Respect for the olim who do so much for Israel

As an olah herself, Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll recognises the contribution that immigrants to Israel make to society and politics. And thinks Israel-born Israelis should too

January 14, 2019 12:18

"Caroline Glick? Really Naftali and Ayelet? You really think that there is some electoral force to the always-amusing sub-stream of scattered Isramericans that came here from their homeland — where there’s doubt if they would have gotten a job that doesn’t include the question ‘Do you want chips with that?’”

So tweeted Yediot Achronot reporter, Raanan Shaked last week, deriding Bennet and Shaked’s decision to add Caroline Glick, an American immigrant to their new political party. Never mind that Glick has degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities, served in the IDF, and worked on the Oslo negotiations team. He hates her politics, so he felt comfortable smearing her and her compatriots.

He later clarified his thoughts: “American and Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel are mostly excellent people, Zionists, and make significant and necessary contributions to the state…” And here, he is right.

Anglo olim, as English-speaking immigrants are called, are but 3.75% of the Israeli population, yet, disproportionately lead social change.

Perhaps it’s our values. Perhaps olim aren’t afraid of challenge. Perhaps it’s a desire to make Israel what we want it to be. Whatever it is, the number of Anglos making changes and innovations, is inspiring. There are far too many to name in one column but I will present a few whom I know personally or have encountered in my own advocacy work.

Let’s start with the late Dr David Applebaum, (US): He founded TEREM, now a network of stand alone immediate care clinics, making emergent medical care more accessible to millions of Israelis. He was killed, along with his daughter Nava, in a suicide bombing in 2003.

Yonatan Bendheim (US) created Lakita, a platform that helps Israel’s public school teachers find and fund tools to bring their innovative educational ideas to life in the classroom. He is also involved in programmes focused on economic development for East Jerusalem residents.

Joseph Gitler, (US) founded Leket Israel, which in 2018 rescued 37,000,000 lbs of food and donated it to more than 175,000 needy people weekly. Daniel Goldman, (UK) chairs Gesher, which, funded by another oleh (US) Rabbi Daniel Tropper in 1970, brings Israelis of different stripes together, building a more cohesive society. Goldman has also initiated several key social programs focusing on the successful integration of Charedim into Israeli life.

Rabbanit Chana Henkin, (US) co-created the Yoetzet Halacha program for women advisors in certain areas of Jewish law. Malki and Kalman Klein, (Canada) established Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, which runs round-the-clock programmes for 2,000 individuals.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, (US) created an entire network of schools and institutions that strengthen the moderate religious camp with new opportunities for women, exploding their influence on religious life. Nachman Rosenberg, (US) ensured equal rights and government funding for Shabbat observant athletes, and launched a breakthrough project to file civil lawsuits against Charedi institutions that enable sexual abuse.

Sara Siemiatycki, (US) founded Bishvilaych, the first and only woman-to-woman NGO in Israel focused on preventive medical care.

Beth Steinberg and Miriam Avraham, (US) founded Shutaf, an innovative, informal-education program for children, teen and young people, with and without disabilities.

Susan Weiss, (US) founded the Centre for Women’s Justice, which uses civil tort cases to collect damages for women refused a divorce, establishing that such refusals are no longer a religious right but a civil wrong.

I would be remiss to omit Moshe Arens, who passed away this week. A US oleh, Arens made critical contributions to Israel’s security and foreign policy. A former Defence and Foreign Minister, he was crucial in developing Israel Aircraft Industries, a key foundation of Israel’s security.

This list is a but a smattering of the dedicated Anglo olim who work every day to improve Israeli society. We can be found in peace initiatives, education innovations, social justice battles, hi-tech, environmental activism, building schools and building bridges.

Far from being unable to “get jobs” in the old country, we want to be part of building our new one.


Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and activist

January 14, 2019 12:18

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