December 14

History events
-164 — (18th of Kislev, 3597) On the secular calendar date on which Judah Maccabee restored the service in the Temple in Jerusalem
1905 — (16th of Kislev, 5666) During a session of the Reichstag, Adolf Stocker called “the Jews a revolutionary element which is responsible for socialism» (Adolf Stoecker (December 11, 1835 – February 2, 1909) was a German court chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm I, a politician, leading antisemite, and a Lutheran theologian who founded the Christian Social Party to lure members away from the Social Democratic Workers’ Party)
1917 — (29th of Kislev, 5678) A Reuters’ telegram to Amsterdam reported that the population of Palestine is suffering terribly; and that the population has been reduced to one third because of hunger, sickness and distress. Only 23,000 of the 60,000 Jews are left in Jerusalem
1981 — (18th of Kislev, 5742) Israel annexed the Golan Heights which had been captured from Syria in 1967. The Syrians had shelled Israeli farmers from the Golan Heights for almost twenty years. The IDF took the heights in an amazing exercise of physical courage at the end of the Six Days War
1989 — (16th of Kislev, 5750) Joel Brinkley, writing in the New York Times, reported that Soviet Jews are leaving at a record pace, with many of them opting to settle in Israel. ….. “The number of Jews streaming out of the Soviet Union has reached a record. Not counting people departing this month, more than 62,500 Jews have left this year, surpassing by more than 20 percent the high of 51,320 set in 1979. In recent years most Soviet Jews have gone to the United States. But because of immigration limits imposed by Washington recently, the number of Jews going to Israel has increased dramatically in recent months. As a result, Israel is bracing for its greatest flow of immigrants since its early days of independence four decades ago. #750,000 Over 6 Years Possible More than 11,000 Soviet Jews left in November — the first time the figure exceeded 10,000 in a month — and almost 2,000 of them arrived here, 10 times the number who came to Israel in January. The number of émigrés is monitored closely by Israeli officials and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, a nonprofit American group. Early this week the Government projected that Israel might absorb as many as 750,000 Soviet Jews in the next six years, an addition of 20 percent to the nation’s Jewish population. Although the projection may be exaggerated, several hundred thousand Soviet Jews have in fact requested Israeli visas, largely because they fear increasing nationalist turmoil in the Soviet Union and because of the American decision to admit fewer Soviet refugees. An influx even close to the projection would enhance Israel’s sense of national identity after years in which more Jews have emigrated from the country than arrived, but it would also pose major problems for the country. It is accepted wisdom here that Israel is simply unequipped to handle immigrants in those numbers, and many Israelis resent such a migration at a time when unemployment is already high and housing already scarce. But for Israel, the numbers are only half the problem. The people in this wave are different from other large groups of Jews to come to Israel or Palestine since the »first Aliyah» from czarist Russia 100 years ago. Most of the Soviet citizens coming now are not Zionists. In fact, they have little if any Jewish identity. And many people worry that their lack of Jewish zeal might make it more difficult for them to weather hard times in their new homeland. Tugging sleepy children and overstuffed carry-on bags, about 65 of these immigrants arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Lod just before dawn Monday. Like many other Soviet citizens stepping off planes that are landing here almost every day, these people looked startled, even a bit disturbed, as two dozen yeshiva students greeted them, chanting, clapping and singing traditional Jewish songs the Russians had never heard. »This Aliyah is different from the Soviet Aliyah of the 70’s,» said Lizy Zlotnik, an Absorption Ministry official who handled paperwork on the new immigrants at the airport. »Most of these people are very educated. These are Russians. They don’t know anything about Judaism, and they don’t really care about it.» As part of the liberalization under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet Union has made leaving the country much easier for the nation’s 287 million citizens, including its estimated two million Jews. A new emigration law is expected to be enacted early next year, removing most restrictions on travel abroad. Some Soviet officials estimate that four million Soviet citizens will emigrate in the next few years.
President Bush has already promised trade concessions to Moscow once the law is enacted. Many of the new Jewish immigrants are leaving the Soviet Union »because Russia is in turmoil, and they are afraid of what will be left for them when it ends,» said Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency, the quasi-Government organization largely responsible for settling immigrants. Fear of Nationalist Movements With all the assertive nationalist movements now spreading across the country, »we are scared,» said Leon Kostavitch, a 26-year-old engineer who had just arrived. »It’s dangerous to be there. The country is in revolution, and we don’t know what’s going to happen for us.» »When the dust settles from all this turmoil,» Mr. Dinitz said, »it will be the minorities who suffer.» In addition, there are unconfirmed reports from some immigrants arriving here of spreading anti-Semitism, particularly in Uzbekistan, the largely Muslim Soviet republic that is also home to about 250,000 Jews. Israel and the Soviet Union do not have diplomatic relations, and for now the emigrants are flying to Bucharest, Vienna or other cities before flying on to Tel Aviv. But Israeli officials say the national airline, El Al, has signed an agreement with Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, to begin direct flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv early next year. The commercial agreement has not yet been approved by the Soviet Foreign Ministry, the Israelis say. But if and when it is, the number of Jews coming here is likely to grow even faster. Even with direct flights, it is not likely that all of the several hundred thousand people who have applied for Israeli visas will move here. But whatever the final number, the lack of awareness of Judaism among these immigrants creates »some real challenges for absorption,» said Natan Sharansky, a leader among Soviet Jews here. Faith and Zionist zeal, most people here agree, help carry many of today’s new immigrants through the difficult challenges and hard times that Israel almost invariably presents. As he waited in line at the airport to register with immigration authorities, one of the arrivals, Oleg Finkelstein, a 24-year-old from Leningrad, said, »I’ve never practiced Judaism, but I guess I’m interested in learning about it because it’s what keeps the people of this country together.» The Music Is Strange For now, Mr. Finkelstein, like the others, had to be prompted to stand when the yeshiva students began singing »Hatikva,» the national anthem. When the yeshiva boys held hands and danced in a circle, singing »Havenu Shalom Aleichem,» one of the best-known Jewish folk songs and dances, hardly anyone in the group of new arrivals seemed to recognize it. In most cases those people came to Israel because this is the country that invited them and for no other reason. They are simply looking for a better life and hope they can find it here. »These are people who want to come and succeed in their work,» Mr. Sharansky said. Many might just as well have gone to the United States. But in September the Bush Administration, citing humanitarian, financial, political and bureaucratic concerns, set a ceiling of 50,000 on the number of Soviet refugees in each of the coming years. Israeli officials warmly welcomed the American changes, knowing that the Soviet Jews who could not get into the United States would most likely come here. But as the numbers swell, Mr. Sharansky and others are openly complaining that Israel simply cannot handle the flood. The nation is hard pressed to find housing and jobs, partly because of the economic troubles that the Palestinian uprising has helped to spawn. »We don’t like the fact that our Government isn’t ready despite all our warnings,» Mr. Sharansky said. While Israel desperately wants Jews to move here to fulfill the tenet of Zionism that Israel be home for all the world’s Jews, immigration from all sources has been at relatively low levels for years. Slightly more than 20,000 people moved here in 1980, but in most years since, the number has fluctuated between 11,000 and 14,000. In recent typical years, far more citizens have left than have arrived, a fact that deeply wounds many Israelis. Though the number of emigrants is not known — most of them move to the United States illegally — the coming wave of Soviet Jews may tip the balance back at last. The Soviet Jewish émigrés counted so far this year give 1989 the highest total for any year since the National Conference on Soviet Jewry began tabulating emigration statistics in 1968. The previous peak, in 1979, occurred during the Carter Administration, when Washington and Moscow completed a strategic arms treaty before relations soured over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. An earlier period of relatively high emigration came in the early 1970’s, during the Nixon Administration, in the so-called era of detente. Better to Smile Now As Israelis warmly welcomed the new arrivals at the airport on Monday morning, the yeshiva boys’ organizer summed up the situation when he told his charges: »The most important thing is to smile at them because you know they are coming and are going to have a lot of trouble. So smile now.» But despite the smiles at the airport, Israel is involved in an angry internal argument over the resentment many people feel about the Government’s efforts to find jobs for all the Soviet newcomers while thousands of longtime residents remain unemployed. The nation’s unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent. Early this month, the Government started a classic Israeli political quarrel when it issued statistics showing that nearly half a million of the country’s 4.5 million citizens are now living below the poverty line, $390 a month for a family of two. With that news, the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot wrote: »Things that were whispered under the surface are beginning to burst through. A surge of Russian immigrants is about to arrive, and at least a few residents of the Jewish state, it is now clear, don’t want them.» Mr. Dinitz and others suggest that the arrival of well-trained Soviet immigrants will help the Israeli economy. But that could take years. And in the short term, at the airport, the newcomers have little idea what awaits them. Mr. Finkelstein said he may not know much about Judaism, »but I know how to work. »I know if people want to work, then this country will find us jobs»

1503 — (26th of Kislev, 5264) Birthdate of Michel de Nostradame
1883 — (15th of Kislev, 5644) Naphtali Mendel Schoor, the “Galician Hebrew writer” who in 1861 founded a Hebrew weekly who wrote a three part history of the Medieval Jews
1885 — (6th of Tevet, 5646) Mattithiah Straschun, Talmudic scholar, died