By Larry Gordon
It seems that life and the events that are packed or jammed into the experience happen so fast that it is sometimes difficult to take that important step back and think, reflect on it or even appreciate whatever it si that is taking place around us. Yossi Klein Halevi, born and raised in New York and living in Israel for the last 30 years is one of those charged with the task of thinking or shall we say contemplating the condition of Israel and the Jewish people. An journalist, author and lecturer, Klein Halevi demonstrates a grasp for core issues in both Israel and the American Jewish community that define and will continue to define the future for both Israel and the global Jewish community.
Over this coming Shabbos, December 27-28 he will be the scholar in residence at Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence where the community will have the opportunity to listen to his incisive ideas about the state of Jewish life. “Yossi Klein Halevi has been a frequent and beloved guest speaker in Beth Sholom for the past 15 years,” says Rabbi Kenneth Hain. “He always presents the Israeli reality in an original and heartfelt way. Coming from a religious background, he is also able to explain complex opposing perspectives with fairness and nuance. I never fail to learn from his words and to be moved by his humanity,” says the Rabbi.
Klein-Halevi has been in the United States for the last few months touring Jewish communities ostensibly to promote his latest book, “Like Dreamers,” a look at the lives of former soldiers in the Israeli army who were instrumental in the liberation of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. It is through their eyes that Yossi Klein Halevi takes a look at their divergent paths over the years and their views on today’s Israel. It is from the deep and thoughtful perspective of everyday people that the author is able to peek into the years ahead and deal with and analyzes what he sees as the Jewish future.
We talked in some detail a few days ago about the major issues that he believes afflict our communities—here and in Israel—and he explores as he will do at his upcoming lectures at Beth Sholom over Shabbos—what he believes are solutions to some very difficult and agonizing issues.
On Israel, Yossi Klein Halevi says that at the top of his agenda is finding a way for all of Israel to live together and look past the schism that seems to be tearing the fabric of Israeli society apart. “I think we need to stop looking at ourselves as community members and go back to seeing ourselves as a people,” he says. He adds that today just about the only place where Jews can vehemently disagree with one another and still seemingly get along is in the Knesset.
From the exterior looking in Jews across the board look to the world like one complex but still united people. Internally it is a far different reality that we deal with both in Israel and the Diaspora.
On the religious or observant aspect of Jewish life Israeli’s as well as American Jews seem more divided than ever. A recent study in Israel showed that Israeli’s want “less Judaism in legislation and more in school and family lives,” Klein Halevi says. Of course here in the states the debate does not rage to the extent it does in Israel about more religion or less religion in our lives. “There really isn’t that much of a religious divide in Israel,” the journalist says. “It is the Chareidim on one side and everyone else on the other side.” More in this week’s 5TJT.