Beit Midrash

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Lonely Israel

To the alienated and assimilated Jewish world, Israel is somewhat of an embarrassment. It is too Jewish, too traditional, too conservative, too provincial and parochial for their broad, universal, liberal, hedonistic, pacifist worldview.


Rabbi Berel Wein

The prophet bemoans that Jerusalem lacks people who are interested and inquire after her welfare. In a general sense that is the case regarding the State of Israel and Jerusalem today. There is a lot of interest in the world today regarding the Palestinians and their cause, of ending the existence of the Jewish state, one way or another.

The presentation of the historic and justified counter-claim of the over six million Jews who live in their homeland and to Israel’s right to exist is given short-shrift in the world, if not even ignored completely. The bias against Israel and the Jewish people in the media such as CNN, BBC, the New York Times and the other major media outlets is so ingrained that it has become part of their subconscious so that they are amazed and shocked and are in denial when this bias is sometimes and somehow actually brought to their attention.

There are almost never any positive articles or reporting about Israel and its people and accomplishments. Terrorists are merely militants and victims somehow always have it coming to them. Half of the European Jews have suffered overt anti-Semitism and the other half are too fearful to acknowledge that Europe does not really enjoy their presence within their sanctimoniously enlightened societies.

Bluntly put, it is pretty lonely and even nasty to be a Jew in Europe today. The international minister of South Africa weeps that she cannot sleep at night after seeing a map of Palestine. She is certainly not concerned about Israel and Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling the doleful observation of the ancient Jewish prophet.Our welfare is not on the agenda of the world’s manifold do-gooders.

But this disdainful attitude, towards the welfare of the State of Israel and thus towards the Jews who live there, exists in the Jewish world as well. I have recently returned from an extended visitto Brazil and the United States. I may now be oversensitive to all of these matters – living in Jerusalem for seventeen years can make you oversensitive to many things – but I was and am deeply troubled by the fact that Israel is not really on anybody’s radar screen.

Naturally there is support for Israel in times of real crisis but in everyday Jewish life it does not register. To the alienated and assimilated Jewish world, which unfortunately is large in numbers, wealth and influence, Israel is somewhat of an embarrassment. It is too Jewish, too traditional, too conservative, too provincial and parochial for their broad, universal, liberal, hedonistic, pacifist worldview.

In the Orthodox world there are many motives advanced towards explaining this apathy within American religious Jewry towards Israel. These motives range from the fact that Israel is not religious enough (though America is?) to financial and educational difficulties.

Aliyah is therefore not an option for most religious American Jews and since that is the case, there exists a feeling that one would be somehow hypocritical to inject too much Israel consciousness into one’s everyday personal and communal life.

It is embarrassing to them as well to recite aprayer for Israel intheir Sabbath service. Somehow it is preferable to ignore its existence - and ignoring its existence has taken on an aura of religious piety amongst many otherwise fine observant and very loyal Jews.

I think that the basic problem that underlies much of this apathetic attitude towards Israel is that according to many Israel should never have happened. That was the decree and stated opinion of many – but not all - great rabbinic leaders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Eastern Europe. It is still anathema to many that one should now say a century later that perhaps they were mistaken.

So, one must now pretend that it never really did happen or that somehow its existence is not really central to Jewish life, present or future. In the eyes of many, Israel is not a salvation for the Jewish people in our time, saving the remnants of the Holocaust and gathering in the exiles of the Jewish world, but is rather,somehow,the cause of the Holocaust and of our current troubles.

This skewed view of things, divorced from historical fact and logical reason, pervades sections of the religious world in America - and even here in Israel. That is why most children attending American Jewish day schools, yeshivot and seminaries are ignorant not only of Israel but of Hebrew, the Prophets, and Jewish history.

Rather, we have created for our coming generation a fanciful narrative of what once was and of what is supposed to now be.There is great danger in being an irrational people in a dangerous, inimical rational world. The prophets of Israel have warned us about this as well.
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