The flood of non-Jewish immigrants into Israel in the last few years is leading the government to engage in Jewish education for prospective newcomers.
Inside Israel newsletter (February) reports that in the earlier years of immigration into Israel from Russia and other post-communist countries, at least 85 percent of those entering Israel were Jews according to Jewish law. “In 1995 this began to change to the point that this past year it is estimated by the government that over 50 percent of this incoming group are non-Jews…[A] Jewish journalist visiting Belarus said that he found that 80 percent of participants in a youth program sponsored by the Jewish Agency were not Jews.”
Except for most of the Orthodox, there is strong resistance against changing the Law of Return (a law allowing all Jews to emigrate to Israel) to prevent non-Jews from obtaining the benefits of entering Israel. Such a change might encourage “religious extremists” and threaten Israel’s democratic standards.
One official says that the change must come from the Jewish Agency (the organization in charge of encouraging and facilitating emigration to Israel) changing its work from “searching out Jews to being searched out by Jews who truly want to become a part of the nation of Israel because of their Jewish heritage.”
(Inside Israel, Box 22029, San Diego, CA 92192-2029)