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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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Author A.B. Yehoshua: American Jews are ‘Partial Jews’

Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua

Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua
Photo Credit: Chen Leopold/Flash 90

Noted Israeli author and Israel Prize Laureate, A.B. Yehoshua, delivered a lecture on Friday in which he stated that American Jews “are partial Jews while I am a complete Jew.”

“In no siddur is there a mention of the word ‘Jew’ but only ‘Israeli’,” Yehoshua asserted. “In no way are we the same thing – we are total and they are partial; we are Israeli and also Jewish.”

Speaking at the HaKatedra Strategic Friday lecture series, under the auspices of the Land of Israel Museum, Yehoshua said that living outside Israel “is a very deep failure of the Jewish people,” and lamented that immigration numbers from the United States are “minimal” and “embarrassing.”

He challenged American Jews to assume a ‘complete’ Jewish identity: “If Judaism is important to you, then come here, receive it in full and be part of it. But it is important that you understand: ‘they’ and ‘us’ are not the same thing. Do not make do with texts.”

He also accused American Jews of being generous with pronunciations of support but infrequent travelers to Israel: “They should come here more often. All the love they have for Israel, but they were here for barely a five-day visit…barely 20 percent of them [American Jews] have ever been in Israel.”

Yehoshua did not restrict his criticism of diaspora Jewry to Americans, and also took aim at the large Israeli ex-patriot communities living abroad: “There are about 500,000 Israelis abroad who can easily glide into their Israeliness, which they consider only citizenship and not identity … there is nearly no home without a convertible outside. I know these homes, who are well off. Why? Because they cannot find jobs here? The Swedes, too, don’t have work in high technology like they would want, but you will not see so many Swedes in the United States.”

Known more for his outspokenly dovish stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Yehoshua is no stranger to controversy when it comes to Shlilat HaGolah (Negation of the Diaspora). In a 2006 speech in the US at the centennial symposium of the American Jewish Committee, he said “Judaism outside Israel has no future. If you do not live in Israel…your Jewish identity has no meaning at all.” Suffice it to say, his hosts were less than impressed with his choice of words and the forum in which he chose to express them. In 2003, he was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that “diaspora Judaism is masturbation. Here [Israel], it is the real thing.”

About the Author: Rafi Harkham is an Editor and Senior Analyst at The Jewish Press.

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