Even Sapir, Jerusalem
Tuesday, May 20th, 2003 http://adamkhan.net/rambles/shinui-and-the-seven-year-itch
ne of the riches of great modern cities is their diverse ethnicity. Every church-goer, out in his Sunday, Saturday, or any day best, is a boon to all. People bring with them only the select ways of their mother country; the rest fall by the wayside if the new land does it better. South Tel Aviv is now a mishmash of African and Asian faces. It has an increasing number of Asian markets, with small grocery shops near the old bus station stocking a myriad of delicious Thai goods. They are priced to sell — not as exotics for the wealthy, but as staples to relatively low-income earners. Which means the rest of society can inexpensively try them, should it wish. How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture. It strengthens Israel’s ties to elsewhere, makes it a more closely-knit part of the family of nations, and an attractive destination at that. The diversity of the people subjecting themselves to a country’s laws is the ultimate way to augment a state’s venerability.
Like most everyone else, Israelis adore Thailand, and they flock there; Bangkok is Israel’s gateway to the East. And yet Thais are not welcome to settle here in any numbers at all. I once heard Ephraim Sneh say that the foreign workers he prefers importing are Thais because they don’t want to stay. Well, that is a misguided view. Not all Israelis need be Jews, and not all non-Jewish Israelis need be Arabs. In fact, it would be a whole lot healthier if Arabs were not the sole minority. Jewish Israelis should grasp the point that unlike Arabs, non-Muslim immigrants from around the world have absolutely no desire to nor interest in undermining the State of Israel. They merely want to live, work and bring up their children here. This should somehow be permitted, even welcomed, under a well-planned naturalization program. Becoming Jewish should not be the only mechanism for becoming Israeli.
Jacob laboured for seven years to win Rebeccah’s hand. He then toiled another seven, without argument, out of deference to the trickiness of his father-in-law (incidentally a virtue, if we can call it that, which the Thais in particular would admire). If persons currently residing in Israel can prove today they have been here for seven years, regardless of whether they were here at some point illegally, and they have no police record, they should be taught the words of Hatikvah, get all the answers right in a quiz about the Declaration of Independence, and be bestowed with citizenship in a group ceremony with their class.
Naturalization need not be Aliyah. Cosy benefits and tax breaks need not apply. But it is an ugly sight that Israel is deporting people who merely want to live and work here. Make them citizens. Collect their taxes.
Having limited but thriving and contributing communities from around the world can only strengthen Israel’s bilateral trade ties, which can only improve the choice of goods available to the Israeli consumer, which is one of the pillars of what makes a place somewhere a good to live.
Shinui (“change”) now has the ministry of the interior, and we’re beginning to see these changes take place. The House of Israel should welcome the kingdom once known as Siam with a smile worthy of the Land of Smiles.