A nuanced form of the Jewish state project can galvanize the community.
Special To The Jewish Week
Story Includes Video:
Students of American Jewry often point to 1967 as a watershed in the evolution of the American Jewish community. The anxiety that American Jews felt in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War was palpable. There was no evidence that Israel could defend itself against any concerted Arab military assault, no less a multi-front war.
Israel is under attack. Not across the ocean but right here in New York. The mayor of New York has been roundly criticized by some major figures in our community for his embrace of AIPAC, the Israel lobbying group whose politics have always been in sync with Israel’s democratically elected government, left or right. This was a challenge not to any Israeli policy but to AIPAC itself. As Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie countered, “A Washington without AIPAC would not mean an Israel at peace; it would mean an Israel isolated and vulnerable”
Bill de Blasio, New York’s newly installed mayor, said defending Israel was part of his job.
“Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel,” de Blasio said at a private New York event of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee first reported Friday by the Capital New York news website.
The Haredi Spring is coming to an end — and not a moment too soon. In the recent election in Israel, the majority rose up and called a halt to the process of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews playing a dominant role in the government coalition while resisting national service. Requirements for army service and incentives to work instead of living on welfare are now being discussed in the Knesset. The haredim have reacted by insisting that their way of life and privileges were sacrosanct and could not be reined in by the democratic process. In truth, they have never seemed comfortable with real democracy.
At this time of year our thoughts turn towards Jerusalem as we mark the “Three Weeks,” leading up to the Fast Day of Tisha B’Av when we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Many American Jews have insisted that a healthy, mutual friendship with Israel entails criticizing Israel. Many Israelis, especially those who work with Jews from the center and the left, have accepted those marching orders, creating paradigms about “hugging and wrestling.” And they share reassuring philosophical insights like Harvard’s Michael Sandel’s teaching that embarrassment reflects belonging — Syrian brutality does not embarrass us: Israel’s milder mistakes do.
My sister in Israel is fond of saying that her least favorite Shabbat of the year (tongue firmly in cheek) is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Nisan (meaning, of course, imminent Passover and all that entails). Conversely, her favorite Shabbat is when we recite the blessing in anticipation of the new Hebrew month of Iyar (meaning, of course, the end of the Passover season, and imminent celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day).