From Shalom Hartman Institute Scholars
The Iran deal and Palestinian issues are widening the gap between Israeli and American Jews, Hartman Institute Research Fellow Yossi Klein Halevi says. Past existential threats to the Jewish people, such as the Yom Kippur War, used to unite Jews around the world, but current threats are doing the opposite. When Israeli and Diaspora Jews are at odds Halevi says, that is itself an existential threat. Navigating this challenge requires us to overcome both external threats and our deep division.
Anti-Israel and BDS movements are not uncommon on university campuses in the US, says Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman , but what’s more threatening is the increasing alienation between American Jews and Israel. As Jews in America have found themselves at home as a beloved minority and have been able to participate in Jewish life, they increasingly feel disconnected from Zionist ideals, which hold that a sovereign Israel is necessary for Jews to survive and flourish. To nurture good relations between American Jews and Israel requires their engagement in Cultural Zionism.
The Gaza War in 2014 prompted many to think that liberal Zionism is in crisis, as support for both Israel and progressive values seem to be increasingly difficult, Shalom Hartman Institute North America President Yehuda Kurtzer says. The problem with liberal Zionism, Kurtzer argues, is that it is misrepresented by both the right and left. Zionism no longer involves the imaginative discourse that accepts diverse ideas; the discourse of loyalty now dominates, and have led to deep consequences. Retrieving the imaginative Zionism is the best way to save liberal Zionism from crisis.
Most Jews regard Shavuot as a commemoration of the Giving of the Law at Sinai, Hartman Institute Senior Fellow Menachem Fisch says, but a closer look at the Bible shows that it is more a political celebration of independence than a religious one. For hundreds of years, however, Jews have viewed it as a religious commemoration, and thus the idea of a Jewish state hadn’t been prevalent until the emergence of Zionism in the 19th century. The religious narrative of Shavuot still dominates today even as the State of Israel was established.
As Israel celebrated its 67th year since independence, Leon Morris , Shalom Hartman Institute of North America Vice President for Programs in Israel, reflects on his decision to come to Israel with his family and the current state of the Jewish people. Even as Israel faces an increasing number of challenges, such as regional instability, terrorist attacks, income inequality, and racism, this is the best time in history to be a Jew. Faith in Israel is not easy for many of its people, but it is necessary in order for Israel to flourish.
Talking About Israel: The Need for a New Conversation
Donniel Hartman speaks at a New Jersey synagogue about the need for a new conversation. He says that Jews have more differences than they have in common, and this diversity is what characterizes the Jewish community. He urges members of the Jewish community to foster tolerance for each other and for a conversation that accepts a wide spectrum of views on diverse, including Israel.
Should Israel Speak for the Jewish People? (Call & Responsa Vol. 1, No. 4)
Yehuda Kurtzer answers a question as part of Call & Responsa: “Should Israel speak for the Jewish people?” More specifically, he mentions a recent statement made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he speaks for the Jewish people. Kurtzer says that in the case of Iran, where Netanyahu urges the US Congress to reject the deal, the Prime Minister’s political interests are alienating American Jews from Israel. Nevertheless, Kurtzer says, it is in the interests of Jews to have an elected leader to speak on their behalf, as long as the leader is attempting to represent all Jews and not narrow political interests.
From Outside Sources
Antony Lerman, a former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, describes what he sees as the decline and end of liberal Zionism, as Israel and pro-Israel institutions in the US shift to the right. He says that liberal and Zionist values are not compatible with each other at this stage, and that liberal Zionism cannot realistically fulfill the two-state solution. He urges liberal Zionists to embrace this challenge and create a movement to guarantee equal rights for all in Israel-Palestine.
It is notable that today there is an increasingly wide gap between American and Israeli Jews when in terms of Israel. But why? This article, about a landmark study from two years ago, depicts eight significant trends within different demographic and religious groups in the United States, regarding their stance and attitudes toward various issues involving Judaism, Israel, and Israeli-American relations.