Friday, July 14, 2017

The Battle for Identity, Israel: Zionist or anti-Zionist?

Yishai Fleisher is a well known Zionist and advocate for Israel. In today’s Jerusalem Post he provides an article with the evocative title, Two Jewish Nations, One Flag, which suggested a commonality in outlook between he and I. Yet immediately below the title he frames the issue as now within Israel but rather, “the greatest divide in the Jewish world today is between American Jewry and Israeli Jewry." As if American Jewry rather than Israel politicians was responsible for the growing divide.

Follows in my response to Yishai regarding “the divide” as seen by this Diaspora Zionist.

Likely Yishai, you and I are not far apart in our overall thinking as Zionists except that I am still in Galut, and you, from the same Galut, live in Israel. By the title of your article, I was certain that our view on the issue of “two bars and a star” also coincided but not so. I won't discuss ZIONISM as ideology, Israel as the realization of Diaspora Jews efforts to create the state of the Jews since you are likely as aware as I of those efforts. As you, I too am concerned at Herzl's warning that given the opportunity most in the Diaspora would long have voluntarily assimilated. But as he also said, and as the Holocaust taught more starkly than ever in history, even “assimilation” provides for Jewish survival. And it is this that demands that Israel remains true to the primary reason Pinsker and Herzl, two secular Jews, realized the need, and a century of Diaspora effort has created and supported the state of the Jews. Put bluntly, Yishai, whether or not Jews in the United States retain their Zionist, indeed their Jewish identity, in order to continue to serve its obligations to the Jewish people it must hold sacred the state’s definition of who is a Jew, the Law of Return and its 1970 “grandparent” amendment. As recent decisions by the present government indicate, backtracking on the Kotel agreement and, for identity purposes, promoting legislation enacting the decades-long struggle over an Halachic definition for Who is a Jew. With the recent passage of legislation ceding full state authority to the Rabbinate over conversion, the struggle over Who is a Jew appears all but over.

The point is that Israel is moving from "drift" to "accelerate" away from Zionism and its obligations and responsibilities to and for the Diaspora. And the reason is political expediency. Far easier and less expensive to provide Orthodox political parties with an anti-Zionist agenda largesse than to compromise with opposition secular Zionist parties and cede a measure of power. Not only does the arrangement result in protest among Israel’s secular majority seeing the minority benefit at their expense, but the Diaspora increasingly sees Israel increasingly distancing herself, becoming insular and unfriendly. No sooner had news of the government’s retreat from the Wall agreement; immediately following news regarding the government caving to Rabbinate authority over Who is a Jew the Rabbinate released its "Blacklist of the 160 rabbis”! Chutzpah encouraged by not just the present government capitulations, but decades previous. Except this time the Diaspora is pushing back: “Include me also on the black list” rabbis of all streams, including US Orthodox are challenging. The honor is the Diaspora denying Rabbinate authority over life outside Israel!

Israel is at a crossroads, Yishai. And it’s up to the state of the Jews to choose: religious intolerance and homeland for the intolerant; or secular Zionist and homeland to Klal Yisrael.

It's up to Israel alone to reestablish its connection to the Diaspora because it is from the state of the Jews and not from the Diaspora, that the provocation emanates! 

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