How Quickly Will Median Jews Emigrate to Israel?

How fast will Median Jews immigrate to Israel? Once the gates are opened up will African Median Jews from Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania as well as Middle Eastern Median Jews of Iran and Iraq immigrate to Israel as fast as they can irrespective of conditions on arrival in Israel. There are 4 million Median Jews in Iran and Iraq, 2 million Median Jews (Maasai) in Kenya and Tanzania and an unknown number of Median Jews in Nigeria (Igbos who have not converted to Christianity) but they may number in the millions. Most of the 4 million Median Jews in Syria and Lebanon will not need to immigrate to Israel since Israel will annex Median Jewish (Alawite and Druze) regions of Syria and Lebanon. 

Turkey has the largest concentration of Median Jews in the world and there are no statistics available although Median Jews could be as much as 25% of the population of Turkey with 16 million Alevis and 5 million Bektashis, Alawites and members of other denominations of Median Judaism that are smaller in number in Turkey. How fast will Median Jews immigrate from Turkey to Israel? There is a chronic economic crisis in Turkey which is beginning to resemble Lebanon with increasing numbers of people no longer being able to afford basic foods. Those who cannot afford, and there may be millions of Median Jews in dire economic circumstances in Turkey, will prefer to live fully fed in refugee camps in Israel to semi-starving in Turkey. Those who are still in good economic conditions will likely wait with immigrating to Israel until there is sufficient housing and employment options for new immigrants in Israel. However, the economic crisis in Turkey is highly likely to continue to deteriorate considering the refusal of Erdogan to resolve the crisis and so increasing numbers of Median Jews will want to immediately immigrate to Israel. It is also possible that official Israeli recognition of Alevis as Jews will worsen the situation for Alevis in Turkey to the point that many may desperately want to leave Turkey for Israel. 

There are hundreds of thousands of Median Jews in the Balkans, primarily Bektashis in Albania and that immigration will likely be slower since those communities are not as desperate to leave as are many Median Jews in the Middle East and Africa. There are an estimated 30 000-50 000 Alevis in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and an additional 300 000 Qiang Median Jews in Sichuan province in China and it is unclear how eager these two communities will be for leaving for Israel.

Israel may thus face a wave of possibly 10 million Median Jewish immigrants already in the first year or two upon the official recognition of Median Jews as halakhically Jewish by the Israeli government and the rabbinical establishment in Israel. This means that we may see quite an early Israeli redemption of Judea and Samaria and subsequent Jordanian annexation of Gaza.

What is the timeline? Israeli annexation of Median Jewish regions of Syria and Lebanon necessitates an official Israeli recognition of Median Jews as Jews and this is likely to happen as early as during 2022 after the military defeat of Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Median Jewish immigration from Turkey will not happen until after Erdogan loses the presidential elections in June 2023. 

Israel planners are no doubt busy preparing for the building of major cities in the southern Negev desert in preparation for the tripling or quadrupling of Israel’s population. Israel will need to cultivate most of the sand deserts of the Negev in order to be able to feed this vastly expanded population. Israel will initially have to set up vast refugee camps and will need to put many immigrants to work in building housing, schools, hospitals and universities for the new immigrants. The challenge will be huge for a country of only 9 million citizens to absorb 20-30 million immigrants in addition to the annexation of 5 million Lebanese and Syrians of whom 4 million are Median Jews. 2 million Palestinians will be added to Israel’s citizenry when Israel redeems and enfranchises the entire Judea and Samaria.

Israel has received mass immigration before, first in the state’s early years and second with the Glasnost period and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, Israel has never received immigration of those dimensions before but luckily is Israel an affluent and economically developed society that is ready for this unprecedented challenge indeed.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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