Americans who opposed Donald Trump have awoken in a stupor, shocked that his victory was no mere nightmare. For those who cannot envision living under a Trump regime, “I’m moving to Canada” or elsewhere no longer feels like election-year blather.
But where would you go?
If 5 million Americans, alarmed by a reckless, ruthless chief executive, decided to move north tomorrow, Canada would not have the desire — or the ability — to absorb them. No country in the world would absorb that magnitude of American expats.
Well, there is one country.
If the 5 million would-be émigrés were American Jews, Israel would welcome and cherish every single one. That massive a population transfer would boost the tiny nation’s population by 62 percent (think: 200 million new Americans), and require exhausting everyday sacrifice by Israelis. Housing, employment, health care, education, traffic — every aspect of Israeli life would be upended. Yet there’s very little antipathy to olim among Israelis.
Welcoming olim — and especially those who see themselves as refugees — is not just part of Israel’s culture. It is Israel’s very raison d’être.
Will anti-Semitic attacks be a hallmark of the Trump administration? Hard to say. The president-elect has shown no personal animus toward Jews, and in fact his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Orthodox members of the Tribe. (President Obama had a well-regarded annual Seder, but expect frequent Shabbos dinners at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue starting in January.)
But if just by campaigning for the presidency Trump energized the “alt-right,” with its open contempt for Jews, imagine what his victory has already begun to do for such malignant voices. A president doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic for his presidency to foster an anti-Semitic era. I cannot predict the magnitude, but I anticipate discrimination, scapegoating, and hate crimes against many groups including Jews to increase over the coming four years. So under Trump, at least some Americans may very well see themselves as refugees from American anti-Semitism.
But his victory — and last week’s results will be more permanently unsettling than most Americans have yet realized — will create other kinds of would-be refugees:
• Political refugees among Democrats whose liberalism is now reviled, its goals moribund in whole swaths of the country — and the even more disfavored anti-Trump Republicans who now lack any political home whatsoever;
• Economic refugees displaced by the global economic upheaval that has already begun, as progress on free trade halts and Trump tries “the art of the deal” on the Chinese and others not amused by his penchant for disavowing his debts;
• Religious refugees terrified of the new empowerment and vigor among what we now know is America’s most hypocritical (“Do as we say … ”) religious group: evangelical Christians; and
• Social refugees dismayed by the dissolving ligaments of a nation suddenly less kind and less gentle than before.
Any of America’s 319 million gentiles who see themselves in those categories have no place, for all practical purposes, to go. Even if they find a country that will admit them, they’re on their own to build a new life in a new land, (perhaps) a new language, where nobody sees them as family.
Not true for America’s 5.3 million American Jews. Remember Robert Frost — “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”?
In Israel, if you’re Jewish that’s literally true — even if you don’t consider yourself a refugee of any sort whatsoever.
Under the founding Law of Return, a Jew gets citizenship on demand. And today, olim get much more than citizenship — all free — because the nation appreciates they’ve come home. American Jews who move to Israel can expect free health insurance, Hebrew classes, university tuition, subsidized rent, discount mortgages and various tax breaks. Your one-way flight is free, and you get about $5,000 in cash — starting with a fat envelope waiting for you at the airport.
A global move is always hard, and English-speaking olim face daunting challenges in their new home. But the Israeli government, as well as non-profit organizations (start with Nefesh B’Nefesh) and most every Israeli you meet will gladly help you learn Hebrew (though in bigger cities, English goes far), and find work and a home.
A lot of Americans are discombobulated, feeling helpless about a country that is slipping out from under their feet. If you’re Jewish and want to do something, stop and ponder a question you may have considered preposterous weeks ago: Should I live in Israel?
Ask yourself, “Where do I want to build a life? Where do I want to make friends and raise a family? Where do I want to contribute to a thriving society?”
Is the answer Donald Trump’s America? A country where his regime implements his vision while you watch in horror? A society where every other voter you might meet actively helped him become president?
Because if that answer doesn’t work for you, you have something no other category of American has. You have another choice. Come home.
David Benkof is senior political analyst for the Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or e-mail him at [email protected]