Israel to continue to urge Europe’s Jews to immigrate after terrorist attacks, envoy says

Cnaan Liphshiz

BUDVA, Montenegro (JTA) – Despite protests by some European Jews, Israel will continue its policy of urging them to immigrate to it after terrorist attacks, Israel’s ambassador to Macedonia said.

Ambassador Dan Oryan said this during the Mahar conference on the Jewry of the former Yugoslavia region what was organized earlier this month in the Balkan nation of Montenegro with support from the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.

A defiant Oryan promised this in an intervention he made in the speech of Menachem Margolin, director of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, who had condemned the controversial habit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his cabinet of urging Jews to immigrate to Israel from European countries that had just been hit with massive terrorist attacks.

In January 2015, he made such a call following a massacre perpetrated by Islamists at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, which was quickly followed by the murder of four Jews at a local kosher supermarket.

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“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement. Days later, then French President said, in what was widely perceived as a disapproving reply to Netanyahu:  “You, French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home. France is your country.”

Such calls by Israel have angered many French Jews, who perceived the call as reinforcing stereotypes of dual loyalty and cynical or insensitive at a time of national mourning. Revisiting them in his address, Margolin said they were “counterproductive.”

But Oryan defended them, saying: “From the prime minister you hear a lot of these calls, especially after terrorist attacks and it will continue – with good reason. If the Holocaust victims had somewhere to go as they do today, had they had a prime minister calling them, saying: ‘This is where you need to go,’ then they would have been able to lead a full Jewish life.”

A strong Israel, Oryan added, “is the only thing that will guarantee that Jews can continue to enjoy such good life in Europe. I don’t agree that we should not call them, we should call all the Jews if they are ready and if it’s good for them a strong Israel that tells them: there is another option.”

Oryan’s statement came at a time of growing tensions between Israel and some leaders of US Jews over the implementation in Israel of the chief rabbinate’s strict interpretation of Jewish laws and the government’s refusal to implement a compromise between Reform Jews and Orthodox at the Western Wall, which would increases the space devoted to egalitarian prayer at the holy space.

These tensions came to a head this week, following Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s assertion that US Jews “never send their children to fight for their country” and that “most of them are having quite convenient lives.” These observations by Hotovely, she suggested, should be taken into account when considering criticism by US Jews of Israel.

Hotovely on Thursday apologized to anyone offended by her statements.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in  a statement called on Netanyahu to remove Hotovely from her position.