Op-Ed: Breathing, Eating and Sleeping Israel
On my recent visit to the United States, while visiting Los Angeles and New York - my hometown - it was evident that, just under the radar, there is a growing revolution underway in the Jewish world.
Intuitively, one would expect this quiet revolution to be in response to changes in Israel’s national identity. Much of organized American Jewry, that is the Federation system, will continue to claim what is most palatable to everyone, that Israel is the story of the “start-up nation”. They have a greater affinity to the late Steve Jobs, who climbed down from Mount Apple with the two tablets in his arms- Ipad 1 and Ipad 2; than to the biblical story of Moses who brought the Tablets of the Law to our people, the Jewish nation of Israel.
Despite this one-sided description of Israel, a quiet revolution is underway, resulting in a tectonic change of perception and awareness of Israel. This revolution will be an awakening by American Jews who demand to connect to Israel not because Israel needs the support of Jews in America, but rather because Jews in America, irrespective of their affiliation - secular, religious, or assimilated Jews - all need Israel's support for them.
Israel has become the cornerstone of their Jewish identity; fulfilling the potential and destiny of the Jewish people, allowing them to connect. Israel gives them what no other nation on earth can give them, a sense of belonging, an extended national family irrespective of where they live and work. They literally breathe, eat, and sleep Israel.
Israel generates disproportionate criticism only because it represents the very embodiment of a moral world based on Western Democratic principles - and because it is a Jewish state.
In Los Angeles, I met Mr. David Suissa, the well-known columnist and President of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. David is a passionate Jewish advocate, community leader, and avid story collector/storyteller. David, whose Friday night Sabbath table has seen the best and the brightest of the Jewish world, reflects the changes that are transpiring in the Jewish world.
Feeling equally at ease with religious and secular Jewish leaders and laypersons, David has no qualms about expressing unconditional love for Israel stating that we shouldn’t confuse love of Israel with supporting official policy. When one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to delegitimize the State of Israel, one knows that their goal is not to engage or interact, but to undermine. Their opposition is not open to reason or good will and their hatred is unconditional. This being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, why shouldn’t Jews feel completely comfortable when expressing unconditional love towards Israel, irrespective of political orientation?
Moving on to Newport Beach, just southwest of L.A., I caught up with Mr. Harvey Karp, the founder and CEO of Israel Up Close (IUC). Harvey is a one man bulldozer who has produced, through IUC, in the past 10 years over 170 short films about Israel. Whether in the field of medicine, or technological advances, or whether about the integration of Ethiopian adolescents, Harvey doesn’t stop. Hareidi men serving in the IDF, Palestinian Arabs enjoying employment prosperity in Israeli factories, wounded children from Syria’s horrific civil war being treated in Israeli hospitals have all been covered and symbolize how Israel has benefited the world in technology, medicine, water purification, and humanitarian gestures. Harvey doesn’t believe that Israel should be shown to the world through the lens of politics and conflict, but through the prism of all the good that Israel brings to the world. Harvey has no reservations about sharing his love of Israel.
Coming back to my hometown New York, I caught up with Mr. Richard Allen, the founder and head of JCC Watch whose organization demands accountability from Jewish federations and draws attention to the use by large Jewish institutions of Jewish charitable donations to support anti-Israel activities and anti-Israel individuals. For the past few years, Richard and many like-minded New Yorkers have staged vigils and demonstrations to publicly expose what they are calling Donor Fraud in the institutional Jewish community. JCC Watch’s aim is to convince the NYC UJA to adopt effective guidelines along the lines of the pledge adopted several years ago by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee in Florida to oppose the funding of anti-Israel boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) and related activities either by individuals or organizations .
Despite recent reports and surveys of American Jewry, claiming that American Jews are voluntarily distancing themselves from Israel, its seems that David Suissa, Harvey Karp, and Richard Allen represent a wholly different and opposing trend that seems to be much more widespread and may very well be more reflective of where American Jewry is actually heading.
They embrace the idea behind the belief that Israel is the Jewish State of the Jewish people with Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish people.
They understand that the fact that the Israel Defense Force is the Jewish army of the Jewish people and that the Jewish State must be recognized as the Jewish Nation State of the Jewish People does not contradict the fact that Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East, a vibrant Democracy meticulously protecting the rights of all of its citizens equally whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.
No fringe view of Israel that’s being supported by mainstream institutional contributors will be able to stop these modern day Jewish dynamos who intuitively understand that Israel generates disproportionate criticism only because it represents the very embodiment of a moral world based on Western Democratic principles - and because it is a Jewish state.
Connecting to this sense of peace and well-being will not only keep Israel strong, but will equally sustain American Jewry with Israel retaining its role as central to Jewish identity everywhere in the Jewish world.