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April 22, 1988 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ISRAEL AT 40

Going Up

The `Ingathering of the Exiles' is taking longer
than was expected 40 years ago

KIMBERLY LIFTON

Staff Writer

IM

elvin and Etta Mermell
plan to retire in Israel, and
they know exactly where
they want to live when
they get there.
The Mermells, who decided to make
aliyah after their first visit to Israel 18
years ago, want to make their home in
'Ibl Aviv in an old renovated building on
Hayarkon Street facing the Mediterra-
nean Sea.
"It's a great location. It will be such
a great thing to be surrounded every
day by our own people," Mrs. Mermell
says. "You can't compare it with any
other country, any other place, any
other setting. I never had any idea there
could be a life like that."
Family and business ties have kept
the couple in Detroit until now. But the
Mermells, married for 51 years, have
traveled to Israel 26 times and hope to
make the move soon. Their son, Mar-
shall, and grandson, Matan, already
live there.
The Mermells are one of 50 families
in the metropolitan Detroit area who
belong to the local Chug Aliyah, a sup-
port group for potential olim, which
meets once a month.
Aliyah, a Hebrew word which
literally means going up, denotes more
than just immigrating to Israel. It
signifies a moral and spiritual
elevation.
Yet such staunch Zionists as the
Mermells who believe all Jews must
support Israel and make aliyah — are
only a minority in the United States.
Zionism and the expected "Ingathering
of the Exiles" to Israel, says Yefet Ozery,
Detroit's community shaliach, have not
materialized as Theodor Herzl and
other founding fathers intended.
Today, some Jews in the Diaspora
have redefined Zionism to mean work-

ing for the State of Israel's continued
existence.
Most Jews today, Ozery explains,
don't feel the need to make aliyah
because they are prosperous and don't
confront persecution and discrimina-
tion as Jews did when the modern
Zionist movement began in the 1880s.
"Most Jewish communities
throughout the world are not facing the
kinds of troubles they had 100 years
ago," he says.
lb date, about 70,000 Americans
have made aliyah, including 1,000
Michigan natives. Ozery estimates that
of the 14 million Jews in the world,
roughly 3.6 million live in Israel. About
5.5 million Jews live in the United
States.
As Jews around the world begin
celebrating the 40th anniversary of
Israel's independence, some are ques-
tioning the success of the Zionist
movement.
While immigration to Israel re-
mains at a steady trickle, more Jews are
leaving the Jewish state each year. An
estimated half-million Israelis have
opted for life in the Diaspora.
"You can't judge whether aliyah
succeeded or failed by 40 years," Ozery
explains. "We still hope that in the corn-
ing generation, most Jews will gather
in Israel."
The concept of Zionism to many
Jews, he says, is as an ideal rather than
a reality. But, he stresses, an increase
from 650,000 original Israel residents
in 1948 to 3.6 million today is a tremen-
dous achievement.
"We are making good progress,"
Ozery says, adding that the Israeli
government provides incentives to at-
tract more olim.
Some incentives are:
• Any Jew moving to Israel is entitl-
ed to automatic citizenship
• Tax breaks for three years
• Moving costs up to 70 percent

• Job placement assistance
• Better interest rates on home
loans
• Up to six months free residence in
an absorption center.
Traditional Zionists argue that the
emancipation of Jews in the modern era
has led to an increase in intermarriage
and assimilation into a secular society.
They say entire generations of Jews
eventually will disappear, and that
someday, all Jewish people will be in
Israel.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Welfare
Federation of Detroit is planning to set
up an emergency loan fund to support
olim, Ozery says. The fund, to be corn-
prised initially of $15,000, is pending
Federation approval.
Two years ago, the Detroit Federa-
tion became the first such Jewish agen-
cy in the country to voice public support
for olim. Now, discussions are under
way to create an aliyah council to help
Michigan Jews who wish to make a
move to Israel.
It's the first time ever that' the
Federation has offered financial support
for olim.
"Federations, and ours in par-
ticular, will be more in the forefront of
encouraging, facilitating and helping to
fund the settlement of Jews in Israel
from our community," says Dr. Conrad
Giles, Federation president.
Giles says the Federation has only
recently begun supporting aliyah
because the current generation
recognizes its importance.
"Twenty years ago, Jewish educa-
tion was low on the agenda. And as
Jewish education has become a high
agenda item, so, too, will aliyah."
Previously, Ozery says, many Jews
in the United States felt threatened by
Zionism — fearing that all Jews would
go to Israel, leaving none here.
But, Ozery says, "In recent years,
people have realized that it is not a
threat."

Traditional Zionists argue that
the emancipation of Jews in
the modern era has led to an
increase in intermarriage and
assimilation into a secular
society. They say entire
generations of Jews
eventually will disappear, and
that someday, all Jewish
people will be in Israel.

THE FOURTH DECADE

MUNICH MASSACRE: Arab
terrorism against Israeli
civilians increased in the
1970s, symbolized by the
murder of Israeli athletes
during the 1972 Olympic
Games in Munich.

YOM KIPPUR WAR: The Arab states, led by Egypt, launched a war against Israel on Yom
Kippur, 1973. Israel suffered heavy casualties before pushing back the Arab armies and
controlling the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights. Shown here, a roadside religious service
on the fateful Yom Kippur day.

32

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 1988

ENTEBBE RESCUE: On July 3, 1976, Israeli forces
swooped into Uganda to rescue more than a
hundred Jewish hostages being held by Arab
terrorists. Shown here, the tumultuous
homecoming.

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