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Which Land Is Our Land?

Yesterday's feature  gave us a peek at a large group of college students who are spending much of their winter break studying  the traditional sources relating to "the people, land, and state of Israel."  Some of them are evidently trying to decide whether they themselves belong in America or in the Jewish state.  Not to help them make a decision but to put this question in a different kind of historical perspective, we have decided to remind our readers of a time in the not-too-distant past when this was a pressing issue for American Jewry.  After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion urged young American Jews to make aliyah.  This got him into hot water with some people, especially the leaders the American Jewish Committee, who believed that it was their responsibility to "forcefully discourage Israeli propaganda for immigration from America."  The outcome of this collision between the leader of the new State of Israel and the heads of one of the major American Jewish organizations was the "Blaustein-Ben-Gurion agreement," in which the Prime Minister reassured the AJC president, Jacob Blaustein, that he understood that "the decision as whether they wish to come—permanently or temporarily—rests with the free discretion of each American Jew himself; it is entirely a matter of his own volition."

The American Jewish Committee has made available online some fascinating documents relating to this episode.  We draw your attention, in particular, to the September 10, 1950 AJC press release on the agreement and the October 6, 1950 summary of the press reaction to it.  But for those who are interested, there is a lot more to read

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Nachum on January 16, 2013 at 8:35 am (Reply)
Of course it's a matter of their own volition. (Unless, say, the US kicks them out- regardless, Israel has nothing to do with it.) What's the big chiddush?
Joseph Ben Tzvi on January 16, 2013 at 9:26 am (Reply)
ben gurion really didnt want american Jews to move to israel, this was just a propaganda statement, ben gurion wanted then as israel wants now for american Jews to send their money on aliyah to israel not the young Jews.
Martin on January 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm (Reply)
As always, Charles Liebman z"l, whose almost 40 year old contribution can be found among the documents under the link "a lot more to read", is right on the money.
Y. Ben-David on January 25, 2013 at 8:29 am (Reply)
I do think Ben-Gurion did want American Jews to make aliyah, at least in theory, but there is no question that many of his MAPAI functionary colleagues didn't want them. Even today I have seen many "progressives" Jews lamenting the fact that Natan Sharansky and the other Jews from the former USSR have come to Israel. Even President Clinton alluded to this, with them all saying that the Jews from the USSR don't have the "correct" (i.e. Leftist) views. One prominent Leftist Jewish professor-blogger who lives half the time in Israel says he regrets having attended demonstrations in the 1970's on behalf of Sharansky, now labelling him as a "fascist". Ben-Gurion's MAPAI colleagues would have felt uncomfortable with American Jews because the old MAPAI system was very undemocratic and American Jews would have worked to open their closed, stagnant, suffocating socialist system. Many of the old socialist Establishment in Israel also complained about the aliyah of Jews from the Middle Eastern countries, branding them as being "primitive" and "carriers of disease", when in fact what bothered them was that many were attracted to supported Menachem Begins' Herut party. So this mentality still lives on in some people who bemoan the loss of "their" Leftist-socialist Israel.

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