One hundred years of practical Zionism and more than 70 years of statehood have proven that Zionism embodies a tremendous economic stimulus for the Jewish people. Even without citing the prophetic verses of redemption, one can certainly assert that the Land of Israel has warmly welcomed the returning Jewish people. The land’s warm welcome is manifest in agriculture, industry, high-tech, medicine and countless other areas.
If only we continue to adopt the ways of the Zionist return of the people to its land, we will receive an exponentially greater return from the yield of the land and from the ingathering of the exiles to it. We will see how “always the eyes of the Lord your God are upon the land of Israel, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:13).
To reinvigorate the Zionist process which to date has produced so much good for the Jewish people, the Israeli government must adopt a clear Zionist, nationalist policy in a variety of areas. The government must return to the momentum of immigration and absorption, it must not be hesitant to proudly call for the accelerated immigration of the quarter-million Jews who, according to the estimate of the chairman of the Jewish Agency, are already now seeking to immigrate to Israel, and to the many others who will come in their wake.
There is no room for concern regarding reactions to the Israeli call to Jews to return home to the Land of Israel. Preparations must include cutting bureaucracy, building tens of thousands of new housing units, the provision of an appropriate basket of absorption benefits, while at the same time preparing for the challenge facing us: the warm, generous and enthusiastic absorption of the multitudes of the house of Israel.
In the framework of preparations for the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Israel must apply sovereignty in territories that have belonged to it for thousands of years: Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
First, action must be taken regarding the territories classified as “Area C” under the Oslo agreements, that include 60 percent of the land of Judea and Samaria and have a sparse Arab population. The 100,000 Arabs that reside in these areas will not negatively affect the demographic balance, especially in light of the forthcoming Jewish aliyah (immigration).
This application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will enable the rezoning of hundreds of thousands of acres for construction in the country’s center. Development, housing and industry in the eastern part of the country’s center will inevitably lead to a drop in housing costs in the Tel Aviv area.
In order to intelligently implement these steps, the Israeli government must extend transportation lines, roads and trains across the breadth of the land, and develop industrial areas and unique historical tourist sites on the mountain ridge and in the Jordan Valley. These steps will bolster the people’s connection to the cradle of its civilization, and will lead to a substantive clarification of the meaning of our presence here as a nation.
An additional Zionist value to which it is important to return is that of Israeli labor. The painful recent public demonstrations express genuine distress; however, there are also limitations to the state budget.
It is incumbent upon the State of Israel to clearly and unambiguously call upon the citizens of Israel to consume Israeli products and to encourage Israeli labor, to vacation and hike in Israel, thereby bolstering the tourism, hospitality and associated sectors. The national responsibility of every Israeli citizen mandates a change in our way of life. This is not the time for the luxury of international flights, for frequent visits to theaters and restaurants, as it was in the past. True, this requires sacrifice; however, relative to the sacrifice of the founding fathers, who dried the swamps and built the land and who caused the wilderness to flourish, this sacrifice is negligible.
In accordance with present needs, it is necessary to make arrangements for career retraining courses. Israeli workers will replace foreign workers in hospitals, pharmacies and the nursing, agricultural and cleaning professions. Israeli labor per se is a fundamental value of the Zionist vision.
Beyond all these, we must be imbued with a spirit of unity. In his speeches during the first wave of the pandemic, the prime minister emphasized the value of unity. During the coalition negotiations, Defense Minister Benny Gantz absorbed much abuse, but restrained himself in the name of unity. It is now incumbent upon the premier and the government ministers to display that same spirit of unity, that will radiate from top to bottom.
Mutual empathy between Netanyahu and Gantz, cooperation between ministers and ministries, cooperation between members of Knesset from different parties on behalf of the people and the state, and frustrating the attempts of media concerns to foment, to divide and to incite struggles within the government. All these are necessary steps in order to lead the people in its entirety to act on the basis of the value of unity, and to internalize the enormity of the emergency situation in the midst of which we find ourselves.
This time of emergency requires an appropriate Zionist response that will restore the people to the path of unity and a stable economy. We knew how to consolidate against a physical enemy that came to destroy us, and we must also consolidate against an invisible enemy in the form of a virus whose impact on the Israeli economy and society are liable to be, God forbid, catastrophic. To that end, the people expect to lift their eyes to leadership that is humble, Zionist and satisfied with less, which is fitting for our wonderful people and their latent abilities, which are revealed in times of crisis, during which the people will “rise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion” (Numbers 23:24).
Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar are co-chairs of the Sovereignty Movement founded by Women in Green.