Activity: Bringing The Jews To Israel

The aim of this exercise is to deepen the students’ examination of the place of Israel in the Jewish world and the state’s responsibility for Jews in the rest of the world.

  • We suggest a simulation game to examine the tension implicit in this issue. Before the game begins, introduce the issue of population in the years immediately following the foundation of the State of Israel. Mention the following points:

The decimation of the Jewish world after the Holocaust.

Zionism’s traditional assumption of responsibility for the Jews of the world.

The worsening situation of Eastern Jewish communities in these years due to the opposition of their governments to zionism.

The pre-state British restrictions on immigration.

The decision of the Israeli government to allow all Jews to come to Israel.

The poverty and material limitations of the young state.

The appalling conditions in the new immigrant camps.

  • After preparing the background, we suggest the following scenario: the scene is a debate within the government in late 1949. The subject of the discussion is the continuation of the organized immigration from Yemen. Over the last 18 months, some 35,000 immigrants have been flown from Yemen in hundreds of airplane flights. All are agreed that the Yemenites are potentially a most desirable population, but the problem is the very high proportion of old and sick that are arriving. The question has been raised whether state resources should not better be spent on developing the country and limiting the rest of the immigration from Yemen to those who can make a productive contribution to the country. All of the members of the class are members of the government. Some should be given special responsibilities as ministers for matters such as finance, economic planning, absorption and immigration, foreign affairs, etc. In addition, one person (you? another teacher?) should play the part of Ben Gurion.
  • As Prime Minister, Ben Gurion should open the discussion by explaining objectively the situation of the young state, the reasons for immigration and the issue of the continuation of the Yemenite airlift.
  • The Minister for Immigration and Absorption should then explain the reasons why some of the staff in his/her ministry believe that the immigration should be selective.
  • Among the points that should be raised are the fact that the Yemenite immigration is undoubtedly a desirable one. However, this community has not had the benefits of modern medicine and, as a result, there is a very large number of sick people, especially among its large elderly population. These sick and elderly people are placing a terrible strain on state resources.
  • A report should now be given on the state of the camps, based on the article from Ha'aretz that appears above. It is clear that the absorption apparatus is breaking down.
  • At this point other ministers (members of the class) should comment, before Ben Gurion continues with an impassioned speech against selective immigration. Ben Gurion should say that the country needs Jews and the Jews need a country; he should explain his point of view.
  • Now divide the class up into discussion groups. Ask each one to formulate a recommendation to the government.
  • After the groups come together again and present their recommendations, they should take a vote.
  • Sum up the issue, with the students now speaking out of role. What is the state’s responsibility for world Jewry? Is it Israel’s responsibility to accept all Jews? How do the students feel about the fact that, in a sense, Israel is taking responsibility for them? Is this a positive or a negative thing? Who gave Israel authority to take responsibility for the world’s Jews?

    You may like to mention that, at the height of the Russian aliyah, a couple of years ago, when the state was finding it difficult - once again - to cope with the enormous numbers of olim, the suggestion was made to limit immigration and to be more selective.


 

 

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11 Dec 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767 0