Amidst news that, due to the coronavirus, all passengers landing in Israel must enter a 14-day quarantine period, hundreds of flights to Israel have been canceled and El Al, Israel’s flag-carrying airline placed 80% of its workforce on unpaid leave, open access to Israel can no longer be taken for granted.
For tourists, especially those who had trips to Israel planned for the upcoming Passover and Easter seasons, these restrictions are an inconvenience, perhaps even a costly one. The ultimate economic impact on Israel’s tourism industry is just beginning to be felt.
Arguably, the group that stands to lose the most are Jews who do not yet live in Israel.
Breaking Israel News spoke to several well-known advocates of aliyah (immigration to Israel), each of whom spends countless hours encouraging Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.
Josh Wander, founder of the Bring Them Home project calls himself a Redemption Expediter. He told Breaking Israel News, “Perhaps for the first time in recent history, we have a situation in which Jews that are here in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) are not going to leave for Pesach (Passover) and the Jews that are in chutz l’aretz (outside the Land of Israel) are going to say L’shana Haba B’Yerushalyim (Next Year in Jerusalem! – a phrase recited at the end of every Passover seder) and actually mean it.
“Thousands of Jews that would have come to Israel during the Pesach holiday are being restricted from doing so.
“This could be a sign for those Jews for times to come that there will be a time when the doors will not be open to Israel and this is their chance to make aliyah while they can.
“It’s not so simple that it’s always going to be clear and open skies for the Jews of chutz l’aretz to return. I think this is a message and a call to those Jews that are abroad that the time to come is now, while they still can. Even if they have to stay 14 days in quarantine, it’s worth it,” Wander asserted.
Prize-winning author and unceasing aliyah advocate Tzvi Fishman told Breaking Israel News, “The closing of the Ben Gurion Airport is a sign and warning from Heaven, beckoning the Jewish people to come home now.”
Fishman emphasized the importance of “ask[ing] ourselves what Hashem (God) wants us to learn from this gentle slap on our wrists.”
He suggests that the answer is related to the Biblical prophecy regarding the Jewish people leaving the diaspora permanently and returning to live in Israel.
“With the establishment of the State of Israel, G-d, in His everlasting mercy, opened the gates of mass aliyah after nearly 2,000 years, enabling His children to come home. More than 70 years have passed and many Jews living in affluent Western countries have failed to hear the Divine Call, and turned their backs on Hashem’s kindness.”
Perhaps the sharpest words on the topic come from Rabbi Nachman Kahana in his weekly message about the Torah portion. Rabbi Kahana’s essay on the upcoming Torah portion of Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) is called Coronavirus and the Jewish problem.
In this essay, he refers to “the pandemic now facing the planet” as “a shocking wake-up experience for many Jews in the galut.” (diaspora)
“The unthinkable has happened. Jews in the galut believe that the doors of Israel will always be open to them if the time comes when they will have to close their shuls and yeshivas (institutions of Torah learning), lock their homes, pack their bags and come home. Today many Jews had plans to visit the holy land for Pesach or to see their children or just to breathe a little Yiddishe nachas (Jewish pride) in the Jewish homeland.
“However, the gates are now closed. There are almost no airlines that land here and whoever comes is placed in a 14-day quarantine. Airlines including El Al are inundated with ticket cancellations, and the sign on the sky over Tel Aviv reads ‘Closed for The Duration.’
“Corona will pass someday after taking its deathly toll. But the Jews in galut must beware not to forget the feeling of helplessness when they were not welcome to the holy land.”
Kahana makes a shocking prediction. “It’s just a question of time when the Jews in galut will be facing their moment of truth. It will come about when the atmosphere of antisemitism will be so pervasive that there will be no choice but to return to Eretz Yisrael. The Jews will crowd the Israeli consulates in various cities to register for aliyah. But they will find large notices announcing Israel’s inability to absorb so many people, and aliyah to the holy land will cease.”
Acknowledging that no one can know for certain what message God is sending with this pandemic, he nevertheless asserts, “…the fact is, that there is a feeling of despair among many Jews who now find the gates to Israel sealed.”
Kahana, who has a reputation for speaking exceedingly plainly about the urgent need for Jews worldwide to return to the Land of Israel, concluded by saying, “HaShem does not punish without forewarning the sinner. Anti-Semitic incidents are warning number one. The inability to enter Eretz Yisrael is the second warning. But three strikes and you’re out!”