Indignation is Not Enough
Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League blasted Alice Walker over her new book, The Cushion in the Road. I was asked to write a book review explaining why the Jewish community finds Walker’s writings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict offensive. I explained that for most Jews there is no significant difference between Jews in America or Israel- as far as Jewish identity is concerned. Any attacks on Israelis or any misrepresentations of their freely elected leaders are felt by Jews all over the world as an attack on us (please follow the link below to my book review).
Despite our differences of opinion about Israeli politics and despite our various views of Zionism, the State of Israel is a place with which we, as Jews, have a personal relationship. We have family and friends who live there; our friends have family who live there. We all know someone in Israel or know someone who does. In sum, we all have a personal relationship with Israel.
It is natural and understandable to feel offended by Anti-Israel views but indignation is not enough. Indignation must lead to action: Each of us is responsible for educating our friends and neighbors about what the State of Israel means to Jews and how it has changed Jewish identity. So, what can you do?
1. Be alert and don’t give in. Understand that when people speak against a specific Israeli policy, there is usually more to it. Remember: don’t just agree with the critics of Israel, many of them have other motivations, usually Anti-Semitic ones. But in order to be alert, we also need to do some homework, which brings us to the next thing you can do to strengthen your personal relationship with Israel.
2. Be informed –Not just about current events but about whatever area you are interested in. If you like soccer, learn about Israeli soccer. If you are a physician? Take time to learn about medical advances in Israel and volunteer at Hadassah or other hospitals. IF you are in a book club? Don’t be afraid to suggest reading Israeli novels or non-fiction. You a news junkie? Subscribe to Israeli news feeds. The more you know about life in Israel, the better equipped you will be to speak up for Israel.
3. Chavayah, great Hebrew words that means “experience of a life-time.” Get your own chavayah, your very own life experience of Israel! You like to travel? Next time, instead of China, Russia or Paris, make a trip to Israel, not with a tour, but go on your own; it is safe and everyone is kind of family! Your chavayah will stay with you forever! But more importantly, when you have that chavayah, you must share your chavayah with others, Jews and non-Jews alike. We must tell the story of our relationship with Israel with everyone –especially with those who, in good will, want to know why we find Anti-Israel ideas so offensive. They need to hear our personal stories, and they will understand and become our allies.
As the only free country in the Mideast, Israel is making progress toward a more just and equitable society for all its inhabitants. Many people in Israel are trying to live up to the high expectations and demands our tradition has set forth many millennia ago, “tzeddek, tzeddek tirdof,” “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord God is giving you.” (Deut. 16:20).