Fast of Gedaliah: A perfect day to review "Ally"

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....
I recently completed reading former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren's book "Ally". I found Mr. Oren's book on his and his wife's four years spent in Washington, D.C. representing the Israeli Government to be quite captivating. In many ways, it reminded me of another of Oren's works - "Power, Faith, and Fantasy - America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present" in my complete inability to put the book down. No one would, in any serious way, question Oren's writing abilities, they have proven themselves quite clearly and consistently.

From the beginning, I felt myself connecting personally to Mr. Oren's description of his own personal journey. I too was born in America (thankfully in the South, as opposed to New Jersey, or anywhere in the North) to a family with a strong Jewish identity, but not as strong in authentic Jewish observance. Although we both went on to make aliyah and serve as "lone soldiers" in infantry combat units, at some point, despite our somewhat similar backgrounds, our viewpoints seemed to have diverged dramatically. Oren repeatedly cites a meeting and handshake with Yitzchak Rabin as his defining moment. All of my non-Jewish friends growing up would readily testify to me completely covering Rabin's image with a piece of paper on that most iconic portrait that prominently hung in my bedroom of the three Israeli Generals' first visit to the liberated Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. A fan of Rabin's tremendous failure as a leader I never was.

For me, that defining moment was reading Rav Meir Kahane's book "Never Again", after finding a copy in our house's attic while hopelessly searching for lot toys and baseball cards. However, it was a different book by Rav Kahane that Michael Oren's "Ally" most reminded me of: "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews". In this seminal work focusing on the lack of authentic and incredibly ineffective Jewish leadership in the American Jewish Community, Rav Kahane goes through a list of names of prominent "Jewish leaders" and their litany of  failures in representing the Jewish Community. Although the names listed by Michael Oren are not nominally Jewish leaders, when it comes to hurting Israel's interests, invariably, virtually all the antagonists are Jewish - both Government officials and media figures. Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Martin Indyk, Dan Shapiro, Thomas Friedman, Bob Simon, Jeffry Goldberg, Roger Cohen, Ben Caspit, Leon Wieseltier, Joe Klein everyone else at the New York Times. It just goes on and on. At one point, even the seemingly always forgiving author is forced to admit a few negative thoughts: 

"But the presence of so many Jews in print and on the screen rarely translates into support for Israel. The opposite is often the case, as some American Jewish journalists flag their Jewishness as a credential for criticizing Israel. "I'm Jewish, but I'm not one of those Jews -the settlers, the rabbis, Israeli leaders, of the soldier in the IDF"

"Of the multiple critiques of Israel that confronted me each morning, a high percentage were mounted by Jews"

"The pinch I felt reading articles censorious of Israel sharpened into a stab whenever the names on the byline were Jewish... Some, I know, saw assailing Israel as a career enhancer. Others still, largely assimilated, resented Israel for further complicating their already-conflicted identity."

Some way or another, Mr. Oren always seems able to forgive and even compliment all of these traitors to the Jewish People. I have no idea how or why? Oren is seemingly obsessed with the "Jewish unity", often invoking some past fundraising slogan - "We are One".  This despite the fact that at least one of his children refused to be married by the Israeli Rabbinate  - the main institution that actually enables Jews of various level of observance and backgrounds to be part of the same people and theoretically marry each other. Additionally he writes that his son feels a greater connection to an arab soldier friend in the IDF than to his Jewish cousin in New York. These are some pretty serious personal failings in the "We are One" quest, but again Oren takes the more "tolerant" and easier way out. 

Maybe its the result of our early "influences", but while Oren does a superb (if depressing) job of documenting all the treachery, he seems to hold no grudges and forgive all. I think this, like is ridiculous ideas for more expulsions of Jews from their homes, is a big time fail. Recently, an article appeared in one the worst anti-Jewish publications, "The Forward", that castigated the idea of "excommunication" for those boycotting and/or supporting boycotting Israel. The title of the article was "Excommunicating Pro-BDS Jews Is a Huge Strategic Mistake" and of course was produced by those affiliated with the reform movement and j-street. What better proof is needed to know that they are wrong?!!! That should be plenty!

Those chronicled in Michael Oren's book "Ally" (and those not mentioned; Daniel Kurtzer comes to mind) and their betrayal of Israel and the Jewish People should exactly be excommunicated. They have forfeited any right or privilege. They should be persona non grata at all Jewish events, including Synagogues. 

In this week's Torah Reading, Parshas VaYeilech, Moshe (Moses) tells the future leader of the Jewish People, Joshua, "Be Strong and Courageous - chazak ve'ematz". This is told to Joshua repeatedly. Why? This is what it takes to lead the Jewish People. And sometimes it means not complimenting and cozying up with those who work to destroy us. It also means to support those holding the line in places like Elon Moreh and Itamar and certainly not to threaten them with expulsion and surrender to our enemies. 

The book is fabulous, the conclusions need some serious work. 

Shana Tova,

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem

www.heritagehouse.org.il

www.youngjewishconservatives.org