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ISRAEL NOW ISRAEL AND AMERICAN JEWS: VEERING APART?

A SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT TO THE JEWISH WEEK, MAY 29, 2015

Navigating the existential divide. By Yossi Klein Halevi page 6 The debate over liberal Zionism. By Yehuda Kurtzer page 12 Press freedom under siege. By Uri Blau

Israeli-Americans as a bridge. By Nessa Rapoport

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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Jewish island in an Arab sea, Israel has always been a country on the edge. That edge appears to have gotten even more razor thin in the last year. The Jewish state’s ties with its main ally, the United States, have become severely frayed. The relationship between the Israeli prime minister and the American president is strained, to say the least, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress criticizing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal adding to the mistrust between the two. Israel, for the first time in memory, has become a partisan wedge issue in the U.S. Congress. Israel’s commitment to democracy and pluralism are being questioned by a wide swath of American Jews, and Jerusalem’s new, tissue-thin right-wing government is only complicating the matter. With all that as a backdrop, we offer our annual Israel Now section. As we try to capture this particular moment in Israel’s story, with a focus on the debates surrounding a changing Israel-diaspora relationship, we turn to some seasoned writers and thinkers. Author and journalist Yossi Klein Halevi considers two of the central threats facing Israel today — the Iran nuclear deal and the

Capturing the current moment, with a focus on the changing relationship between American Jews and Israel.

idea of a Palestinian state — and how an existential divide separates the way American Jews and the Israeli mainstream view them. Yehuda Kurtzer, president of The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, looks at liberal Zionism and the politics of loyalty when it comes to Israel; the left and the right are both wrong, he argues, in the way they frame the issue. Gidi Grinstein, who founded a leading Israeli think tank, suggests that even as new distance is opening between Israel and diaspora Jewry, it would be a mistake to read that negatively; history shows that the push and pull between the two is a fact to be embraced. American ex-pat journalist Stuart Schoffman looks at the current moment and finds, as with so much of life in Israel, a measure of tragedy and a measure of farce. The Jewish Week’s Israel correspondent, Michele Chabin, gets reaction from a wide range of analysts on how Israel’s new ruling coalition might play when it comes to American Jews and the issues they hold dear. And closer to home, author Nessa Rapoport looks at the contributions of Israelis here and suggests that they might be a kind of human bridge between American Jews and the Jewish state. These days, such a thing would be like a balm in Gilead. Robert Goldblum

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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CONTENTS Navigating Existential Divides The Iran deal, a Palestinian state and the gulf between Israelis and American Jews.

page 6

By Yossi Klein Halevi

The Politics Of Loyalty Hawks and doves are both wrong when it comes to liberal Zionism. What’s needed is the reimagining of an ideology.

page 12

By Yehuda Kurtzer

‘We’ve Been In This Movie Before’ The current moment, caught as it is between tragedy and farce, invariably echoes the past.

page 16

By Stuart Schoffman

Drifting Apart, Coming Together The old/new dynamic of Israel-diaspora relations. By Gidi Grinstein

page 20

The Coalition Conundrum TIsrael’s ruling government, American Jews and the question of the Jewish state’s democratic values. By Michele Chabin

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A Full-Court Press Against The Press A reporter indicted for exposing IDF secrets sees a chilling media landscape in Israel these days. By Uri Blau

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The New Rhythm Of Israel-Diaspora Relations Israelis in America: We need your song especially now. By Nessa Rapoport

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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Navigating Existential Divides The Iran deal, a Palestinian state and the gulf between Israelis and American Jews.

Yossi Klein Halevi Special To The Jewish Week

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xistential threats once united the diaspora and Israel. Now, increasingly, it is existential threats — or rather opposing perceptions of existential threats — that deeply divide us. For Israelis, preventing a nuclear Iran is a matter of life and death; and most of them agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that President Obama’s Iranian deal will ultimately lead to a nuclear Iran. The deal has been denounced almost across the Israeli political spectrum. Yet many liberal American Jews are siding with Obama. Prominent American Jewish journalists have defended the deal. J Street has become, in effect, the administration’s pro-deal lobby in the Jewish community. Obama’s Jewish supporters argue that they too oppose a nuclear Iran and that Obama’s strategy is the best way to prevent it. For Obama’s supporters, then, the debate is tactical. But for those who see Obama’s strategy as an historic disaster, the debate is far more than that: It’s existential. The second existential divide separating liberal American Jews and the Israeli mainstream is over a Palestinian state. Liberals tend to see the occupation as the greatest threat — morally, demographically

Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor, top. Above, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at negotiating session in Geneva. P HOTOS BY WI KI M EDIA COM MON S — facing the Jewish state. A majority of Israelis agree that the occupation is a long-term existential threat, but see the creation of a Palestinian state as an imminent existential threat. Given a disintegrating Middle East, the emergence of terror enclaves on Israel’s borders, an expanding Iran unchecked by American power — creating a Palestinian state now means risking constant attack along Israel’s most sensitive border, overlooking greater Tel Aviv. For most Israelis, then, the debate over a two-

state solution isn’t ideological but tactical, a question of timing: If and when conditions are right, we’ll accept a two-state solution, but not before. But for those American Jews who regard the occupation as an historic disaster that must be ended now, the debate is existential. The last time that an existential threat unequivocally united Israel and the diaspora was the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Not coincidentally, that was the last of Israel’s existential wars, its last conventional war. Since then, every one of Israel’s wars has been asym-

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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Existential Divides continued from page 6

metrical — fought between the Israel Defense Forces and terrorists embedded in a civilian population. The turning point in Israel’s military history — and in diaspora-Israel relations — was the 1982 Lebanon War. That was Israel’s first “war of choice,” initially intended to push the PLO back from the northern border but quickly devolving into a far more ambitious goal of remaking Lebanon and the Middle East. That war not only failed to unite Israelis around the security threat, but was itself the cause of schism. The consequences reverberated abroad: For the first time diaspora Jews publicly protested Israeli policy during war. Then came the first intifada of the late 1980s,

and the Oslo negotiating process of the 1990s. The divisions within Israeli society culminated in the Rabin assassination; Israeli society seemed to be unraveling along its left-right divide. The next turning point was the year 2000, when Israel accepted a two-state solution and received in return the worst wave of terrorism in its history. The result was the near-total collapse of the Israeli left, along with the credibility of its assertion that the occupation, rather than Palestinian opposition to Israel’s existence, was the main obstacle to peace. The Israeli left has never recovered: In the recent elections, the Zionist Union of Yitzhak Herzog emphasized social issues, not the discredited peace process. The phase of Israeli history that began with the second intifada in 2000 has created a third existential divide separating the Israeli mainstream and

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many American Jews: the perception of whether our asymmetrical mini-wars are existential or immoral over-reactions to exaggerated threat. The Lebanon War of 2006, along with the war against Hamas in 2008 and again last summer, were experienced by most Israelis as existential. One popular bumper sticker from the 2006 war read simply: “A war for our home,” with a sketch of a red-roofed house. Israelis believe that, while none of those conflicts are in themselves existential, their cumulative

How to remain faithful to our most deeply held truths about Israel’s predicament, while remaining faithful to our mutual covenant as a people.

effect surely is. The purpose of the terror groups is to defeat us through exhaustion and self-doubt, confronting us with the choice between defending ourselves in inevitably ugly wars that lead to Israel’s increased isolation, or forfeiting our right to defend ourselves and causing Israelis to despair of our future in the Middle East. As a result, Israelis have relearned the instinct of uniting under threat. We may go at each other viciously during election campaigns, but as soon as the rockets of Hamas or Hezbollah start falling on the home front, Israel becomes an instant family. But that Israeli consensus no longer extends to the diaspora, where voices opposing Israel — especially during our asymmetrical conflicts — are growing. Not long ago a prominent American rabbi told me that if Israel attacks Iran, many American Jews may side with the Obama administration — even if thousands of missiles are falling on Tel Aviv. Speaking with deep anxiety, he concluded that we can no longer count on a united American Jewry even if Israel finds itself under unprecedented attack. My own existential fears are mainstream Israeli. I regard Obama’s Iranian deal as the single greatest threat facing Israel today. I believe, too, that Israel has no choice but to continue periodically fighting its mini-wars against the terror enclaves on our borders. And while I believe that the absence of a Palestinian state is a long-term existential threat to Israel, I fear that its creation today would be a greater danger. How then do I maintain a civil conversation with Jews who are on the other side of these issues? How to remain in solidarity with my fellow Jews when we are arguing about life and death? Some American liberal friends of mine — passionate Zionists — feel so desperate about the occupation that they support a boycott of products from the settlements. But if boycotting fellow Jews is an appropriate response to perceived existential threat, then why stop at settlements? Should those of us who regard Obama’s deal with Iran as a mortal danger boycott groups and individuals in the Jewish community who support the president’s policy? At stake is nothing less than our ability to function as a people — one of the great achievements of

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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KEEPING ISRAEL AND THE U.S. SAFE

Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank complicates relations between American Jews and Israelis. WI KI M EDIA COM MON S

Existential Divides continued from page 8

the Zionist revolution. The first principle, then, in governing our debates over primal fears of survival is this: delegitimizing fellow Jews is itself a kind of existential threat. The second principle is humility. No one segment of the Jewish people has a monopoly on concern for Israel’s survival. Much as I vehemently disagree with Obama’s Jewish supporters, I cannot allow myself the emotional satisfaction of denouncing their motives. That kind of Jewish conversation leads to the abyss.

And so we are left with this challenge: how to remain faithful to our most deeply held truths about Israel’s predicament, while remaining faithful to our mutual covenant as a people. Navigating this dilemma will require all our wisdom as an ancient people that has known how to overcome both external threat and suicidal schism.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His 2013 book, “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Country” (Harper), won the Jewish Book Council’s Everett Family Book of the Year Award.

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11 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER cordially invites you to attend a special screening in honor of

AMBASSADOR

YEHUDA AVNER A”H

D E C E M B E R

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Monday, June 8th, 2015

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PM PROGRAM BEGINS 7:30 PM Please join us as we pay tribute to our Dear Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-grandfather, and champion Mimi Avner, Debbie (Avner) and David Sable Tanya and Darren Wolf, Elianna and Yoel Kaye

For further information, please contact Sarah Kramer 212.697.1180 x108 or skramer@wiesenthal.com EVENT HOSTS

AMY & BOB BOOK

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This Special Tribute event in honor of Ambassador Yehudah Avner, A”H, is dedicated by his dear friends Amy and Bob Book Amy and Bob Book have given a generous Benefactor’s Gift to the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem in honor of Ambassador Yehuda Avner The Avner family would like to express their deep appreciation and gratitude to Amy and Bob Book for their love and friendship with Yehuda, A"H.

Ambassador Yehuda Avner was an Israeli former diplomat and prime ministerial advisor. Born in Manchester, England in 1928, he arrived in British Mandatory Palestine in 1947. He fought in the 1948 War of Independence and was among the founders of Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee. During a lengthy diplomatic career, he served in positions at the Israeli Consulate in New York, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, and as Israel’s Ambassador to Britain, Ireland, and Australia. Ambassador Avner served as speechwriter and secretary to Israeli Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir, and as an advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. Ambassador Avner was the author of The Young Inheritors: A Portrait of Israel’s Children, and The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership (2010), which became an international bestseller and was made into a documentary film. The Yehuda Avner Chair in Religion and Politics was established at Bar-Ilan University in 1995. Ambassador Avner was a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a member of the Ambassadorial Appointments Committee.

SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER


12 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

The Politics Of Loyalty Hawks and doves are both wrong when it comes to liberal Zionism. What’s needed is the reimagining of an ideology.

Yehuda Kurtzer Special To The Jewish Week

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t is in vogue to say that liberal Zionism is in crisis. Last summer’s war in Gaza provoked a spate of essays purporting that the confrontation between liberal values and the policies of a hawkish Israel were making the ideology untenable. In this portrayal, liberal Zionism was a precarious political ideology that entailed support for the State of Israel while believing that the state had to express progressive values, and that history and politics were conspiring to unmake an ideology and prove it to have been feeble and unrealistic all along. This portrayal is the result of an unwitting conspiracy between right and left. Several thinkers on the left — Peter Beinart, Alan Wolfe and others — locate the failure of Zionism in the growing ideological divide between the younger generation and the American Jewish “establishment” and its support for an Israeli government which acts at cross-purposes with the central Jewish values important to most American Jews. Their discomfort, also expressed after the recent Israeli elections, provides fodder for this thesis, namely, that Zionism is contingent on the absence of dissonance between Israel and the values significant for American Jewish identity. The belief is that discord creates a crisis resulting first in “distancing” from Israel and, eventually, a collapse of the ideology

A home in Gaza destroyed by Israel during last summer’s war. The issue of civilian casualties led some liberal Zionists to criticize IDF tactics. WI KI M EDIA COM MON S and the relationship altogether. To the right, the struggles of liberal Zionists are a source of glee and triumphalism. They affirm the right’s belief that their opponents’ ideology was fragile all along and implicitly connect it to the struggle for survival of liberal Judaism, which is suffering from its abandonment of Jewish particularity. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe — and perhaps also on American college campuses, which the right is tracking carefully and presenting as a crisis — signals an essential Jewish “otherness” that liberal Zionists and their universalist values never took seriously. This is a challenging moment for me. I am an American Jew deeply connected personally, professionally, and spiritually to the State of Israel. I have struggled recently through periods of deep disappointment bordering on outrage about actions undertaken by the State and trends that signal the rise of antidemocratic tendencies among the electorate. I have also felt a deep sense of impotence as a non-citizen and non-resident who is both implicated — out of a good sense of Jewish peoplehood — in the actions of the State of Israel, as well as in the behavior of Jewish communal organizations that sometimes give cover to these actions, and are largely incapable, except through complicated networks of influence, to lead toward processes of change. To paraphrase David Hartman, z”l, Israel has lost

the quality of being primarily a “naches machine” for American Jews; it is now exporting meaningful quantities of disappointment. But the issue now is not me, and it is not Israel; the problem we face is that both the right and the left have misconstrued and misrepresented liberal Zionism. The problem of the moment is not merely one of identities, but of ideas. Simply put, one of the greatest philosophical mistakes we Jews made following the creation of Israel was the too-quick transformation of Zionism from a discourse of imagination into a discourse of loyalty. Consider the breathtaking diversity of Zionist ideas and dreams prior to the creation of the State of Israel. In Jewish educational environments such as my own, we were taught to think of these in strict categories. Political Zionism aimed to solve “the Jewish problem” of intrinsic, unending alienation from the structures of power and authority with a nationalist response. Religious Zionism sought to reconcile deep-seated longings for a return to the land and for the messianic age with an open window of political possibility that could achieve pieces of those longings, even incrementally. Cultural Zionism sought to retrieve the spiritual integrity of the Jewish People after millennia of dislocation, dispersion, and cultural deracination.


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The Etzion Foundation will be holding a Shloshim Program in Memory of

Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Har Etzion MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2015 7:00 pm Mincha 7:15 pm Program hosted by The Jewish Center 131 West 86th Street, NYC

Speakers:

Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Har Etzion Rabbi Dr. Michael Rosensweig, Rosh Yeshiva, RIETS of Yeshiva University Rav Shlomo Brin, Chairman Elect, Yeshivat Har Etzion

A world wide Siyum Shas and Tanach in memory of Rav Lichtenstein zt”l will be included in the program.

For more information email usoffice@haretzion.org

Etzion Foundation • Yeshivat Har Etzion • Migdal Oz • Herzog College • www.haretzion.org In memory of Moreinu Ve-Rabbeinu Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l and in recognition of his enduring legacy and impact on generations of students, the following Rabbis and Communities around the world have participated in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, sharing divrei torah, drashot and shiurim on the Torah of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l. Rabbinical Council of America, USA Ro’i Abecsis, Ariel, Buchman, Modiin, Israel Pesach Aceman, Bar Yochai, Israel Rabbi Ahron Adler, Beit Knesset Ohel Nechama, Israel Rabbi Yosef Adler, TABC (yeshiva high school), NJ Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rinat Yisrael, NJ Dov Aharon, Ginot Shomron, Israel Rabbi Daniel Alter, DAT Minyan, CO Dani Appel, University of Illinois, IL Rabbi Dovid Asher, Keneseth Beth Israel, VA Rabbi Yitshak Asiel, Succat Shalom, Serbia Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Chicago Board of Rabbis, IL Rabbi Ofer Bar Kochva, Bnei Akiva Yokneam Chapter, Israel Rabbi Shalom Baum, Keter Torah, NJ Rabbi Avi Baumol, Krakow community, Poland Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, Golders Green Synagogue, United Kingdom Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh, Gruss Kollel/Yeshiva University, Israel Dovid Ben Nissan, Kehillah Yehudit, Germany Meir Ben Shachar, Beit Knesset HaMerkazi Yad Binyamin, Israel Nisiel Ben Tov, Sefardi Ramat Magshimim, Israel Rabbi Eitan Bendavid, West Side Sephardic Synagogue, NY Rabbi Gedalyah Berger, Fleetwood Synagogue, NY Rabbi Michael Berger, New Toco Shul, GA Rabbi Ari Berman, Beit Midrash Neve Daniel, Israel Rabbi Yonah Berman, Congregation Kadimah-Toras Moshe, MA Rabbi Leron Bernstein, Yeshiva College Schools, South Africa Rabbi Donny Besser, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva H.S., NJ Rabbi Yaakov Bieler, Kemp Mill Synagogue, MD Rabbi Avi Billet, Anshei Chesed, FL Rabbi Heshie Billet, Young Israel of Woodmere, NY Rabbi Donald Bixon, Beth Israel Congregation, Fl Rabbi David Blackman, Jewish Learning Centre (JLC), Australia Rabbi Binyamin Blau, Green Rod Synagogue, OH Josh Blaustein, Young Israel Shomrei Emunah of Greater Washington, MD Adam Boxer Edgware, Yeshurun, BAUK Rabbi Baruch Dov Braun, Young Israel of Avenue J, NY Rabbi Nasanayl Braun, Congregation Brothers of Israel, NJ Rabbi Michael Broyde, New Toco Shul, GA Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Canada Gavri Butler, Beis Haknesses of North Woodmere, NY Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Yeshiva University, NY Rabbi Yehuda Chanales, TABC H.S., NJ Michael Charish, Beit Knesset Ramat Modi’im Glenwood, Israel Amir Chenchinski, Beit Knesset Tze’irei Ganim 2011, Israel David Chenrick, Bnei Akiva South Africa Ezra Chwat, Beit Knesset Tzur Yeshuati, Israel Aaron Ciner, Young Israel Teaneck, NJ Eliyahu Citron, Derech Avot High School Efrat, Israel Amos Cohen, Harshtik, Meitar, Israel Herbert Cohen, Amit Nachshon, Israel Avinoam Dar, Beit Knesset Heichal Tzion, Israel Rabbi Gidon Dar, Beit Knesset Tefilat Shlomo, Alon Shevut, Israel Rabbi Shmuel David, Yeshivat Hesder in Afula/Bnai Akiva Afula, Israel Shimon Dehan, Beit Knesset Orot Ashkelon, Israel Rabbi Barry Dolinger, Congregation Beth Sholom Rabbi Jeremy Donath, Congregation Darchei Noam of Fair Lawn, NJ Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Dror, HaYeshiva HaKehilatit AMIT Afula Rabbi Menashe East, Ezras Israel Rabbi Ira Ebbin, Congregation Ohav Sholom, NY Arik Edelstein, Beit Knesset Nechusha, Israel Dror Ehrlich, Beit Knesset Renanim Kefar Ganim Gimel, Israel Rabbi Toby Einhorn, Kehillah Heichal HaBanim, Kfar Shemaryahu, Israel Rabbi Rafi Eis, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, PA Jason Elbaum Modiin, Shkhunat HaCountry, Modiin Rabbi Zvi Engel, Congregation Or Torah, IL Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, Kemp Mill Synagogue, MD Rabbi Steven Exler, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale - The Bayit, NY Ori Finfter, Nachalat Binyamin, Israel Rabbi Reuven Fink, Young Israel of New Rochelle, NY Nachi Finkelstein, Tze’irei HaGiv’a Givat Shmuel, Israel Rabbi Elisha Fixler, Moshav Shadmot Mechola and Yeshivat Hesder, Israel Rabbi Josef Fradkin, Chabad Hebrew Academy San Diego, CA Michael Fredman, Deal, NJ Rabbi Binny Freedman, Yeshivat Orayta, Israel Rabbi Daniel Fridman, Old Broadway Synagogue, NY Eli Fuchsbromer, Private shiur to 3rd and 4th graders, Israel Rabbi Noah Gardenswartz, Yeshiva University, NY Rabbi Barry Gelman, United Orthodox Synagogues, TX Rabbi Menachem Genack, Shomrei Emunah, NJ Rabbi Yitzi Genack, Riverdale Jewish Center, NY Seth Gerson, Glenwood (Chashmonaim), Israel Ariel Gian, Mechinat Givat Shmuel, Israel Micah Gimpel, Beit Knesset Zeit Raanan Efrat, Israel David Glatt, Beit Knesset Feigenson, Beit Shemesh, Israel Chaim Goldberg, Denver Academy of Torah/East Denver Orthodox Synagogue, CO Rabbi Efram Goldberg, Boca Raton Synagogue, FL Michael Goldberg, Bondi Mizrachi Synagogue, Australia Rabbi David Goldfischer, The Frisch School, NJ Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Ahavath Torah, NJ

Dov Goldstein, Heichal Binyamin, Israel Rabbi Uri Goldstein, Ahavat Achim, NJ Rabbi Yaakov Gottlieb, Chen HaTzafon, Israel Avi Gozlan, Beit Knesset Choshen Modi’in, Israel Amitai Grady, Ohel Yitzchak, Israel Rabbi Seth Grauer, Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Or Chaim/Ulpanat Orot Girl’s Schools, Canada Rabbi Aaron Greenberg, OU/JLIC, Canada Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg, Congregation Beth Israel, LA Avraham Gross, Bnei Akiva Migdal HaEmek, Israel Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, The Zayit Kollel and David and Sorra Landau/ Shavuot Night Learning Program, Israel Rabbi Charles Grysman, Zichron Yisroel Congregation of Associated Hebrew Schools, Canada Rabbi Hillel Habshush, Beit Knesset Beracha veShalom/ Beit Knesset Mishkan Yair, Israel Uri Hacohen, Torah MiTzion Munich, Germany Adam Haimowitz, Bnei Akiva New York New Jersey/Camp Moshava IO, PA Rabbi Shmuel Hain, Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale, NY Rabbi Yehuda Halpert, Congregation Ahavat Shalom, NJ Rabbi Raymond Harari, Mikdash Eliyahu, NY Rabbi Avidan Hazany, Mevaser Shalom, Israel Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, Congregation Netivot Shalom, NJ Rabbi Avi Heller, Manhattan Jewish Experience, NY Jeremy Herz, Mizrachi Beit Midrash, Australia Rabbi Yair Hindin, Albert Einstein Synagogue, NY Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, NY Matthew Hocherman, Boca Raton Synagogue, FL Yonatan Holzer, Dorot Avraham, Israel Rabbi Dov Huff, Maimonides School, MA Evyatar Ilan, Beit Knesset Eliyahu HaNavi, Israel Yishai Ilan, The New Shul, Elazar, Israel Rabbi Howard Jachter, Shaarei Orah - The Sephardic Congregation, NJ Rabbi Yaakov Jaffe, Maimonides, MA Rabbi Josh Joseph, Yeshiva University, NY Rabbi Shmuli Kagan, Yeshiva College & Mizrachi Campus, South Africa Rabbi Wes Kalmar, ASKT, WI Moti Kaniel Moriah, Petach Tikva, Israel Rabbi Avi Kannai, Beit Knesset Mitzpe Ramot, Israel Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, OU-JLIC at UCLA Hillel, CA Yechiel Kaplan, Jerusalem, Israel Ariel Katz, Tiferet Chen, Modiin, Israel Rabbi Shaya Katz, Riverdale Jewish Center, NY Rabbi Shmuel Katz, Beit Sefer Mamad Torani Har Nof, Beit Knesset Dati Leumi, Israel Rabbi Maury Kelman, Route 613, NY Rabbi Barry Kislowicz, Fuchs Mizrachi School, OH Dov Klein, Yair Yisrael, Israel Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin, North Shore Hebrew Academy, NY Rabbi Barry Kornblau, Young Israel of Hollis Hills - Windsor Park, NY Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation (“The BAYT”), Canada Kenan Kravitz, Menorat Avner, Israel Rabbi Michael Laitner, Finchley Synagogue, United Kingdom Michal Lashansky, Orot Hakramim, Israel Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, Beis Haknesses of North Woodmere Rabbi Beny Lehman, Kehillat Kol Dodi, Jerusalem Israel Rabbi Dov Lerner, Congregation KINS, IL Rabbi Yaacov Lerner, Young Israel of Great Neck, NY Rabbi Daniel Levitt, Congregation Agudath Achim, NJ Rabbi Benji Levy, Moriah College, Australia Rabbi David Levy, Peshti Shul, Hungary Rabbi Eric Levy, New Toco Shul, GA Rabbi Yamin Levy, Beth Hadassah Synagogue, NY Shulamit Lew, The Midrasha, United Kingdom Rabbi Paul Lewin, North Shore Synagogue, Sydney Australia Rabbi Mayer Lichtenstein, Beit Knesset Ohel Yonah Menachem, Israel Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Israel Rabbi Yitzchok Lichtenstein, Kehilas Bais Avrohom Monsey New York Rabbi Menachim Linzer, Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, IL Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, NY Rabbi Craig Lubner, Yeshivah of Flatbush, NY Jeremy Magence, Canadian Friends of Yeshiva University, Canada Hillel Maisels, Beit Knesset Ohel Ephraim, Israel Chanan Mandel, Yachad - Minyan Shitufi Hilchati Givat Shmuel, Israel Rabbi Chaim Marcus, Congregation Israel of Springfield, NJ Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, Kehilas Ishei Yisrael, NY Rabbi Chaim Marder, Hebrew Institute of White Plains, NY Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park, IL Nachum Matten, Anshe Motele, IL Rabbi Ephraim Meth, Cong. Ahavath Achim, CT Rabbi Adam Mintz, Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, NY Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, United Kingdom Tony Mittleman, Kehillat Bnei Akiva, Israel Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern, Young Israel of Scarsdale, NY Itay Moshkovitz, Beit Knesset Dosah Lod, Israel Jarred Myers, Beit Midrash Morasha, South Africa Rabbi David Nachbar, TABC H.S., NJ Aharon Naiman, Family of Sara (Sorra) and David Landau, Israel Rabbi Chaim Navon, Kehilat HaShimshoni, Israel

Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, Congregation Beth Abraham, NJ Dov Oron, Ginot Shomron, Israel Rabbi Itiel Oron, Menorat HaMaor, Israel Rabbi Shmuel Paves, Beit Sefer Yavneh - Kehillat Mizrachi, Brazil Yehuda Peles, Ulpanit AMIT Tzefat, Israel Rabbi Menachem Penner, Young Israel of Holliswood, NY Rabbi David Perkel, Ezras Israel, IL Rabbi Ari Perl, Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach, NY Rabbi Dale Polakoff, Great Neck Synagogue, NY Mark Polster, Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, OH Meir Porgos, Beit Knesset Yavne, Raanana Israel Rabbi Elisha Prero, Young Israel of West Rogers Park, IL Rabbi Eran Prins, Yeshivat Netiv Meir, Israel Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky, Irving Place Minyan, NY Michael Raskas, Young Israel of New Rochelle, NY Daniel Raviv, Beit Knesset Nechamat Rachel, Givat Shalem, Israel Yehuda Resnikov, Naava Tehilla Benjy Rickman, Netzach Yisrael, Manchester, United Kingdom Rabbi Shaul Robinson, Lincoln Square Synagogue, NY Rabbi Baruch Rock, Orot HaCarmel, CA Rabbi Daniel Roselaar, Kehillat Alei Tzion, United Kingdom Esti Rosenberg, Beit Midrash Migdal Oz, Israel Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, Congregation Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills, NY Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Riverdale Jewish Center, NY Reuven Rosenstark, Beit Knesset Tiferet Avot, Efrat, Israel Rabbi Gidon Rothstein, NY Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, Congregation Beth Aaron, NJ Yochai Rudick, Midreshet Bat Tzion, Israel Rabbi Solomon F. Rybak, Cong. Adas Israel, NJ Rabbi Benjamin Samuels, Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, MA Eliezer Sariel, Beit Knesset HaMerkazi, Israel Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU, NY Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, Yeshiva University, NY Rabbi Kenny Schiowitz, Congregation Shaare Tefillah, NJ Rabbi Menachem Schrader, Beit Knesset Tiferet Avot, Efrat Israel Jeffrey Schrager, Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX Rabbi Avie Schreiber, Yavneh Academy, NJ Hillel Schuster, Hashmonaim, Israel Rabbi Efrem Schwalb, Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park, NY Rabbi Yehuda Seif, Midreshet and Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah, Israel Rabbi Meir Sendor, Young Israel of Sharon, MA Rabbi Yehuda Septimus, Young Israel of North Woodmere, NY Eliyahu Shachak, Magen Avraham Shaarei Tikvah, Israel Oren Shainberg, Givat Shmuel Synagogues, Israel Yaakov Shapira, Mechinat Yeud, Israel Rabbi Daniel Sherman, West Side Institutional Synaoguge, NY Sefi Sherman, Beit Knesset Menorat Avner, Israel Zvi Shimon, Beit Knesset Shira Chadasha, Israel Rabbi Gideon Shloush, Congregation Adereth El, NY Amichai Shoham, Tzeiri Modiin, Israel Rabbi Evan Shore, Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse, NY Rabbi Eddie Shostak, Kollel Torah MiTzion Montreal, Canada Rabbi Moshe Shulman, Young Israel of St Louis, MO Rabbi Shmuel Silber, Suburban Orthodox Congregation, MD Rabbi Yair Silberman, Beit Knesset Moed, Zichron Yaakov, Israel Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, PA Rabbi Ze’ev Smason, Nusach Hari Bnai Zion Congregation, MO Rabbi Moshe Sokol, Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush, NY Rabbi Ari Spiegler, Beachwood Kehilla, OH Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz, Kehila of Uruguay, Uruguay Rabbi Moshe Stavsky, Bais Medrash of Bergenfield, NJ Isaac Ely Stillman, Talner Chevra - Chestnut Hill Minyan, MA Gavriel Suna, Torah MiTzion Munich, Germany Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Yeshivat Hakotel, Israel Rabbi Michael Taubes, Congregation Zichron Mordechai, NJ Rabbi Lawrence Teitelman, Young Israel of New Hyde Park, NY Ben Thwaites, Forum for Jewish Leadership, United Kingdom Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, Shulamith School for Girls/Congregation Arzei Darom, NJ Rabbi Kalman Topp, Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, CA Rabbi Yehuda Tropper, Shadmot Mechola, Israel Eitan Tzur, Yeshivat Shaalei Torah, Israel Rabbi Effy Unterman, Congregation Torat Emet, OH Rabbi Shaul Vidor, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Israel Aharon Wecker, Moreshet, Israel Gabi Weinberg, Young Israel of Scarsdale, NY Rabbi Jay Weinstein, Young Israel of East Brunswick, NJ Yosef Weinstock, Young Israel of Hollywood - Ft. Lauderdale, FL Rabbi Richard Weiss, Young Israel of Hillcrest, NY Marshall Wilen, Darchei Noam of Fair Lawn, NJ Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, ASBI Congregation, IL Rabbi Shmuel Wygoda, Private Home, Efrat, Israel Rabbi Herzel Yaakov, Tse’irei Kurdistan Rabbi Eliyahu Yaniger, Kehillat Shirat Shlomo, Israel Rabbi Daniel Yolkut, Poale Zedeck, PA Rachel Yudkowsky, Young Israel of West Rogers Park, IL Eldad Zamir, Morasha, South Africa Rabbi Joel Zeff, Kenesset Israel Torah Center, CA Rabbi Oran Zweiter, Riverdale Jewish Center, NY

The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l


The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

14

Liberal Zionism continued from page 12

In this account, in spite of the competition among these ideas, each thinker and movement is afforded a pride of place in a (retrospectively) collaborative project. Some aspects of this wide network of ideas succeeded more than others and had greater staying power within the State once it finally arrived. But this retrospective narrative validated different ideas as partners in the solving of a Big Problem — the absence of statehood and statecraft — and enabled the translation of those ideas to the mechanics of running the state once we had it. This understanding of Zionism yields a devastating demand for those who would inherit its legacy: Now that we have a state, we focus on defending and

One of the greatest philosophical mistakes we Jews made following the creation of Israel was the too-quick transformation of Zionism from a discourse of imagination into a discourse of loyalty. protecting what we have. Sure, ideology still persists and matters, and we see the veins and arteries of those ideologies in the living and breathing organism of the

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state: some bulging at times and others weaker, some infused with oxygen and some starved. Now that the body is born and named, however, our job becomes to shelter it rather than fantasize about what it will be. There is a different way to understand the story of Zionism, which is to interpret it as a messier, more violent, and yet inherently pluralistic competition of imagination, because pluralism can mean that no full knowledge of truth is possible, and because power structures are such that no ideology is capable of seizing the kind of consensus or authority to make other ideas impossible or untenable. The real legacy of that moment in Jewish history was not extra-parliamentary relics such as the strange, idiosyncratic World Zionist Congress, whose function was to fantasize about what might be possible, or even the State itself, but the shared, collective project engaged in a diverse dance between pragmatism and fantasy. Why did we let this Zionism go? There were urgent demands once the State had been created, and these befell both its Jewish inhabitants and their diaspora brethren, who substituted philanthropy and advocacy for the physical work of nation building as acts of loyalty to the project. But Zionism then became essentially only a means of perpetuating the political choices that had emerged from the pre-State ideological mess — choices now invested with the imprimatur of majority choice, political leadership, and gradually, precedent. This was a great loss to the Jewish people, and the costs have not been fully realized. The transformation of a language of longing for a place, into the mechanics of loyalty to a place in which we have arrived, is a dramatic, emotionally wrought choice we did altogether too quickly, and whose emotional consequences we have suppressed at our peril. Our historical narratives of actual arrival in the Promised Land are few and far between; we have far, far more stories, from the banishment from Eden through the Babylonian Exile and beyond, of wanderings and alienations, accompanied by a ceaseless longing to return home. This longing for home is an essential feature of what it means to be Jewish. By what hubris do we now pretend that the fantasizing of the possible is easily replaced by mere perpetuation of new status quos? Retrieving Zionism as an imaginative discourse for the Jewish people is the best answer to the “crisis” of liberal Zionism. To the left, I say: Separating Judaism and Zionism and treating them as discrete projects is a deep misunderstanding of both. Zionism is the discourse of what the Jewish people can make

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To paraphrase David Hartman, z”l, Israel has lost the quality of being primarily a “naches machine” for American Jews; it is now exporting meaningful quantities of disappointment. longing which knows that sovereignty is only the beginning of an opportunity to do something great, to enact the visions of justice and righteousness that our tradition demands become the enduring legacy

15 of the Jewish people. This is the future of liberal Zionism: reclaiming its past glory as the activity of Jews in Israel and around the world to transform the State of Israel into a platform for fulfilling the wildest fantasies of Jewish imagination. This new/old Zionist conversation will be and must be even messier than it already is, and our community must foster more comfort than the politics of loyalty generally allow with the anxieties this messiness engenders. We Jews can take it; we have seen much worse than what is possible when we foster profound debate on what our collective future should look like. After all, where would the State of Israel be without it?

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is the president of The Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

5/31/15.

6/30/15.

The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

possible in the longing for a return to Zion. It may manifest in different choices and may translate to different political realities, but a Zionist Jew sees opportunity and is challenged by what is not present to make it so; it has been, and could be again, the greatest project of Jewish spiritual, religious, political, and cultural renewal our people has ever seen. To the right, which accuses liberal Zionists of betraying Israel with their agitation that it be better, I demand to know: When did Judaism tolerate — much less legislate — complacency? Liberal Zionism should rehabilitate the “ought” of Israel as a legitimate discourse that neither rejects the country’s accomplishments nor seeks to improve it except through its own democratic processes, empowering it in the spirit of a Maimonidean messianic


The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

16

‘We’ve Been In This Movie Before’ The current moment, caught as it is between tragedy and farce, invariably echoes the past.

Stuart Schoffman Special To The Jewish Week

T

he week after Independence Day, I took the Number 18 bus to the Mahane Yehuda market, to run a few Friday errands. I got off at Davidka Square, where the Street of the Prophets meets Jaffa Road. In the midst of the square is a monument of the 1948 War, displaying a homemade mortar nicknamed “Davidka,” one of six deployed by Jewish fighters; the mortars were notoriously inaccurate but incredibly loud, so much so, the story goes, that Arab forces thought the Jews might have the atomic bomb. It’s been quite a while since we were David and they were Goliath, but we still cherish the myth. In June 2003, a Number 14 bus was blown up in Davidka Square by a Hamas suicide bomber dressed as a charedi Jew: 17 Israelis died. The Israeli Air Force promptly retaliated in Gaza. That was at the height of the second intifada, during which more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed. In recent years, Arab terrorists in our midst haven’t blown up buses or cafés. (In Jerusalem, we get the occasional stabbing, and lethal attacks on pedestrians by local Palestinians driving tractors and other vehicles.) But we as a nation do experience traumatic eruptions such as last summer’s devastating Gaza war, also known

Huge social protest rallies filled the Tel Aviv streets in 2011. A rally earlier this month hit the author with a sense of déjà vu. WI KI M EDIA COM MON S as “Operation Protective Edge.” On this year’s Memorial Day, Israelis grieved for the 67 IDF soldiers killed in that war; and the very next day, we celebrated Israel’s 67th birthday. So it goes here, the welding of mourning and merriment, existential paranoia and picnics at the beach, hard-wired fears and world-beating feats of innovation in medicine, technology, modern dance. For an inveterate ironist like me, Israel is endlessly inspiring. For human-rights activists and pro-Israel activists, it’s a perennial battleground. Of course, the definition of “pro-Israel” is forever up for grabs in today’s anxious, fractious Jewish milieu. For all that, the United Nations World Happiness Report, published in late April, ranked Israel the 11th happiest nation in the world, a statistic cheerfully promulgated by various pro-Israel websites that generally vilify the U.N. (I’ve long argued that my Israeli countrymen are skilled practitioners of utilitarian denial, going about daily life in the epicenter of Middle East conflict as if we lived in California.) On the other hand, the Gallup Positive Experience Index for 2014 placed Israel far down on the list, with a score of 61, tied with Haiti, Chad and Iran. (The U.S. scored 79, same as Rwanda, 10 points below top-

ranked Paraguay. Go figure.) As with other polls, pundits, or news outlets, folks pick the answer that suits their preconceptions. So here I am on that Friday morning in Davidka Square, crossing Jaffa Road, and what do I see in front of the Clal Building, an ungainly white elephant of stores and offices, but a couple of dozen young Israelis in red shirts, preparing to march down Jaffa Road, a few of them waving red hammer-and-sickle flags. What’s this? It’s May Day! As they march off in quaint solidarity with the workers of the world, I am seized by nostalgia. Not so much for Israel’s formative socialism, for the days when this was a country of the left ruled by a feisty Jewish Bolshevik named Ben-Gurion, though I frankly do yearn for a Jewish state dedicated to the prophetic vision of justice and equality enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, read out by Ben-Gurion in the Tel Aviv Museum on May 14, 1948. I need not quote from the Declaration: you know what I mean. It was the rhythmic chanting that got to me: “Ha’am! Doresh! Tzedek hevrati!” over and over, “The People demand social justice!” This is what hundreds of thousands were chanting all over Israel in the exhilarating summer of 2011, four long

continued on page 18


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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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‘Movie Before’ continued from page 16

years ago, on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, in Haifa and in Beersheva, with some 50,000 of us, it was estimated, marching in Jerusalem alone. For a guy my age, it felt like the exhilarating Washington rallies against the Vietnam War. But the young organizers of 2011, a few of whom are now in the Knesset, were careful not to extend the demand for social justice beyond the Green Line, not to emphasize the shared humanity of Israelis and Palestinians and thus “politicize” the agenda. It was important to appeal to the great center, and the politico who rode this wave into the Knesset in the election of 2013 was Yair Lapid, the muscular, telegenic leader of the Yesh

Atid Party. Lapid joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition but was pushed out last fall by Bibi, who then called new elections designed to tighten his grip on the country. We all know what happened next. Bibi went to Washington to orate on Capitol Hill, insulting President Obama and delighting Republicans. (The controversial coup de théâtre cost Israeli taxpayers six million shekels ($1.5 million), according to Israeli press reports.) Netanyahu may or may not be right about Iran, who can know for sure? (I think he’s not, but both prophecy and plutonium are beyond my pay grade.) The beauty of Bibi’s game is that apocalyptic demagoguery cannot be proven wrong. Then, on Election Day, came his big xenophobic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY,

ISRAEL!

‘If it feels like a movie, a political soap opera, it’s worth remembering that Theodor Herzl was a man of the theater, a professional playwright, and Benjamin Netanyahu, at the end of the day, is an actor, casting himself in the role of visionary savior on the world stage.’

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finish: the prime minister of the world’s only Jewish and democratic state warning the public that Arab citizens were coming out to vote in droves, and the only way to stop them was Likud. Even when the polls closed that night, many voters still believed the surveys that predicted that Labor (rebranded as the Zionist Union), led by the principled, moderate Isaac Herzog, would oust Netanyahu at last, and set the country on a new and hopeful course. How wrong we were. Bibi set about assembling a coalition government of right-wing and charedi parties, promising plum ministerial posts to ultra-nationalists, and billions of shekels for ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. Tasked with paying the future bill was the designated finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, an exLikud parliamentarian whose economy-centered Kulanu (“All of Us”) party won 10 seats in the Knesset. And then — surprise! Shortly before the official deadline, the wily Avigdor Lieberman, slated to remain Israel’s foreign minister, was pleased as punch to announce that his six-seat Yisrael Beiteinu Party would not be joining the government, leaving Bibi with an ultra-fragile majority of 61 in the 120-member Knesset; pols and pundits speculated about the dark reasons for the dramatic betrayal, and the dubious longevity of the coalition. What are some possible scenarios? Could the new right-wing government, held hostage by Naftali Bennett’s pugnacious Jewish Home Party,


19

‘What’s this?’ It’s May Day! As they march off in quaint solidarity with the workers of the world, I am seized by nostalgia.’

hazeh k’var hayinu — we’ve been in this movie before. If it feels like a movie, a political soap opera, it’s worth remembering that Theodor Herzl was a man of the theater, a professional playwright, and Benjamin Netanyahu, at the end of the day, is an actor, casting himself in the role of visionary savior on the world stage. And yes, history does repeat itself, in cycles of tragedy and farce.

Stuart Schoffman, a journalist and screenwriter, has lived in Jerusalem since 1988. His translations from Hebrew include books by A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and Meir Shalev.

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

build more and more settlements, seek to purge the universities and media of dissident voices, hobble the Supreme Court, humiliate Israeli Arabs, and further infuriate the White House and many American Jews? Might the newly vented rage of Ethiopian Israelis brand Israel as a racist society? Will Netanyahu try to rope Herzog into a unity government, doomed at the start by its fundamental disunities? Will Obama and Europe force a twostate solution upon Israel and the Palestinians, via the U.N.? And when will we next go to war, and against whom? There’s an Israeli saying, baseret


The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

20

Drifting Apart, Coming Together

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Senior  Rabbi  at  Temple  Shaaray  Tefila  in  Bedford,  NY,  Rabbi  Greenberg  has  been  a  devoted  advocate  for  Soroka   SOROKA  EMERGENCY  MEDICINE  AND  TRAUMA  CARE  CENTER     and  our  Neonatal  Intensive  Care  Unit.   and  our  Neonatal  Intensive  Care  Unit.   SOROKA  EMERGENCY  MEDICINE  AND  TRAUMA  CARE  CENTER     In  light  of  the  expected  exponential  growth  of  Be’er  Sheva  and  the  Negev,  coupled  with  our  experiences   SOROKA  EMERGENCY  MEDICINE  AND  TRAUMA  CARE  CENTER     In  light  of  the  expected  exponential  growth  of  Be’er  Sheva  and  the  Negev,  coupled  with  our  experiences   during  Operation  Protective  Edge,  Soroka  is  at  the  forefront  of  treating  Israel’s  wounded.  We  must  urgently   SOROKA  EMERGENCY  MEDICINE  AND  TRAUMA  CARE  CENTER                  

     

     

     

In light  of  the  expected  exponential  growth  of  Be’er  Sheva  and  the  Negev,  coupled  with  our  experiences   during  Operation  Protective  Edge,  Soroka  is  at  the  forefront  of  treating  Israel’s  wounded.  We  must  urgently   expand  and  upgrade  our  Emergency  Medicine  and  Trauma  Center  infrastructures,  to  allow  us  to  be  prepared   In  light  of  the  expected  exponential  growth  of  Be’er  Sheva  and  the  Negev,  coupled  with  our  experiences   during  Operation  Protective  Edge,  Soroka  is  at  the  forefront  of  treating  Israel’s  wounded.  We  must  urgently   expand  and  upgrade  our  Emergency  Medicine  and  Trauma  Center  infrastructures,  to  allow  us  to  be  prepared   in  the  best  possible  way  for  emergencies  of  all  kind  and  to  save  lives  in  times  of  peace  and  war  alike.     during  Operation  Protective  Edge,  Soroka  is  at  the  forefront  of  treating  Israel’s  wounded.  We  must  urgently   expand  and  upgrade  our  Emergency  Medicine  and  Trauma  Center  infrastructures,  to  allow  us  to  be  prepared   in  the  best  possible  way  for  emergencies  of  all  kind  and  to  save  lives  in  times  of  peace  and  war  alike.     Soroka  is  one  of  Israel’s  largest  and  most  strategic  hospitals:  The  sole  major  medical  center  for  the  vast  Negev   expand  and  upgrade  our  Emergency  Medicine  and  Trauma  Center  infrastructures,  to  allow  us  to  be  prepared   in  the  best  possible  way  for  emergencies  of  all  kind  and  to  save  lives  in  times  of  peace  and  war  alike.     Soroka  is  one  of  Israel’s  largest  and  most  strategic  hospitals:  The  sole  major  medical  center  for  the  vast  Negev   region  and  just  15  miles  from  Gaza,  Soroka  serves  over  1  million  residents  in  a  profoundly  diverse  area,  and  is   in  the  best  possible  way  for  emergencies  of  all  kind  and  to  save  lives  in  times  of  peace  and  war  alike.     Soroka  is  one  of  Israel’s  largest  and  most  strategic  hospitals:  The  sole  major  medical  center  for  the  vast  Negev   region  and  just  15  miles  from  Gaza,  Soroka  serves  over  1  million  residents  in  a  profoundly  diverse  area,  and  is   essential  to  meeting  the  medical  needs  of  the  IDF.  Soroka  is  a  symbol  of  peaceful  coexistence,  providing   Soroka  is  one  of  Israel’s  largest  and  most  strategic  hospitals:  The  sole  major  medical  center  for  the  vast  Negev   region  and  just  15  miles  from  Gaza,  Soroka  serves  over  1  million  residents  in  a  profoundly  diverse  area,  and  is   essential  to  meeting  the  medical  needs  of  the  IDF.  Soroka  is  a  symbol  of  peaceful  coexistence,  providing   excellent  healthcare  to  all  regardless  of  race,  religion,  politics  or  national  origin.     region  and  just  15  miles  from  Gaza,  Soroka  serves  over  1  million  residents  in  a  profoundly  diverse  area,  and  is   essential  to  meeting  the  medical  needs  of  the  IDF.  Soroka  is  a  symbol  of  peaceful  coexistence,  providing   excellent  healthcare  to  all  regardless  of  race,  religion,  politics  or  national  origin.       essential  to  meeting  the  medical  needs  of  the  IDF.  Soroka  is  a  symbol  of  peaceful  coexistence,  providing   excellent  healthcare  to  all  regardless  of  race,  religion,  politics  or  national  origin.       American  Friends  of  Soroka  Medical  Center   excellent  healthcare  to  all  regardless  of  race,  religion,  politics  or  national  origin.       contact AmericanFriends@Soroka.org for tickets. American  Friends  of  Soroka  Medical  Center   PO  Box  184-­‐‑ H  |  Scarsdale,  NY  10583  |  (914)  725-­‐‑ 9070       American  Friends  of  Soroka  Medical  Center   PO  Box  184-­‐‑ H  |  Scarsdale,  NY  10583  |  (914)  725-­‐‑ 9070     www.Soroka.org   American  Friends  of  Soroka  Medical  Center   PO  Box  184-­‐‑ H  |  Scarsdale,  NY  10583  |  (914)  725-­‐‑ 9070     www.Soroka.org   PO  Box  184-­‐‑H  |  Scarsdale,  NY  10583  |  (914)  725-­‐‑ 9070     www.Soroka.org   www.Soroka.org  

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Gidi Grinstein Special To The Jewish Week

S

pring is always the time of year when many reflect on the condition and direction of the Jewish people. We frame this period from Pesach through Shavuot to Tisha b’Av, and from Yom HaShoah through Yom Ha’Atzmaut to Yom Yerushalayim as tying together the gravest moments of powerlessness in Jewish history in two millennia with the feelings of power that flow from having a sovereign State of Israel. It is also the period when Zionists and Israelis should ponder the condition and direction of our national movement as it aspires to realize the vision of being the nationstate of the Jewish people. The first thing to observe is the unprecedented power, influence and prosperity of the Jewish people. Simply put, it has never been better to be Jewish, perhaps since the days of King Solomon. It is not only the considerable military power and economic and diplomatic capabilities of Israel and the astonishing prosperity and influence of diaspora Jewish communities, but also the flourishing world of Torah and Jewish culture, much of which laid in ashes just 70 years ago. The recent embodiment of this unprecedented condition was the ability of the prime minister of Israel, with the support of leading American Jews, to speak to the American Congress in Washington in the face of opposition by the U.S. president. This moment of unprecedented power is also a moment of considerable vulnerability. Many of the characteristics that have ensured the continued survival, resilience, recurring prosperity and leadership of the Jewish people have been compromised in recent decades. Primarily, both in Israel and the U.S., the architecture of the Jewish people as a network of communities organized around powerful community institutions is disintegrating, and our people are being atomized into households and individuals. Further, we are no

longer unique in being worldwide, universally literate and possessing a global legal system. And a global wave of anti-Semitism and the rise of a potentially nuclear Iran cast a dark cloud on the future of many Jews around the world. Yet, the primary concern is the signs of growing disharmony and even mutual disinterest between American Jewry and the State of Israel. This concern goes deeper than the sentiments of Israel-fatigue that one encounters across the community and around the country; this fatigue is caused by the permanent challenge of fighting the relentless anti-Semitic attacks on Israel’s legitimacy, as well as by the need to deal with Israel’s idiosyncrasies. The hard reality is that American Jewry and the State of Israel may actually be evolving in different directions, away from each other. The fundamental condition of powerlessness for diaspora Jewry and strength for Israeli Jewry shapes outlooks and mindsets. Any diaspora Jewry will inevitably be predominantly liberal in its outlook, since it requires a tolerant and accepting host country in order to survive and thrive. Any diaspora Jewry will inevitably be religiously tolerant since no one religious body exercises control over the entire community. In Israel, meanwhile, intolerance rises because the law allows one group to reign over another, in that the minority Orthodox population — both charedi and the national-religious — controls key aspects of the public sphere. In addition, Israel’s unending conflict with the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims gives rise to Jewish voices in the public sphere that are chauvinist and even sometimes unfortunately racist. Many Israelis believe that while this rift between Israel and diaspora Jewry is unfortunate, it is also inevitable. With a public discourse that was shaped by aggressive classical Zionist thinking, they hold the view that non-Orthodox diaspora Jews are likely to intermarry and assimilate, that anti-Semitism will inevitably drive most other Jews to Israel and


American Jewry and the State of Israel may actually be evolving

Jewish people embrace two models to assure its survival and security: one is the diaspora model, which is based on a self-organizing, decentralized worldwide web of communities. The other is Israel’s government-led, centralized, top-down model of security. Both are essential and complementary. Both models are here to stay, as it should be. Zionism sought to solve the Jewish predicament in the diaspora by concentrating all Jews in Israel, yet the Jewish community in Israel may soon become the only one under an existential threat. Meanwhile, the stature of diaspora Jewry has been elevated by the existence and successes of Israel, which makes the Jewish nation equal in standing to all other nations.

This condition naturally calls upon diaspora Jews to support Israel’s survival, security, legitimacy and prosperity with their financial means and political influence. It also requires Israel not only to view a vibrant diaspora as an imperative of Zionism, but also to help shape its future, based on the diaspora’s needs. In other words, the historical condition of Babylon and Jerusalem is playing out centuries later: two great communities, two outlooks, two Talmuds, neither obsolete and both essential. Gidi Grinstein is the founder of the Reut Institute and author of “Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability and the Challenge and Opportunity Facing Israel.”

in different directions, away from each other.’

that ultimately the only viable Jewish future is in Israel. Many Israelis view Zionism as a revolution, a disengaging from the legacy of diaspora in favor of a new Hebrew civilization. Therefore, a growing divide is unfortunate but not grave. But this mindset and outlook are wrong. Diaspora Jews, in fact, have been exceptionally resilient, with a legacy that stretches back 26 centuries and will likely extend deep into the future. Judaism has been able to transcend the rise and decline of great powers such as Persia, Rome, Spain and Poland, who were hosts to its greatest communities. In all of these places, golden epochs were followed by massive setbacks that dramatically shifted the geographic spread of Jews — from Israel to the diaspora, from the East to the West, from Spain to Poland and from Russia to the U.S. Further, calamities such as the destruction of the Temple, the expulsion from Spain and the persecutions of Czarist Russia in the Pale of Settlement never paralyzed the Jewish people; they often led, instead, to spurts of innovation and to great political and economic power in another area. In other words, the survival mechanism of the Jewish people has been potent. The State of Israel obviously represents a radical departure from the dynamics of diaspora powerlessness. As of the 1880s, Zionism concluded that the diaspora model failed the Jews. It argued that only a sovereign state of Jews, recognized by world powers and international law, could solve the Jewish predicament in Europe. For many, the Shoah provided the ultimate proof of the necessity of Jewish sovereignty. The State of Israel was founded in 1948, ending 19 centuries of forced exile and re-establishing Jewish reign in Zion. By the 1990s, virtually all Jews that so desired could freely immigrate to the state of the Jewish people, de-facto offering them a shelter and a home. Thus, we should all acknowledge that today the

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Frenemies? The new coalition is a partnership between Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, who have not always seen eye-to-eye.

Congress, which he delivered despite the vocal opposition of President Barack Obama and key Democratic legislators supportive of Israel. Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters were just as aghast when a handful of left-wing American Jewish philanthropists, including Daniel Abraham, founder of Slim Fast Foods and a major democratic donor, funded One Voice and V15, nonprofit organizations that actively campaigned for a change in government, and therefore against Netanyahu and his Likud Party. Netanyahu and Likud received their own support from Jewish Republicans, including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has poured millions of dollars into the pro-Likud Yisrael Hayom newspaper, a freebie that’s become the most read newspaper in Israel. Now that Netanyahu has cobbled together a right-wing religious government, relations could

deteriorate even further, pundits say. “The values of this right-wing government remind me of an extreme-right Republican government,” says Arie Kacowicz, a professor of international relations at the Hebrew University. “They go against the democratic values many American Jews hold dear.” The new government is a partnership between Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Naftali Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home Party, two ultraOrthodox parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) and Moshe Kahlon’s centrist Kulanu Party. In his Haaretz column Chemi Shalev, the newspaper’s U.S. editor, writes that if Israel had a two-party system, Netanyahu’s coalition “would be first in line to sign a ‘sister party’ accord with the Republicans: in many ways, albeit Jewish instead of Christian, they are now like twins separated at birth.” But at the same time, the recent Israeli elections appeared to show that the public simply felt safer with Netanyahu at the helm, given both a Middle East in chaos, despite what were likely to be his more conservative coalition partners. An Israeli official in New York put it this way: “It was like the Israeli public looked at Bibi and [Zionist

continued on page 24


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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

24

Coalition

continued from page 22 Union Party leader Isaac] Herzog and said, ‘One of them looks like a prime minister, and one of them doesn’t.” While American Jewish conservatives and their Israeli counterparts are thrilled that the government will almost certainly oppose territorial compromise with the Palestinians and expand existing settlements, for example, even they could be disheartened by what could be an erosion of women’s rights, religious pluralism and overall human rights — issues near and dear to American Jews. The new coalition “is going to deal with a lot of the things that ignite Israel-diaspora tensions — such

as conversion and rabbinic rule,” Shmuel Rosner recently wrote in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Just as the new coalition was taking the reins, and with charges of apartheid flying, Netanyahu last week was forced to scuttle a proposal that would have had Palestinians returning to the West Bank not ride on the same buses as Jewish settlers. Uri Regev, president and CEO of HiddushFreedom of Religion for Israel, believes Likud’s agreements with the religious parties should be a source “of grave concern” to American and world Jewry. “The coalition agreements with the charedi parties ensure that ‘Who is a Jew,’ marriage freedom, pluralism, gender equality and much more are going to be rolled back, making Israel far less inviting and accepting of the religiously diverse

and liberal diaspora.” Regev noted that Netanyahu’s charedi coalition partners have already vowed to return funding cut by the past government to charedi yeshivas that don’t teach secular subjects, and to repeal the charedi draft law requiring a few thousand charedi men to perform IDF service. The cost of additional funding to charedi and Orthodox sectors, warned Regev, “is going to be indirectly shared by diaspora philanthropists.” The social activist predicted that diaspora philanthropists “will find that their philanthropic recipients, cultural, academic, social welfare and other projects, are going to be more needy because their budgets are going to be cut to pay for the new political ‘pork barrels.’” Elana Sztokman, a Modern Orthodox Israeli feminist and author of “The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom,” says the fact that oversight of the rabbinical court system has just been transferred from the Justice Ministry to the Ministry of Religious Affairs “means that no secular, democratically committed official will have any say whatsoever on what is going on there.” Since it is the rabbinical courts that decide who can and cannot get married or divorced, and often decide on custody issues, “this is an affront to women’s rights,” she asserts. Other provisions in the coalition agreement, from budget approval to pay the salaries of only Orthodox communal rabbis, and the decision to remove new Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home Party) from the committee to appoint rabbinical judges, “also have the potential to change the character of Israel’s democracy.” Additionally, Sztokman says, “the fact that


t

terrorism, including the 15,000 rockets coming out of Gaza after turning it over to Palestinian rule,” Bahn said. He continued, “They see [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas honoring terrorists, constantly delegitimizing Israel and trying to criminalize Israel in world forums. And Israelis see official Palestinian TV teaching Palestinian children hatred of Israel, anti-Semitism and glorification of violence — which is professionally documented on the Palestinian Media Watch website.” Rosner, from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, urged American Jews not to panic over the composition of the new government. “Organizations, activists and other people with ideologies or interests different from the ones of the new government are going to ask for your support and paint you a picture of an Israel that is fast becoming a dark nationalistic theocracy. “Do yourselves and Israel a favor and don’t be tempted by these messages of gloom. Most of them are unfounded,” Rosner said. Most of what the government is going to do is talk.” Michele Chabin reports from Jerusalem for The Jewish Week.

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25 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

several key ministries are back to being run by the ultra-Orthodox, who have a very troubling history vis-à-vis non-orthodox Jews in Israel and abroad, is a cause for concern.” Kacowicz worries that Shaked will weaken the autonomy of the high court, which many on Israel’s right consider too powerful because of its ability to override the Knesset. If Shaked manages to rein in the court, Kacowicz said, “it will go against the values of a liberal democracy. Sam Bahn, an American Jew who monitors press coverage of Israel, believes many center-left American Jews hold Israelis and its government up to an impossibly high standard while they, themselves, don’t live in Israel, pay taxes in Israel or fight in its wars. “American Jews do not really understand the realities which Israelis experience and which shape their mentality — and their choices at election time. Too many see an Israel that they want to see — what Israel should be rather than what Israel is,” Bahn said. “While all Israelis yearn for peace and most desire a two-state solution, most do not believe it is possible after years of Palestinian


26 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

A Full-Court Press Against The Press? A reporter indicted for exposing IDF secrets sees a chilling media landscape in Israel these days.

Uri Blau Special To The Jewish Week

I

ncoming phone calls from unidentified numbers usually spell trouble. The call I got some six years ago, on a steamy summer afternoon in Tel Aviv, was no different. The person at the other end of the line introduced himself as “Shayke,” a somewhat oldfashioned nickname in Hebrew. In a deep voice he explained he is an employee of the Shabak, Israeli Security Agency (ISA). I was confident a friend with a bad sense of humor was teasing me, but he assured me he actually works for the well-known agency. He then asked me to meet him at his office, somewhere around Tel Aviv. He wanted me there as soon as possible. “I can’t tell you what it’s all about,” he said, “Just come here.” Later that day, while I was leaning out of his office window, smoking one cigarette after another, I understood that he had summoned me because of my work as a journalist exposing stories related to the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In particular, his summons was due to one investigation I had published almost a year earlier, about the IDF’s “targeted assassinations” policy. In that article, which ran under the headline “License to Kill,” I revealed that the Israeli military didn’t follow Israeli Supreme Court regulations for such operations. The article was based on leaked top-secret military documents and interviews.

The new justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, reportedly said that she desired a media that wouldn’t interview “enemies” and would define IDF soldiers as “our soldiers.” GET T Y I MAGES It also revealed the views of Gen. Yair Naveh, former head of IDF’s Central Command. “Leave me alone and don’t bother me with Supreme Court guidelines,” he said to me. That article didn’t change the way the IDF operates, but it sure changed the course of my life and that of my source. The ISA, police and military joined forces and began to target us. It took time, but eventually they arrested former IDF solider Anat Kamm, the one who handed me hundreds of classified documents. Both of us stood trial under the Espionage Act, in separate proceedings. Kamm was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison (later reduced to a 3.5 years) for stealing and handing me the documents, which were the basis for several articles I published in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, where I was an investigative reporter. I was indicted for possessing classified information. After admitting to doing so, I signed a plea bargain and was sentenced to four months in prison. I became the first Israeli journalist to be convicted of such a felony and served my time doing community service at a daycare center for the elderly. Almost seven years have passed since that article was published. Years in which the Israeli population has shifted further to the nationalistic right; years in which laws aiming at limiting freedom of speech and expression have been promoted; years in which ex-

posing information to the public, especially information about the IDF, became harder and less common. When I wonder if it would even be possible to publish “License to Kill” today, the answer is far from clear. It’s easy to see how Jews in America might not see things this way. They look out at the media landscape in Israel and see a robust debate, a real give-and-take about the actions of the Israeli military, for instance, or the issue of settlement expansion, or the excessive spending habits of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on, of all things, ice cream. There’s Haaretz on the left, the Jerusalem Post on the right. They look at The New York Times and see stories that quote liberally from Israeli media on both sides of the aisle, so to speak. In fact, it seems as if some in the media in Israel, backed by some politicians, have taken an exit ramp off the free-press highway. They took a wrong turn and are traveling down a dangerous path. It’s hard to foresee any change. If anything, the results of the recent election threaten to worsen the situation. In 2012 Ayelet Shaked led Israel Sheli (My Israel), a nationalistic-Zionist organization that operated mainly in social media. In a speech Shaked gave back then, she said she “dreams” about fair media that would cover the “occupation” of south Tel Aviv by “illegal African infiltrators.” She desired a media that


backed by some politicians, have taken an exit ramp off the free-press highway. … It’s hard to foresee any change.

should receive. During last summer’s war in Gaza he fired a TV critic whose columns were considered too “lefty.” When Magal was asked about it, he replied by saying that he is “a human, a Jew, an Israeli and then a journalist,” and in that order he functions as a journalist. “During war, I need to serve primarily my readers, the local public,” he explained. The military correspondent for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, Amos Harel, is worried. In a recent article he wrote that the media coverage the IDF receives would make any other state-run organization green with envy. “The military provides the media the stories they — and presumably the public — want: an endless [string of] emotional, heroic stories. … It is hard to seriously and honestly discuss faults and mistakes when the public

discourse is that the IDF is a mistakes-proof (organization) immune from criticism.” But what may be the most worrisome development are recent efforts by Netanyahu to strengthen his control over the media. In the agreements he signed with members of his new coalition, the prime minister insisted on having full control over all media-related legislation. “While pretending he is operating for a free media market Netanyahu is actually on a personal vendetta,” wrote Nati Tucker, TheMarker newspaper’s media reporter. “The reforms he plans seem aimed at restricting power of various media outlets,” Tucker explained. Replying to questions via email, Tucker told me that the “media market should be open to competition without direct involvement of politicians,” add-

continued on following page

If anything, the results of the recent election threaten to worsen the situation.’ wouldn’t interview “enemies” and would define IDF soldiers as “our soldiers.” A few weeks ago Shaked was appointed as Israel’s justice minister in Netanyahu’s new narrow right-wing coalition. Such remarks, given by a top Israeli cabinet minister, suggest the way many Israelis, and decisionmakers, want and expect journalists to act. Shaked is preaching to the choir. Take, for example, Avri Gilad, a journalist who started his career at IDF Radio in the early 1980s. He was a bad-boy kind of journalist: young, funny, full of chutzpah, and not one to be shy or intimidated by authority. Gilad is now the anchor of a leading daily program on Israel’s Channel 20, a niche channel with aspirations to become a leading one. Last month he interviewed Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, the IDF spokesperson. Viewers that expected tough questions were disappointed. Gilad expressed his lack of comfort with the fact journalists “know all” about what happened during the last war in Gaza. “Wouldn’t it be better,” he asked, “if the public wouldn’t have all the information?” Listening to Gilad one could wrongfully assume that the Israeli public really does get all the information it deserves and needs. That is not the case. Not all Israelis — and surely not all Americans — realize that all news stories about military activities are subject to military censorship. That means authorities have pre-approved every item the public receives. Moreover, most correspondents have a cozy relationship with the military. In order to get access to information, they must go through a security clearance and accreditation process controlled by the very same organization they cover. Another problem is the happily embraced self-censorship practiced and promoted by Gilad and the like. Yinon Magal is a new member at the Knesset, chosen in the last elections. Until recently he was the editor-in-chief of Walla, one of Israel’s leading digital news platforms. He jumped from his influential journalistic post directly to a spot on the list of the religious-national Jewish Home Party. As a journalist he had firm views on the information his readers

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

‘Some in the Israeli media,

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Ayelet Shaked

28 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

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ing that changes should be promoted and handled professionally. Oren Persico is a media critic from the Seventh Eye, an influential NGO for discussing and criticizing the Israeli media. I asked him about Netanyahu’s vision for the media. “Netanyahu wants a media market he can control,” he told me via email. “He already has two newspapers under his complete control, the daily free tabloid Israel Hayom and the weekly broadsheet Makor Rishon, both owned by his friend and patron Sheldon Adelson. … The two commercial channels, Channel 2 and Channel 10, are also weakened by an uncertain future, which makes them vulnerable. This is exactly the

atmosphere Netanyahu enjoys. He would like to see all of the independent/critical media weakened and launch more media outlets that fully support him.” The next move, Persico predicts, will probably be a pro-Netanyahu TV news channel. “The TV regulators in Israel,” he notes, “are already discussing options that will allow for a channel like this to exist.” Uri Blau is an Israeli investigative reporter specializing in military and political affairs, corruption and transparency. He was a 2014 Nieman Fellow for Journalism at Harvard University and is currently based in the U.S. Follow him on Twitter: @ uri_blau


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Israelis in America: We need your song, especially now.

The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

The New Rhythm Of Israel-Diaspora Relations

Nessa Rapoport Special To The Jewish Week

M

y attitude to the presence of Israelis in New York has evolved. When I was young, I would hear Hebrew on the street and feel the poignancy of yeridah, of Jewish Israelis “descending” to live in the diaspora. Then I went through my international stage. If I — a passionate lover of Israel who has traveled there countless times — do not choose to live there, why shouldn’t Israelis have the free choice to do the same? And who am I to grieve hypocritically about it? Later, in my ever-amplifying fascination with Hebrew, I was thrilled. Hebrew — a global language, an ancient-modern tongue miraculously awakened when so many languages are dying daily — is on the sidewalks of my city and now in charter schools. Millions of people speak Hebrew, the only successfully revived language in history. Now I’ve reached the wisdom stage. As we bewail the assimilation of American Jewry and our lack of Hebrew literacy, here in the U.S. are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who know Hebrew, a gift that even those of us committed to the finest day school education struggle to bequeath our children. If we had a critical mass of Hebrew speakers and

Shira Averbuch Singer, top, at a recent Shishi Israeli event. Above, guitarist Dan Nadel, Singer and flutist Dan Aran. P HOTOS BY L AR SON HAR LEY readers among native-born American Jews, our education and Jewish identity would be transformed. (Israelis in America: Be sure that at least one parent speaks Hebrew at home, so that your children will feel at ease in Israel and be a new kind of American Jew.) No matter how adamantly secular some of them are, Americans who grew up in Israel have the Jewish calendar in their DNA. They know the rhythm of the Jewish year — with its festivities and rituals bound to

the land and to nature, such as Tu b’Shvat, the birthday of the trees, and sefirat ha-omer, the counting of the days between Pesach and Shavuot that is only an arcane reference for many American Jews. Most Israelis among us have served in the army and have given two or three years to a purpose larger than themselves, which our children are not asked to do.

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The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

30

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continued from previous page They have a story, and, however complicated it is in our ever-more complex era, they know what it is. Their country is far newer, the equivalent of 1843 in the lifespan of America. Many of them are old enough to have known people from the generation who founded Israel, built the country’s institutions, fought for her, celebrated and grieved with her. They participated in a society that, in spite of brutal, devastating and constant headlines, considers itself among the happiest in the world. And they bear with a unique mixture of trauma and pride one of the two narratives of disruption and loss that shaped most of Israel’s people: the Shoah or the expulsion from Arab lands. Of course, I am not advocating that trauma is necessary for the construction of identity. Nor am I asking Israelis to come to America in order to save us. What I am saying is: They’re here. They bring us incomparable riches we have not yet nearly understood. They are a gateway to worldwide Jewish peoplehood and culture, to the nimble capacity of Jews to reinvent themselves wherever they live and to contribute to their society from their strengths. Israelis in America understand

from their birthplace and upbringing that we Jews are global, that we come not only from Eastern Europe but from Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq and India. They have the music of those Jewries in their ears, because they grew up in a radio culture that broadcast it continually, and in a country where community and a shared set of songs were far more intrinsic to childhood and adolescence than they are in the United States. Eva Heinstein directs Piyut North America, a project that brings the treasures of global Jewish music and devotional practice to the United States. She notes that “there is a growing and influential community of Israeli musicians in Boston, New York, the Bay area and other cities. They come to the U.S. to study at top conservatories and universities, and then stay to join established Israeli artists in music inflected with Arabic modes, klezmer idioms and Andalusian rhythms — an organic part of their soundscape.” Heinstein observes, “These musicians bring a different kind of Judaism to the North American community, one that is innately multicultural and open to the world.” Dan Nadel is an Israeli musician who performs the music of Sepharad and accompanies spiritual communi-

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America that she learned about ritual, synagogue life and Jewish community. “Then, when we started Israelis in Brooklyn, we needed to create Israeli rituals, to understand: What does an Israeli Shabbat mean in New York?” Now, the IAC’s Friday night family program, Shishi Israeli, is “a way for young Israeli families to feel closer to home and to fall in love with Israel again. “At the end of the day,” she says, “we’re one people. But we can lose that connection. When we find rituals that are relevant to the second generation here but bring Israel and Hebrew to the fore, we also rejuvenate the bond between Israelis and American Jews.” n e are living in a culture of unprecedented fluidity. For many of us, our Jewishness is not a precise replica of our parents or our childhood. All the more reason to embrace Israelis who are making their lives in America. They offer us a 21st-century opportunity to press the “refresh” button on the gorgeous, enduring traditions of our people in our ever-more-diverse community.

31 The Jewish Week ■ www.thejewishweek.com ■ May 29, 2015

ties and synagogues in the Northeast. “Everybody knows about Israeli entrepreneurship, risk taking, and trying fresh ideas,” he says. “Many of us come from very diverse backgrounds. Making connections across genres feels natural.” The New York regional director of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), Yehudit Feinstein-Mentesh, was the founder of the group Israelis in Brooklyn. Supported by Rabbi Andy Bachman, who until recently led Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, she and Dan Nadel built a participatory Israeli Friday night family program that exploded in attendance from an expected 50-80 people to over 400 people a month. To their surprise, they attracted many American Jews, drawn by the beauty of the music of Piyut and the authenticity of communal singing in Hebrew. “I was shocked when Jewish Americans joined us,” FeinsteinMentesh says. “At first we thought we needed to sing in English. But they said, ‘You don’t need to be us. We come to be closer to you.’” Feinstein-Mentesh speaks eloquently about her hopes for her own family and Israelis who live in the U.S. She says it was when she came to

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Israel Now: Israel and American Jews — Veering Apart?  
Israel Now: Israel and American Jews — Veering Apart?  
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