by Doreet Freedman
Dov Gruner, Abba Kovner, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin to name a mere few, thoughtfully and passionately put their lives in danger, more times than they could count, for the simple notion of establishing a Jewish homeland. At the time, the War of Independence – 1948, this mission of a Jewish state was one that was beyond emotion and beyond passion. It was a necessity for the survival of the Jewish people and it was worth dying for.
In no simple fashion, our defenders succeeded and the modern state of Israel was born. Now, Israel was growing and offering a home, both religious and nationalistic, to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants in search for a new life. This Jewish homecoming was a tremendous step for Zionist passion; however, in a matter of a few short decades, that passionate Zionism that created the state of Israel and propelled Israel to become a player in the world began to fizzle.
For many decades following Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence, this Aliyah was an Aliyah of departure, of escape. Many of the early waves of immigrants to Israel consisted of Jews fleeing their home countries to a nascent State that struggled and sacrificed to absorb them. Yet the fledgling nation saw a moral imperative and essential duty in assisting and integrating these impoverished refugees who became the backbone of Israeli society.
The resurgence of passionate Aliyah
For many years, Israel mastered the absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrant refugees but was unsuccessful at integrating the majority of North American Olim leaving behind comfortable lives, who represented an Aliyah “of choice”.
Israel has always been a country of innovation and creativity fostering novel ideas and new business models, and now more than ever is taking leaping developments in Science & Medicine; Education; Community & Nonprofit; Entrepreneurship & Technology; Culture, Sports & Art; IDF & National Service Young Leadership. The reality is such that Israel has evolved from a country of exiles to a magnet for excellence. Today, there is a new passion in Israel, and it is a direct result to recent Aliyah trends.
With its successes, Israel has benefited from the contributions of a new driven, passionate and inspired Oleh, who is on a mission to serve as an ambassador to Israel as innovator, creator and educator. The passion with which they view Israel as the driving factor for their mission is the key to success of the ‘new Oleh’. Since 2002, North American Aliyah numbers double and the retention rate stands at 96%. People are staying because they are happy and successfully integrated and the results speak for themselves. Aliyah impacts far more than just demography: it is Israel’s life blood, providing human resources to fuel economic growth and to benefit Israel’s social capital. This happiness creates success.
One day doesn’t capture the enthusiasm for Israel, so what are we celebrating when we march down 5th Ave in New York for the Israeli Day Parade or dance in the streets this Yom Yerushalayim? Sustainable success through happiness, purpose and connection to our Jewish homeland, our commitment to continue in Israel’s growth and our contribution of each of our own unique strengths and talents towards building a stronger Jewish nation.
Doreet Freedman, part of the founding team of Nefesh B’Nefesh, serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships, broadening the scope of the organization’s flagship programs: The ‘Lone Soldier Aliyah Program’, The ‘Physician Aliyah Fellowship’, and the ‘Go North’ and ‘Go South’ initiatives, each of which address Israel’s core national interests.