The unwanted mass influx of African immigrants threatens to overwhelm the Jewishness of Israel
By MOSHE GIT
When the Jews didn’t have a state of their own and just were scattered about, the presence of gentiles around them wasn’t an existential threat. They simply didn’t consider gentiles as members of their Jewish social and religious communities.
All of this changed when the State of Israel was created. In the beginning, things didn’t really differ much — the non-Jews in Israel were mostly Arabs, they stayed put in their villages and didn’t take part in the Jewish community’s social life. However, during the last few decades, Israel has been witnessing an influx of foreigners that is threatening to alter the fabric of Israeli Jewish society.
Israel has been accepting immigrant workers to complement its own work force. The immigrants’ Israeli-born children, who go through the state’s educational system, have Hebrew as their first language and have Jewish kids as friends. They know no other life than that of Israel.
In addition to those “foreign workers,” there are about half a million non-Jews from the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel under the liberal Law of Return. That law allows many non-Jews who happen to have a Jewish relative to immigrate to Israel.
Then there are the “infiltrators,” a brand-new phenomenon. It began less than a decade ago and has now reached alarming proportions.
Hundreds of Africans infiltrate Israel daily through its land border with Egypt. Conservative estimates put their present total at more than 65,000. Just recently, a group of Chinese job-seekers followed the Africans. Israel is now concerned that its border with Jordan will become just as unmanageable.
Although it is complimentary to Israel that many regard it as a haven, the sheer number of non-Jews who are attempting to settle there raises a concern about the preservation of the Jewish character of the Jewish state.
In the present confusion, many hurried plans to counter the influx have been proposed, such as building a fence between Egypt and Israel (on which work has already begun), expelling newcomers back to their home countries, paying third countries to accept those would-be immigrants, and penalizing employers that offer them jobs. But it appears that those plans can’t and won’t provide a true solution to the problem, much as all U.S. attempts at interdicting illegal immigration from Mexico have failed.
The bulk of the immigrants to Israel are there to stay.
Since there is profound concern about the dilution of the Jewishness of Israel, and since from its inception tiny Israel has been fearful of being gobbled up by the Arab masses surrounding it, I propose a solution: Let Israel convert those foreigners to Judaism. It is a radical solution; especially since Judaism allows conversion but admits converts very gingerly. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
Josephus relates that the Hasmoneans went so far as to forcibly convert Edomites to Judaism. In the biblical book of Esther we learn that after Haman’s designs were foiled, a multitude of gentiles converted to Judaism spontaneously.
In Jewish legend it is accepted that during the Middle Ages the majority of the Khazar nation willingly converted, and that the remaining minority were forced by their brethren to follow suit. According to Jewish tradition, even the original core of Jews — those who left Egypt at the time of the Exodus — had a trail of non-Jews join them.
Judaism incorporates special measures to take care of special or extraordinary circumstances. At times, these measures even override explicit Torah directives to the contrary. Since the future of a Jewish Israel is presently at stake, it is time for Judaism to consider pulling from its arsenal some of those measures and applying them.
It is likely that the number of immigrants resisting conversion will be small. Minority groups have generally tended to adopt the customs of the dominant society and tried to assimilate.
Israel stands now at a fork in the road: It can proceed towards becoming an undemocratic, unstable, apartheid-like society, or towards forming a greater and stronger Jewish society that will be more able to withstand threats from the outside.
Moshe Git lives in Minnetonka.
(American Jewish World, 6.22.12)
This is an interesting read. They can easily convert the immigrants to Jewish but it would be interesting to watch how long they will stay united and fight as one. Thanks for sharing.