds of Jews takes place,” he said.
When asked about the upswing of far-left Jewish liberals aligning themselves with anti-Israel causes, he almost chuckled and said, “It’s very Jewish.”
“Jews are so obsessed, and rightly so, with the question of human rights that sometimes they go too far to the other side without knowing they’re becoming allies with the most horrible of dictatorships,” he said.
The former Soviet Prisoner of Zion cited Josef Stalin, who called the Jews who supported his regime (and later fully assimilated) “useful idiots.”
“Those who are confused and make friends with terrorist regimes are useful idiots who are undermining their own people and their own identity,” said Sharansky.
“Jews feeling they need to fight for justice for the Palestinians, who are maybe suffering at the hands of other Jews, are playing into the hands of Hamas,” Sharansky said. It is Hamas’s strategy to show Palestinian suffering to the world, he said. “Hamas would sacrifice one million of its people for this.”