American Jews (illustrative)
American Jews (illustrative)Thinkstock

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, headed by MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), on Wednesday held a hearing on "American Jewry as a strategic asset to Israel's security".

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), chairman of the Israel-US relations Lobby, opened the hearing.

"American Jewry is the bridge which forms the basis for the US-Israel relationship," Shai said, adding that the American Jewish community is thus "the most important strategic asset" to the State of Israel. 

Foreign Ministry CEO Dr. Dore Gold noted that Israel and American Jewry "are going in slightly different directions." 

"We have already seen this situation in the past, and I do not think that Israel needs to reinvent itself to maintain the relationship, but we definitely need to deepen the dialogue," he qualified. Gold added that Israel must "do a lot of thinking" in how to approach the issue. 

"We must make every effort to keep the relationship and deepen it, and most importantly to listen to what they say," he added. 

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told the hearing that the main issue is one of Jewish identity.

"The problem in our relations with American Jewry is that we are losing many young people who want to be active parts [of the global Jewish community] because of the fact that we do not consider them Jews according to Halacha [Jewish law - ed.]," he opined. "This is a strategic issue, and it is also common to American Jews and actually Israeli Jews as well."

Halevy warned that the shrinking rate of "true" Jews poses a threat to sovereignty in Israel, as well as to the American Jewish community. 

"Solutions must come from Jerusalem - because 'from Zion comes Torah'." 

MK and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren (Kulanu) talked about the importance of American Jewry.

"We live in an age of miracles," he said. "For the first time in two thousand years, there are two thriving Jewish communities strong and influential in the world."

"We must maintain the miracle," he added. "Israel can expect American Jews to understand where we are - the world's most dangerous neighborhood - and to appreciate Israeli democracy, at least to the extent they do other democracies in the world."

"On the other hand, the Jews in Israel should recognize the great contribution and brave legacy of American Jews and their struggle in favor of the State of Israel." 

Richard Sandler, Chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, added, "Our parents and grandparents in Israel was just a dream come true not long ago, and Israel gave us a lot, and gave us pride, despite all the obstacles in its path."

"Time and demographic variables have changed, and there are enormous challenges, and yet, we have more in common, the same set of values," Sandler continued. "Regardless of demographic changes, we assure that the community will continue to mobilize our brothers and sisters in Israel, when you're at risk. "