Why Is Leaving Israel Not Patriotic but Obtaining a Foreign Passport Is?
Ma’ariv, Israel, November 18
Want to escape and don’t know where to? Stressed out? Did the election results make you uncomfortable and give you the feeling that there’s no future here? The data tells us that one thing is likely to help you: getting on a flight and going abroad. It seems as if Israelis are the most traveled people in existence. It is therefore not surprising that we encounter the Hebrew language in every corner of the globe. Call it escapism, call it denial, Israelis love to fly – and that’s a fact. Since the results of the last election became known, there has been a lot of chitchat about those Israelis who want to leave the country for a better and less corrupt future elsewhere. And even though these individuals received a barrage of criticism regarding such a non-patriotic and non-Zionist act, no one thought to mention the Portuguese passport industry that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Israelis who seek to obtain a coveted passport. The Portuguese Ministry of Justice revealed that tens of thousands of descendants of Spanish deportees in Israel have already received citizenship. In the last seven years alone, Spain has granted citizenship to 56,685 descendants of Spaniards. The Spanish government still has more than 80,000 applications waiting in line so, in total, more than 137,000 applications for Portuguese passports have been received since 2015. Based on this data, it can be concluded that preparing to leave is allowed – but leaving isn’t. For God’s sake, people hire special companies to find their great-great-grandfather’s birth certificates in a remote village in Romania. I can’t think of any other country where ordinary citizens “arm” themselves with foreign passports in preparation for doomsday. Here in Israel, it is considered common sense. And despite all of this, not everyone is in a hurry to leave. Leaving requires a lot of resources and energy. Therefore, the best compromise is a short trip abroad, frequently. Israelis really do travel a lot. Almost a million Israelis flew abroad in September – more than before the outbreak of COVID-19. In May 2022, there were roughly 700,000 departures of Israelis abroad compared to 656,000 in May 2019. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, of the 700,000 Israelis who went abroad, roughly 610,000 did so by air, 70,000 by land, and the remaining passengers left the country on cruises. Yes, the Israelis have already forgotten about the coronavirus and are making up for the time they lost while being locked up at home. In a reality where a vacation in Prague is cheaper than a bed and breakfast in the Galilee, a grocery haul in Berlin costs half as much as it does in Tel Aviv, and there are dozens of options for trips in nature, who can blame them? So, fly. Fly like there’s no tomorrow. Just don’t forget to ultimately come back home, because otherwise, we’ll get really angry. – Sharon Luxenburg (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)