Aliyah, the immigration (“ascension” in Hebrew) of the scattered Jewish people to the Land of Israel, is seen as a holy, prophetic mission. So why is Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi telling Jews in the Diaspora to stay away?
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef admitted to doing as much in his weekly sermon last Friday. Yosef recalled that during a recent visit to the Tunisian island of Djerba, which has a sizable Jewish population, he was asked if local Jews should finally make the move to Israel.
“I told them it depends on where they would live,” the chief rabbi said.
“If they were going to live in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood…then they should immigrate to Israel,” he continued. “But if they were going to live in a place like Herzliya or another one of the secular locations… they should stay where they are.”
Yosef went on to argue that sin is worse than death, and that a religious Jew’s spiritual well-being would be harmed by living in a secular environment. As such, he recommends that those Jews already living in ultra-Orthodox communities in the Diaspora should probably remain there.
The rabbi’s remarks sparked outrage among many Israelis, some of whom noted on social media that his salary is paid by the State of Israel, and he has no right to hinder the ingathering of the exiles, which was a primary motivation behind establishing the modern Jewish state.
Others called for a more “Zionist” rabbi who represents the entire nation of Israel to be appointed to the post.