The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Berachah – blessing – says the Gemara, is found only in things that remain unwatched and out of sight. Hasbara – the way Israel explains itself to the world – might be in better shape taking a cue from that Gemara.
Every few years marketing pundits come up with a new strategy for hasbara, claiming the old one was all wrong and the new one will work better. Perhaps the most infamous sea change in hasbara took place a few years ago, when marketers decided Israel should brand itself as a “fun” place and undo all the old stodgy stereotypes. We know how well that worked.
It is unfair to blame Israel. Its job is to fight on the military front, and we daveneach day for the success of its soldiers. The second front, that of public opinion, should be fought by Jews around the world. There is only so much a small country with limited resources can do. (Friends in the Foreign Ministry like to remind me that the yearly hasbara budget for the ministry is less than the advertising budget of Israel’s leading yogurt producer.)
Yet the most effective tools sometimes are the ones that remain hidden from sight, never having been promoted as hasbara instruments. A few weeks ago I witnessed one of these in action.
Around this time each year, dozens of cities host “Honor Israel” nights in which Christian friends of Israel gather to show their support for the Jewish state and the Jewish people. As a staffer at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I was invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan to update such a gathering about BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy that Palestinians have been counting on to turn public opinion away from Israel. When I arrived, I learned that someone who happened to be nearby had been added to the program.
Major Liron Shapira is a career IDF officer. A kibbutznik, he served in a combat force and then decided he was ready for new challenges. He switched to the IDF search-and-rescue (SAR) unit. When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Liron deployed with the IDF team that was one of the most vaunted success stories of the international relief effort.
Liron was not in the U.S. on a hasbara assignment for the IDF. He was the partnering with a U.S. military unit he held in high esteem. In several ways he struck a different figure from the type of Israeli spokespeople Americans often encounter. He was soft-spoken, tentative rather than certain, and strikingly humble. No airs or pretensions at all. All of this made his effort devastatingly effective.
His audio-visual presentation told the story of the entire operation as seen by the SAR people, as opposed to the medical personnel who took over once survivors were located and transported. Preserving footage of some of the most difficult extractions from the rubble demonstrated the competence of the Israeli team, but small vignettes he included offered the greatest insight into the Israeli soul.
He showed pictures of backslapping between members of different SAR teams, but also pointed out the differences between them. On one occasion, cutting through concrete was hampered by embedded iron rods. His platoon did not have the instrument it needed to reach a trapped survivor, but he knew of several others that did. He only went to groups he knew possessed at least two of the tools. Nonetheless, each of them turned down his request to borrow the tool.
Liron detected a casualness about human life even among these lifesavers – with one exception. The U.S. team shared the same regard for human life, he said. Liron’s voice expressed genuine anguish and childlike innocence in relating this and similar stories. How could people not respond to the opportunity to save a life?
Even in dealing with death, the different groups displayed their prejudices. He showed pictures of large buildings reduced to piles of rubble, with bodies openly lying in the debris days after the quake. No one stopped to cover them until the Israelis chanced upon them. (A Midrash praises King David for returning to the battlefield the day after victory for the single purpose of burying the enemy dead.)
About the Author: Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Interfaith Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and the Sydney M Irmas adjunct chair, Jewish Law and Ethics, Loyola Law School.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.
The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.
“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
A monastery in Israel is desecrated, almost certainly by nationalist extremists.
The desecration was condemned by the prime minister and others in the government. Chief Rabbi Metzger called it a “heinous deed.” The Internal Security minister did not hesitate to use the word “terror” and announced the formation of a special police unit to combat it. Many people traveled to the monastery to personally apologize, including Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, who took brush in hand to help scrub the offensive words from the walls.
The one hundred and thirty children and young adults share two things. They are all Jewish, and they all contend daily with serious and debilitating illness. Many of them have done so all of their lives. You would think spending time with them would provide the ultimate mussar ride for Elul, an in-your-face confrontation with your own mortality, and the need to be grateful to God for life itself and the parts of it we take for granted.
It doesn’t take very much to lose a neshamah.
The young woman was witty, charming, frum, and a Harvard Law School graduate. She was also black, and lived in an Orthodox neighborhood. One Purim, she was treated in a neighborhood shul to the sight of a young mother with a few children in tow. As her Purim get-up, the mother had chosen to adorn herself and her kids with blackface and thick lips. The connection to Purim was not clear.
“I don’t care what group you identify with, as long as you are ashamed of it.” There is much wisdom in the throwaway line with which Dennis Prager frequently challenges audiences to admit to the flaws of the groups with which they identify.
Ayatollahs in business suits is what Noah Feldman would have the world believe we all are. If the Orthodox were going to leave him out of his alma mater’s reunion picture just because he married out, then Noah Feldman was going to out the Orthodox.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/hasbara-in-the-rubble/2011/06/07/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: