Prime minister Sharon has been very free with declarations
of intent in the weeks before he actually took office, and
he has informed us of his goals and plans in many areas. One
of these that is of special interest to most of the English-
speaking Jewish world is the subject of aliya -- moving to
Eretz Yisroel. Sharon has declared that Israel should
undertake as a goal the attraction and absorption of a
million immigrants over the next ten years, with the broader
aim of having a majority of the world's Jews living in
Israel within 20 years.
Sharon is one of the few remaining leaders from the founding
generation of Israel, and his thinking reflects this. At
first, the State was populated by Jewish immigrants: from
war-ravaged Europe, from North Africa, from the Middle East.
Unfortunately, today mass immigration to Israel, and even
mass Jewish immigration, means masses of non-Jews.
The overall numbers of the last great wave of immigrants,
the Russian immigrants of the last decade, show that more
than half were not Jewish. When the figures are broken down
into age groups it becomes clear that the Jewish immigrants
tend to be the older ones so that in the younger age
brackets the immigration was and is 80 percent non-Jewish.
These figures are all based on official statistics. That is,
they rely on the declarations of the incoming people as to
whether on not they are Jewish. More than half of the
current immigrants from the former Soviet Union declare that
they are not Jewish. Informed observers give significantly
higher estimates of the true non-Jewish proportion,
including those who come in with forged documents.
Thus now, any increase in the number of arriving immigrants
for the C.I.S., the source of the massive immigration of the
last ten years, will increase the number of non-Jewish
residents of the Holy Land more than the number of Jewish
The situation in the United States, home to what is
generally acknowledged to be the largest Jewish community in
the world, is not much better, if at all. Anyone with
experience with the Jewish communities outside of the major
concentrations knows well that many who count themselves and
are counted by others as Jews in good standing are not
really Jewish according to halacha. Even today, the American
Jewish community of some five million is really much less
than that -- perhaps no more than half that many halachic
Jews. This applies to many communities throughout the world.
(Incidentally, the proportion of Jews living in Eretz
Yisroel already is thus much higher than generally
Even today almost a million non-Jews live in Eretz Yisroel.
Socially and culturally most of them are not distinguishable
from the rest of the population. As a result they pose a
threat of assimilation aimed at the entire Jewish population
of Eretz Yisroel.
Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein recently issued an order
that new immigrants who are converts to Judaism may no
longer bring their non-Jewish family members into the
country. (The State recognizes all conversions in chutz
la'aretz as valid, with reference to halachic standards.)
This is certainly a welcome move. However, we hope for a
more general recognition of the seriousness of the situation
and a change in policy throughout the government that will
not allow the Ministry of Absorption to function as an agent