The charges being leveled against Israel are so off the wall, so outrageous, that I think now is the time to begin to address the connection of American Jews to Israel. For there is the danger — no, more than a danger, sometimes it is the reality — that some American Jews, hearing these charges and fearful that even some small part of them may be true, will see themselves as morally elevated if they separate themselves from Israel.
Those who love Israel, who see themselves as intrinsically connected to the Jewish state, will feel outrage at these perfidious charges. They will understand that Israel need not be perfect to be embraced, and that where there are problems (not remotely of the caliber that is suggested) they must be addressed constructively and with a willing heart.
But sadly, tragically, this is less the case than it once was. I’ve seen the evidence myself and heard much that is anecdotal. There are Jews, frequently progressive or left in their political orientation, who are not divorced from their identity as Jews and may even be religiously observant, but are devoid of deep concern for or devotion to Israel. In some cases they actually believe themselves to be functioning at a more spiritual level if they are “just” religious and not involved in the politics or the “dirty business” of running and defending a state.
I make no bones about it: I mourn for this alarming state of affairs.
This situation has to be addressed at two levels at once, in my opinion. As I indicated yesterday, this is long procedure that cannot be corrected with any quick fix.
There is, first, the need to counter the false charges and set the record straight. American Jews, like just about everyone else, have been subjected to twisted Arab PR and distorted media reports — the real story of Israel is not making it wide-scale. Thus is there confusion about what Israel is all about, with acceptance of fallacious ideas, such as that we “took” Palestinian land.
But there is something else that needs to be addressed. And that is Israel as our Jewish heritage. It is here that the essential link is made. One cannot be conversant with the Tanakh — the Bible — without understanding G-d’s promise to the Jewish people concerning the land, and the ancient settling of that land. One cannot know anything about archeological finds without understanding the extensive roots we have here in this land (and most particularly in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria). One cannot know history without recognizing that over the course of 3,000 years, Jews alone have had an independent nation here and Jews alone have made Jerusalem their capital. One cannot know Jewish liturgy without knowing the prayers for Jerusalem. One cannot know Jewish law without recognizing certain mitzvot (commandments) can be fulfilled only in the land.
No other people has ever been banished from its original land for 2,000 years (except for a remnant population), only to return, have an ingathering, and revive its ancient language. No other people has fought wars repeatedly at such odds, and remained resilient. For me, the hand of G-d is clear in this. We have prospered, and settled our incoming refugees, as no other nation in the world, all the while promoting medical advances and academic achievements, maintaining the most humane and moral standards for our fighting forces, and even reaching out to the world to lend assistance (as in Haiti).
How has this essential link been lost? In the face of all of this, how could Israel become relatively inconsequential for some Jews? I struggle with the question.
When Helen Thomas made her obscene comments about how the Jews living in Israel should return to places like Poland whence they had come, there were responses to her that essentially said that this was a terrible thing to suggest because the nations such as Poland had treated Jews horrendously. I felt that while factually true, this was the wrong answer. This means that if the nations of the world should welcome us with open arms, we would have no rationale for remaining here. Yes, Israel was a haven after the Holocaust, and yes the existence of Israel prior to the Holocaust would have prevented it from happening.
But the most essential reasons for being here are deeper and more extensive than this. This is what Jews — as well as others! — are called upon to understand. And this is precisely what the Arab world does not want people to know, because the truth defeats their aims.
Other subjects to follow shortly, but I include here a link to a superb short video on how the Muslim mind works. It’s on the mark, and I encourage you to see it to the end and share it broadly:
(Thanks to the many who shared this with me.)