This article appears in this week’s Jewish Press. On that note, I would like American Jews who believe they and their communities are perfectly safe to consider the following:
If a Jew is driving somewhere in America and accidentally hits someone, and that person happens to have brown skin, what do you think will happen?
Should you use scare tactics to encourage aliya?
Many advocates for mass aliya, myself among them, have been hammering galus Jews in recent months that life in exile is going to become increasingly inhospitable, to say the least. This prediction has been on the mark, and it takes a dreamer to argue that the situation will reverse itself. The destabilization of America, the epicenter of galus Jewry, is real. It’s not going back to the way it used to be. The good times are over.
Some people have pushed back that using “scare tactics” to encourage aliya is inappropriate. Purists argue that we should only encourage aliya for idealistic reasons, not to run away from danger. Others claim that this angle is ineffective, because Israelis face their own dangers and difficulties. Still others bristle at being preached to, and believe the only appropriate message for galus Jews in distress is empathy.
All of these arguments have an element of truth, but they are off the mark. Using scare tactics to encourage aliya is entirely appropriate, for the following reasons:
1) It’s pikuach nefesh. Those who have been warning galus Jews cannot be dismissed anymore as fear-mongers. With each passing day they are increasingly being proven to be the voice of reason, while those who pooh-pooh the dangers are demonstrating lack of responsibility. If galus Jews hear more voices of reason from across the spectrum, all coming to the same conclusion independent of one another and without any bias or profit motive, they will start to take the message more seriously. The dangers are real, the warnings are necessary, and lives are at stake. We need to be blunt.
2) Mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma. Of course we should emphasize the idealistic reasons for aliya, independent of what I call the gashmiyus comparison test. Warning about the dangers of remaining in galus is not contradictory to the idealistic reasons, but supplementary. The fact is that the vast majority of Jews who are swayed by the idealistic reasons are already in Israel. The ones who are still in galus, for the most part, think of Israel as “very nice, but not for me.” Continuing to push the idealism button is not going to move them; they are not idealists. It’s time to push different buttons.
3) God is using scare tactics, too. We know this. It is deeply rooted in Torah that when Jews get too comfortable in galus, and thereby lose sight of the big picture, God removes the chesed of sweetening the galus to bring them back to reality. God wants the Jews to pine for Israel and make aliya. He too pushed the idealism button for several generations, and is now turning to other methods to bring out people’s inner Zionist. It’s entirely appropriate to give words to the message God is clearly sending.
4) It doesn’t really matter why they come. Again, in a perfect world, all Jews would pine to make aliya and actively strive to do so regardless of the comforts in galus or lack thereof. So what? The early Zionists did not come with pure Jewish ideals. We’re still glad they came and built the land. The post-Holocaust generation did not come to Israel because the Torah inspired them. We’re still glad they built new lives here while continuing to build the land. If all the Jews in the world decided to come tomorrow to flee danger, we would celebrate the complete return of our people, not mourn their imperfect motives. That’s the bottom line.
For all these reasons, the debate on the merits of scare tactics is not relevant. It might have been relevant before the dangers were clear and present, when it mattered more which buttons we tried to press. Right now, we have to do whatever works. If scare tactics will wake up more Jews who are still in denial, or give that extra push to those who need it, then it behooves us to use them – just as God is using them.