For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
On Monday evening, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, quietly passed a bill that could change the Middle East agenda forever.
Up to a million Jews were forced to leave Arab countries and Iran in the decades following the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, due to state-sanctioned persecution and violence. Today only some 4,000 Jews are left in the Arab world, bringing to an end a Jewish presence that in many cases pre-dated Islam and the Arab conquest by 1,000 years.
The bill has taken two years, since its initiation by MK Nissim Ze’ev of the Sephardi Orthodox Shas party, to become law. The new law aims to protect the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran in future peace negotiations in the Middle East. The bill defines a Jewish refugee as an Israeli citizen who left one of the Arab states, or Iran, following religious persecution. It stipulates that the Israeli government must include Jewish refugee rights, notably compensation, in all future peace talks.
Stanley Urman, the head of the advocacy group Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, welcomed the Knesset decision, saying: “The world must realise that Palestinians were not the only Middle East refugees; that there were Jewish refugees who also have rights under international law. This recognition is good for the State of Israel and it is good for the people of Israel."
Why is this bill so important? Because it holds the key to real peace in the Middle East. So many efforts at making peace between Israel and the Palestinians have run aground on the rock of the Palestinian ‘right of return’. Not content with a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza, even the ‘moderates’ of the Fatah camp have been reluctant to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. The reason is that they are unwilling to drop their demand for the Arab refugees of 1948 – who now number upwards of four million if you include their descendants - to return to their homes in what is now Israel. This demand amounts to no less than the destruction of Israel by demographic means and the de facto creation of two Palestinian states, one in the West Bank, and one in place of Israel.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"