Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
As I conclude my visit to the United States, whether I’m in Los Angeles or in New York, my hometown, just under the radar there I see a growing revolution under way in the Jewish world. One would expect this quiet revolution to happen in response to changes in Israel’s national identity. For much of organized American Jewry, that is the Federation system, they will continue to claim what is most palatable to everyone, that Israel is the story of the “startup nation,” feeling a greater affinity to the late Steve Jobs, who climbed down from the mountain of Apple with the two tablets in his arms—iPad and iPad 2 than to the biblical story of Moses who brought the Tablets of the Law to our people, the Jewish nation of Israel.
Despite this anachronistic description of Israel, a quiet revolution is under way resulting in a tectonic change of perception and awareness of Israel. This revolution will be an awakening by American Jewry who demand to connect to Israel not because Israel needs the support of Jews in America, but rather because Jews in America, irrespective of their affiliation—secular, religious, or assimilated Jews—all need Israel to support them and allow them to connect. Israel has become the cornerstone of their Jewish identity, fulfilling the potential and destiny of the Jewish people. Israel gives them what no other nation on earth can give them: a sense of belonging, an extended national family irrespective of where they live and work. They literally breathe, eat, and sleep Israel.
In Los Angeles, I met Mr. David Suissa, the well-known columnist and president of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. David is a passionate Jewish advocate, community leader, and avid story collector/storyteller. David’s Friday-night Shabbat table has seen the best and the brightest of the Jewish world and reflects the changes that are transpiring in the Jewish world. Feeling at ease with religious and secular Jewish leaders and laypersons equally, David has no qualms about expressing unconditional love for Israel, stating that we shouldn’t confuse love of Israel with supporting official policy. When one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to delegitimize the state of Israel, their goal is not to engage or interact but to undermine. Their opposition is not open to reason or goodwill. Their hatred is unconditional. This being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, why shouldn’t Jews feel completely comfortable when expressing unconditional love toward Israel, irrespective of one’s political orientation?
Moving on to Newport Beach, just southwest of L.A., I caught up with Mr. Harvey Karp, the founder and CEO of Israel Up Close (IUC). Harvey is a one-man bulldozer who has produced through IUC in the past 10 years over 170 short films about Israel: About medicine, technological advances, and integration of Ethiopian adolescents. But he doesn’t stop there. Chareidim serving in the army, Palestinian Arabs enjoying employment prosperity in Israeli factories, and wounded children from Syria’s horrific civil war being treated in Israeli hospitals have all been covered and symbolize how Israel has benefited the world in technology, medicine, water purification, and even as a humanitarian superpower. Harvey doesn’t believe that Israel should be shown to the world exclusively through the lens of politics and conflict, but through the prism of all the good that Israel brings to the world. Harvey has no reservations about sharing his love of Israel.
Coming back to my hometown, New York, I caught up with Mr. Richard Allen, the founder and head of JCC Watch, whose organization demands accountability from Jewish federations and draws attention to the use by large Jewish institutions of Jewish charitable donations to support anti-Israel activities and anti-Israel individuals. For the past few years, Richard and many of his like-minded New Yorkers have staged vigils and outright demonstrations to publicly expose what they are calling donor fraud in the institutional Jewish community. JCC Watch’s aim is to convince the NYC UJA to adopt effective guidelines like the pledge adopted several years ago by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee in Florida to oppose the funding of anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and related activities, whether by individuals or organizations.
Despite many recent reports and surveys of American Jewry claiming that American Jews are voluntarily distancing themselves from Israel, David Suissa, Harvey Karp, and Richard Allen represent a wholly different and opposing trend that seems to be much more widespread and may very well be more reflective of where American Jewry is actually heading: The idea behind the belief that Israel is the Jewish state of the Jewish people with Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish people. That the Israel Defense Forces is the Jewish army of the Jewish people and that Israel must be recognized as the nation-state of the Jewish people does not contradict the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, a vibrant democracy meticulously protecting the rights of all of its citizens, whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.
No fringe view of Israel that’s being supported by mainstream institutional contributors will be able to stop these modern-day Jewish dynamos who intuitively understand that Israel generates disproportionate criticism only because she represents the very embodiment of a moral world based on Western democratic principles. Connecting to this sense of peace and well-being will not only keep Israel strong but will equally sustain American Jewry, with Israel retaining her role as central to Jewish identity everywhere in the Jewish world. v
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.