Itongadol.- In the framework of his visit to Argentina to participate in the seminar «Combating Anti-Semitism» organized by the World Zionist Organization (WZO), its president, Yaakov Hagoel, assured: «dealing with the issue of the Law of Return can have a lot of consequences and effects».
Yaakov Hagoel with Gaby Glazman, Raheli Baratz-Rix and Sergio Edelstein during the anti-Semitism congress organized by the WZO.
The issue arose on the basis of news that Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich and the ultra-Orthodox parties would demand that Benjamin Netanyahu make significant changes to the Law of Return as part of coalition negotiations, as reported by Israeli television’s Channel 13. This could mean the rejection of alia for reform-conversion Jews or the cancellation of the «grandchild clause», which states that a person who is a third-generation Jew can emigrate to Israel.
Hagoel said: «We respect every government in Israel. We respect that there is a government in Jerusalem and the authority of that government. There is a democracy, there is sovereignty, there is a government constituted by law, which is what the people elected. What we understand as an organization is to work with every government, regardless of its orientation.
«The issue of the Law of Return is very critical and permanent. When you deal with problems of this kind, if they are dealt with, in most cases they are not dealt with, this has projections in many ways. It has to be done very sensitively, very carefully and with the unity of the people of Israel in mind. We are one people. But he warned that «Addressing the issue of the Law of Return can have a lot of consequences and effects, both for one side and the other. There is a status quo at the moment,» he stressed.
«Each of us has our own ideas and I have my own ideas about this law. There is one state and one parliament, we will respect every decision, also as in other aspects of what is the autonomy of the Knesset in Israel and what is the state of Israel,» he concluded on the issue.
Interview with Yaakov Hagoel, President of the World Zionist Organization.
It was January 2013 when I met Yaakov Hagoel. It was in his office in the emblematic Sojnut building at 48 King George Street in Jerusalem. At that time he was the head of the Department for Activities in Israel and Combating Anti-Semitism of the World Zionist Organization, WZO.
From the first moment I observed a warm but energetic man in the fight against anti-Semitism. Not content with that and concerned about the life of Jews and Jewish communities around the world, in October 2020 he took over as president of the WZO, knowing in advance that this new role would allow him to turn his new chair into a great lookout for the Jewish world, and from there to make available to the Diaspora actions and tools to improve and revitalize Jewish life, the fight against anti-Semitism, strengthening the Hebrew language and Alia.
On Friday Hagoel arrived in Argentina to participate in the Congress Against Anti-Semitism. He arrived together with Sergio Edelstein, head of the WZO’s Noar Jalutz and Dor Hemshej Department; Raheli Baratz-Rix, head of the WZO’s Combating Anti-Semitism and Community Resilience Department and Ariel Goldgewicht, executive director of the WZO’s Noar Jalutz and Dor Hemshej Department.
All, working with the coordination of the WZO offices in Buenos Aires under the leadership of Gabriela Glazman.
He participated in the meeting of young people from tnuot and asked them to express the difficulties they have. He answered the questions one by one and showed himself as a true leader, stimulating and giving solutions and answers to each young person.
Yaakov Hagoel took some time to talk to Iton Gadol.
Daniel Berliner: How do you see the Jewish world in recent times?
Yaakov Hagoel: We are worried. We are living Jewish life after 120 years of the first Zionist meeting in Basel and soon the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, a wonderful country that is a light to the world in many fields, but despite this we see that the Jewish communities face challenges that are not easy, both in the field of anti-Semitism and assimilation and we see that fewer and fewer Jews speak Hebrew in the Diaspora. We also observe that the number of olim in communities, especially Zionist ones, is not rising. Despite that, thanks to G-d we come from a year in which we doubled the number of olim, but in the main Zionist communities in the world, such as those in South America and France, we see that the numbers of alia remain low. That is why we are working hard, to see how we promote the important activity of the Zionist movement, and also, on the other hand, strengthening the kehilot and simultaneously helping Jews to make the decision to be able to make alia.
Itongadol: What is tnuat today, for the Jewish world?
YH: Tnuat Hanoar is a tool, not a goal. It is the way to help the Israeli people connect to themselves and to the State of Israel. We must embrace Zionist children and educators, many of whom are not part of Jewish education, not part of clubs and not part of synagogues, and unfortunately, we lose our people in this way. I will give you just one example, today we did not reach the number of Jews that we had before the Shoah, yet the birth rate in Israel is the highest in all the advanced countries.
IG: To what do you attribute this?
YH: We see with concern that assimilation grew in the diaspora. We must strengthen the identity, the pride, the connection of Jews to each other and to the State of Israel. Those are our challenges as Histadrut Tzioni, and with cooperation with the Zionist movements, we want to reach the easiest population to work with, which are the youth, who are the future and who can certainly connect with each other and with Israel.
IG: They chose the most difficult job
YH: We came to work. I was in Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre; I spoke with leaders of the Kehilot and I strongly believe in the strength of the youth movements. Two years ago we created a department that works with adolescents, because we believe in them. You were present at the conference there, look at them, here are more than 120 leaders coming from all over South America, because we believe in this. If we had brought more adult people, the influence on them would have been less, instead, these kids come with new energy and motivation to change the world. We must give them all the tools. There are not many leaders today who say that Alia is the most important thing.
IG: What is your message for the next 75 years of the State of Israel?
YH: Unity of the people of Israel, but not in absolute uniformity, we must always respect each other’s vision and opinion, paying attention to where the connections are and respecting the changes to come.
Photo credit: Niran Ganir