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Posts Tagged ‘Wellesley College’

Reaction To Ads Expose Troubled U.S. Jewish Psyche

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The recent kerfluffle over Israeli government video ads and billboard posters, designed to entice wayward yordim to return home, instead exposed the troubled psyche of American Jews.

 

One might say – if verbal treif is permitted – that a ham-handed attempt by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to guilt-trip wandering Israelis into leaving their American promised land backfired. The ministry had good reason for concern lest American society continue to corrode the loyalty of Israelis to their homeland and culture. The benefits of assimilation, as American Jewish history (and the current intermarriage rate) reveals, exact high costs.

 

In the ministry videos a young Israeli woman solemnly contemplates Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers, while her American boyfriend is clueless. A sleeping Israeli father does not awaken while his youngster calls “daddy,” but not “abba.” The child of Israelis, Skyping with grandparents back home, is oblivious to the meaning of their Chanukah candles and imagines that it is Christmas.

 

For months these ads elicited no discernible response, either from wayward Israelis or American Jews. But once the video clips appeared on the Jewish Channel, prompting a tirade from Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, gevalts resounded throughout the land.

 

Goldberg was appalled: “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads.” Their message was clear: “it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America.” He added, gratuitously, that Israel has its own problems: many rabbis “act like Iranian mullahs.” And intermarriage can be “understood as an opportunity” – although for what he did not specify.

 

The Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America was furious. Rejecting any notion that “American Jews do not understand Israel” (which hardly was the primary thrust of the ads), they warned that “this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman found the videos “demeaning.”

 

There may also have been a political subtext to the belated outrage. The New York Times noted gratuitously that the Israeli ministry responsible for the ad campaign is headed by a Russian immigrant named Sofa Landver. She belongs to “the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party [that]…takes a hard line on the peace process with the Palestinians and advocates exchanging parts of Israel heavily populated by Arab citizens for Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.” Therefore, presumably, the ad campaign must be a bad idea.

 

With some 500,000 Israelis estimated to be living in the United States, it is no small problem that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry tried to address – if too bluntly for American Jewish insecurities. The Ministry, expressing its respect and appreciation to the American Jewish community, reiterated the obvious: the ad campaign targeted Israelis who had succumbed to the allure of American enticements, not American Jews.

 

But Prime Minister Netanyahu, responding to the squall of outrage from American Jewish precincts, quickly aborted the ad campaign. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, engaging in damage control, appeared on CNN for an interview with John King – on Shabbat, no less – to apologize for the failure of the Immigration Ministry to “take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”

 

As Jerusalem-based journalist David Hazony perceptively observed about the video ad fracas, “in the hysteria of the response, the insecurity of American Jewish life is laid bare.” That is the real story of the video ad contretemps, which the fury of American Jews inadvertently confirmed.

 

Israel has long been an integral part of that story. Two years after Israel’s founding, American Jewish Committee President Jacob Blaustein wrested his famous agreement from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that Israel would neither presume to speak for American Jews nor attempt to entice them to make aliyah.

 

More recently, whenever Israel has incurred the wrath of an American president for permitting another settlement in its biblical homeland American Jews have writhed with embarrassment and hastened to distance themselves from Israeli “zealots.”

 

Assimilated American Jews remain ever anxious lest they be held guilty by association with Israel’s perceived misdeeds. Their loyalty to the United States must never be impugned. Any implication that American Jews are without a sustainable Jewish identity is infuriating. They seemed shocked that exposure to Jewish life in their promised American homeland can corrode the Jewish identity of Israelis.

 

Israeli yordim are the proverbial canary in the mineshaft, warning of imminent danger ahead. Yet the ads were intended as a warning to Israelis, not to the American Jews who quickly jumped to the conclusion that it is “about us” – a clear indication, as Hazony wrote, that Israelis “stepped on a live wire in the American Jewish psyche.”

 

For American Jews of a certain persuasion, Israel once again was the big bad Jewish bully whose reckless actions jeopardized their deep yearning for recognition as good Jews and acceptance as loyal Americans. But when an Israeli and an American Jew are paired, the ads suggested, the Jewish deficiencies of American Jewish life become glaringly apparent. That stung – precisely because there is truth to it.

Remembering Hanan Porat

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In May 1967 Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook spoke to his former Mercaz HaRav students at their annual Independence Day reunion in Jerusalem. Usually a festive day of celebration, this year was different. Rabbi Kook sorrowfully recalled his feeling of despair nineteen years earlier, when the State of Israel was born: “I was torn to pieces. I could not celebrate.” Suddenly he cried out: “They have divided my land. Where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? And our Jericho – will we forget them?”

Rabbi Kook’s outburst, his former student Hanan Porat remembered, “echoed in us, as if the spirit of prophecy had descended upon him.” Three weeks later, during the Six-Day War, that prophecy was fulfilled. Porat fought in the Paratroopers Brigade that swept across the Temple Mount, reclaimed the Western Wall for the Jewish people, and liberated the Old City of Jerusalem. As biblical Judea and Samaria fell to the Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel and the Land of Israel had finally converged.

For Porat, the stunning Israeli victory offered the opportunity for return, restoration and redemption. Until 1948 he had lived with his family in Kfar Etzion, the Orthodox kibbutz a few miles south of Jerusalem. He was among the dozens of children who were evacuated not long before the Arab Legion annihilated their community on the eve of Israel’s proclamation of independence.

Defended to the tragic end, with more than 150 fighters killed in battle and slaughtered after surrendering, Kfar Etzion became an enduring symbol of heroic Zionist resistance. For nineteen years young Porat was among the Gush Etzion survivors who nurtured memories of the tragic disruption and destruction they had endured. “We felt that we’d been torn away,” he remembered. “They cut our roots brutally.”

Every year, on Israel’s annual Day of Remembrance, they gathered in Ramat Rachel at the southern edge of Jerusalem to gaze longingly at the “Lone Tree” in the distance that marked the site of their destroyed community. “Almost all the children became orphans,” Porat would recall sadly, but they were determined to “return and rebuild.”

With Israel triumphant in the Six-Day War, Porat knew the time had come “to return home.” He persistently lobbied government ministers to restore his lost boyhood community. News of his efforts reached Moshe Levinger, another Mercaz HaRav graduate, who was the rabbi at an Orthodox moshav near Petach Tikva. After meeting in Jerusalem they enlarged their group to include Elyakim Haetzni, a brilliant maverick lawyer who had arrived in Palestine from Germany in 1938. Like Rabbi Kook, he had declined to celebrate independence because “we gained a state but lost the Land of Israel.”

The three men planned their strategy for the return of Jews to Gush Etzion and nearby Hebron (“part of our genetic code,” Haetzni insisted), whose Jewish community had been destroyed during the Arab rioting in 1929. But neither Prime Minister Eshkol nor Defense Minister Dayan, who hoped to exchange land for peace with their Arab enemies, would meet with them.

Porat was not deterred. Just before Rosh Hashanah a convoy of cars, led by an armored bus from the 1948 exodus, returned to Gush Etzion. He viewed the restored community as only “the spearhead of the struggle for the Greater Land Of Israel.”

The following spring Porat joined dozens of Israelis to celebrate Passover at the Park Hotel in Hebron, rented for the week by Rabbi Levinger. Marking the birth of the restored Jewish community of Hebron, it was an extraordinary gathering of the future leaders of the Jewish settlement movement. Five years later Hanan Porat’s restored home in Gush Etzion became the launching pad for the return of Jews to biblical Samaria.

After the disastrous Yom Kippur War caught Israel unprepared, shattering illusions of its invulnerability, Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”) emerged to revitalize Zionism. Its founding convention was held in Gush Etzion. Porat wrote its manifesto, stressing “the sacred duty of every Jew to inhabit and repossess every portion of the ancestral inheritance.”

Sharply critical of the yearning for normalization that had come to characterize mainstream secular Zionism, it called for “a great awakening of the Jewish people towards full implementation of the Zionist vision.” Committed to “restoring the pioneering and sacrificial spirit of the past,” it asserted that “there is no Zionism without Judaism, and no Judaism without Zionism.”

WikiLeaks For Israel

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The WikiLeaks revelations, if it is not sacrilegious to suggest, were a godsend to the Jewish state. They demolished the mantra of Israel’s critics, President Obama conspicuous among them, who have incessantly proclaimed that the cornerstone of peace in the Middle East is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Documents released by Wikileaker Julian Assange reveal, beyond the shadow of doubt, how marginal the Palestinian-Israeli conflict really is to Arab leaders. Israeli “occupation” and Jewish settlements on “Palestinian” land do not seem to agitate them. Indeed, they clearly understand that the key to peace in the Middle East, to say nothing of the security of their royal thrones, lies elsewhere.

As Wiki documents indicate, Arab potentates firmly believe that neighborhood peace hinges on the eradication of Iran’s nuclear threat. No one said it more bluntly than King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who pleaded with American government officials two years ago to “cut off the head of the snake.” The “snake,” of course, was Iran, not Israel.

As left-wing journalist Ari Shavit recently conceded in Haaretz, Assange “placed a giant mirror in front of all of us and proved the extent to which we had been duped.”

Who is “we”? For a start: President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and the State Department, Senator John Kerry, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, Time, The New York Review of Books – and, to be sure, Haaretz and its approving leftist readers. This chorus of critics has incessantly reiterated Israeli culpability, while relentlessly blaming Jewish settlers, for Middle Eastern instability. What their ideological blinders prevented them from seeing was that by far the most ominous threat to peace comes from Tehran, not Hebron; from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not Benjamin Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman.

Surely the most dangerous perpetrator of the myth of Israel as the key to peace has been President Obama. His determination to curry Arab favor was evident from the outset of his administration, when he gratuitously bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. In his Cairo speech two months later, he blamed Middle Eastern turmoil on colonialism and the West. Pledging that the United States “is not – and never will be – at war with Islam,” he ignored the war that jihadi Islamists had launched against the United States on 9/11. Repeated terrorist attacks by Muslims against American targets did not change Obama’s mind.

In his dealings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Obama made clear his misguided notion that “peace with the Palestinians – between the Palestinians and the Israelis strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.” In fact, as Arab leaders indicated, it made little difference. But it was easier for Obama to pressure Israel than to confront Iran.

Obama got it exactly backward: he ignored diplomatic cables assuring him that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict posed no obstacle to strong Arab support for American action against Iran. Arab leaders repeatedly and explicitly urged the president to destroy the real source of danger: Iranian nuclear facilities. Concerned for their own national security, they were indifferent to any concessions over settlements that might be wrung from Israel.

Obama might have learned – because Arab leaders repeatedly told him – that the road to Tehran does not run through Jerusalem. But as Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz recently wrote, either the president was “sticking to his view of the region in defiance of the facts” or he knew an Israeli-Palestinian peace process was irrelevant to the overriding Iranian nuclear threat but still chose to pressure Israel. Neither explanation, Horovitz noted, “sits well, to put it mildly.”

WikiLeaks also exposed American complicity in the deceptions and duplicity of the Saudi government. Ostensibly an American ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism, it turns out no other country has more generously funded Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hamas. Nearly a year ago Secretary of State Clinton reported that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

With American acquiescence, the Saudi government has enjoyed the best of both worlds. It depends on the Central Intelligence Agency to direct its counter-terrorism efforts. Without American intelligence, the Saudi regime would be endangered, but with it, the government is free to support terrorist activities as lavishly as it wishes. Yet the Obama administration continued to blame Israel for instability in the Middle East.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/wikileaks-for-israel/2010/12/15/

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