By Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar
One hundred years of practical Zionism and more than seventy years of statehood have proven that Zionism embodies a tremendous economic stimulus for the Jewish people. A government choice to continue the Zionist strategy that characterized the Jewish people over recent decades will constitute the basis for continued economic development that will steadily intensify in the future.
Even without citing the prophetic verses of redemption, one can certainly assert that the Land of Israel has warmly welcomed the returning Jewish people. The land’s warm welcome is manifest in agriculture, industry, hi-tech, medicine, and countless other areas. If only we continue to adopt the ways of the Zionist return of the people to its land, we will receive an exponentially greater return from the yield of the land and from the yield of the ingathering of the exiles to it. We will see how, “always the eyes of the Lord your God are upon the land of Israel, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:13).
In order to reinvigorate the Zionist process, which, to date, has produced so much good for the Jewish people, the Israeli government must adopt a clear Zionist, nationalist policy in a variety of areas. The government must return to the momentum of immigration and absorption, It must not be hesitant to proudly call for the accelerated immigration of the quarter-million Jews who, according to the estimate of the chairman of the Jewish Agency, are already now seeking to immigrate to Israel, and to the many others who will come in their wake.
There is no room for concern regarding the reactions of regimes and governments to the Israeli call to Jews to return home to the Land of Israel. Preparations must include the reduction of bureaucracy, the construction of tens of thousands of housing units for the new olim (immigrants), the provision of an appropriate basket of absorption benefits, while at the same time preparing the hearts and minds of the residents of Zion for the challenge facing us, the warm, generous, and enthusiastic absorption of the multitudes of the house of Israel.
During this period, we must, to a certain extent and for a while, place our global aspirations on the back burner. Although these aspirations of reforming the world order [tikkun olam] and serving as a beacon to the nations, are fundamental to Judaism, at this point, it is incumbent upon us to focus on nationalism. It is only by means of focusing on ourselves that will we be able to illuminate the world. We cannot skip this stage. We cannot expect that a people that does not appreciate its essence and does not invest in it will have the ability to stand as a lighthouse for the nations.
In the framework of preparations for the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Israel must expand the borders of its sovereignty. The reference is not to the expansion of borders in the framework of the occupation of foreign territory to which it is not entitled, but rather by strengthening its sovereignty in territories that have belonged to it for thousands of years: Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley. These areas must be included in the national outline plan, Tama 35, and must not remain areas that are not planned, areas of sovereign neglect. First, action must be taken regarding the territories classified as Area C that include 60% of the land of Judea and Samaria, which have a sparse Arab population. 100,000 Arabs who reside in these areas will not negatively affect the demographic balance, especially in light of the forthcoming Jewish Aliya (immigration).
This application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will enable the re-zoning of hundreds of thousands of acres for construction in the country’s center. Development, housing, and industry in the eastern part of the country’s center, will inevitably lead to a drop in housing costs in Greater Tel Aviv. In order to intelligently implement these steps, the Israeli government must extend transportation lines, roads, and trains across the breadth of the land, and develop industrial areas and unique historical tourist sites on the mountain ridge and in the Jordan Valley. These steps will bolster the people’s connection to the cradle of its civilization, and will lead to a substantive clarification of the meaning of our presence here as a nation, which will also fulfill our destiny as a beacon and a paradigm for the nations.
An additional Zionist value to which it is important to return and thereby integrate a Zionist mission and a flourishing economy, is the value of Jewish labor. The painful public demonstrations express genuine distress; however, there are also limitations to the state budget. Attempts to draw comparisons to what is transpiring in other countries are not serious. Every country has its own resources and its unique challenges, and the resources of the State of Israel are liable to be exhausted if we continue to squeeze dry its economic lemon.
It is incumbent upon the State of Israel to clearly and unambiguously call upon the citizens of Israel to consume Israeli products and to encourage Jewish labor, to vacation and hike in Israel, thereby bolstering the tourism, hotel, and associated sectors. The national responsibility of every Israeli citizen mandates a change in our way of life. This is not the time for the luxury of international flights, for frequent visits to theaters and restaurants, as it was in the past. True, this requires sacrifice; however, relative to the sacrifice of the founding fathers, who dried the swamps and built the land and who caused the wilderness to flourish, this sacrifice is negligible.
In accordance with present needs, it is necessary to make arrangements for career retraining courses. Israeli workers will replace foreign workers in hospitals, pharmacies, and the nursing, agricultural, and cleaning professions. Jewish labor per se is a fundamental value of the Zionist vision.
Beyond all these, we must be imbued with a spirit of unity. In his speeches during the first wave of the pandemic, the Prime Minister emphasized the value of unity. During the coalition negotiations, the Alternate Prime Minister, Benny Gantz, absorbed much abuse, but restrained himself in the name of the value of unity. It is now incumbent upon the Prime Minister and the government ministers to display that same spirit of unity that will radiate from top to bottom.
Mutual empathy between Netanyahu and Gantz, cooperation between ministers and ministries, cooperation between members of Knesset from different parties on behalf of the people and the State and frustrating the attempts of media concerns to foment, to divide, and to incite struggles and battles within the government. All these are necessary steps in order to lead the people in its entirety to act on the basis of the value of unity, and to internalize the enormity of the emergency situation in the midst of which we find ourselves.
This time of emergency requires an appropriate Zionist response that will restore the people to the path of unity and a stable economy, a path of Zionist values in which the Jewish people excelled throughout the years, and especially during the years of its struggle for existence. We knew how to consolidate against a physical enemy that came to destroy us, we must also consolidate against an invisible enemy in the form of a virus whose influences on the Israeli economy and society are liable to be, God forbid, catastrophic. To that purpose, the people expects to lift its eyes and encounter at the top level of its leadership, a leadership that is humble, Zionist, and satisfied with less, which is fitting for our wonderful people and its latent abilities, which are revealed in times of crisis, during which the people will “rise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion” (Numbers 23:24).