No. 30: Are Jews Abandoning Their Own Story?

The following is a transcript of Episode 30 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

Donniel Hartman:
Hello, my name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Our theme for today is the new criminalization of Israel and the characterization of Israel is an apartheid state. This is the second session, um, on this theme. In each edition that for heaven’s sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Hartman Institute here in Jerusalem and myself discuss the current issues central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain, director of the Hartman faculty in north America explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. This issue of the criminalization of Israel and the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state is hitting in a way that it hasn’t been before, because unlike the Zionism is racism campaign with the 1970s, the current deal digitization is being read by some of our former allies and also segments within the Jewish community. And in this session, that’s where I want to focus. Let me, let me start by just putting forth what is possibly one of the more difficult troubling statistical results in a recent survey – almost a third of Jewish voters believe that Israel is an apartheid state and 25% of voters believe that Israel is committing genocide or ethnic cleansing amongst Palestinians. This, I don’t know if this is unprecedented, but this is a, this is a moment that we have to try to make sense of and talk about. And, uh, Yossi, where, where, where did these numbers find you and what did they do to you?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Donniel, nothing has caused me more anguish than the developments that are happening in the American Jewish community. In relation to Israel that this poll represents, I don’t know what to do. I honestly, 25% of American Jews really believe that we’re committing genocide and apartheid has, has apartheid now become not a normative part of the American Jewish conversation?. You now, before we get into a conversation, a Hartman conversation about boundaries and the legitimacy of criticism and, and red lines and the philosophy of, of community. Before we get there, I am shattered. I have devoted, as have you, we, you know, we’ve spent decades of our lives to nurturing the American Jewish Israeli relationship to trying to turn this relationship, uh, into, into, uh, it, bring it to the next level of maturation on both sides to get Israelis, to respect, to respect the integrity of, of the American Jewish experience, to get American Jews, to understand the inner experience of, of Israel. And then I look at these numbers and I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know what to do. I look at my life. I look at the last 40 years that I’ve devoted to this. And, um, I’m in mourning Donniel. How about you? What, what does this do to you?

Donniel Hartman:
I really appreciate the way you wanted to start and say, let’s just talk about how we feel. Don’t talk about the other, you know, we’ll analyze. I I’m wondering whether I’m I’m, I’m in a, such a different emotional place. I don’t do shattered. I never let myself go there, but I hear you, and I could understand. I don’t know if I have a single pessimistic bone in my body. I look at this and I’m not shattered. I’m Incredulous. There’s something that is just incoherent. And so whenever I hit incoherent, I get busy, but I don’t want to do busy yet because I really appreciate and say, let’s stop. Let’s not solve it or talk about it, but I never feel bad for what was done. I always get motivated to us. What do we need to do? And what I feel at this moment is the enormity of the challenge. The enormity of the challenge. I feel that these numbers there there’s something happened, something really wrong. You know, apartheid. I could say, you know, you don’t really mean apartheid, but genocide? Like yeah, I’ve been genocide in the sense of, you know, I could, you know, I could philosophize as I did the last time about apartheid, they mean discrimination. Genocide? Really? Like genocide, really, every generation of Jews, it’s never been simple to be Jewish. And we live in one of the most privileged times in Jewish history. And, uh, I wouldn’t pick any other moment in Jewish history. So I hear your feeling of shattered. I just, in a certain sense, I know this is crazy, but I feel energized. I feel energized because this is this. This is insane. And it’s the genocide one that gets me. It’s really, this is how you see? And you’re not just seeing Israel, this is how you see me? That you could say somehow to me. We had nothing, you know, what did you say? You gave 40 years. Okay. There’s another 40 years yeah, we got to work because there’s a huge mountain that needs to be climbed. There’s something going wrong here really, really wrong. The wrong is not just in Israel. No I do. And I’m going to come back to it. Don’t worry. That’s my mantra. What is Israel doing wrong, and How do we reclaim the moral high ground? Don’t worry audience. I’ll get there again. I’m going to keep on saying it until every single Jew in America talks that way. Every single Jew in Israel talks that way. I’m not going to give up until I win. Cause that’s like, when you’re not, when there’s no pessimism and there’s only optimism, you’re just, you’re like, you just never stop, but still yossi. This. This is something that is unexplainable. Um, is it the product of this level, of, is it ignorance? Unfamiliarity? Distance? I don’t know, but when I see surveys like this, our challenge is not to get depressed, our challenge is to double or triple our efforts, but do you want to respond to that?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Yeah. Yeah, I do. I do. I want to say that it’s one of the reasons why I love you and that, and that you really are, are a, a rock Donniel you’re you’re you, you are. And I feel it here at the Institute. I feel it in our friendship and I feel it in your voice, which I even, when I disagree with you, I so much appreciate disagreeing with you. And, uh, and you know, we, each of us, obviously we have our own emotional trajectories, uh, which may have as you and I have discussed often in the past may have something to do with the fact that you’re the son of a philosopher and I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor. So I mean this, uh, you know, it plays out in different ways. Uh, I do, I do get shattered. Um, I, I don’t stay in that place because I am the son of a survivor.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I’m not the son of, uh, of, of someone who was a victim. He actually, he was a survivor, my father. And so in the end, in the end, you and I come to a very similar place through very different emotional paths. And, and I agree with you. This is most of all, this is a time for work. And there’s, that’s, that’s who we are. That’s that’s, that’s what the Hartman Institute is. Our DNA is the American Jewish Israeli relationship. And there’s no other institution in the Jewish world that can do this, that can, that can do the heavy lifting and the deep thinking. Uh, but I do feel that every so often I have to, I have to just admit I, um, it’s hard, it’s hard. And I, I feel in some sense that Tisha B’Av of this year didn’t, didn’t fully end. I feel that I’m in mourning. I am in mourning.

Donniel Hartman:
So first of all, thank you. We love each other. And that’s why this is such a nice, this is such an honor to do, um, you know what, I’m most frightened of Yossi. I’m not frightened of this statistic. I’m most frightened about Jews giving up on Jews. I’m most frightened that this discussion will be, ugh, we lost this group of people. Stop trying to reach them. And the truth is, here I’m going to channel my Yossi. I can’t understand them. It is insane. Genocide? Like in which universe could you use, you want to use some time there was a war crime. There’s so many words, but genocide, it’s just like really? but I am so frightened because I fear this is what’s happening. You know, parents can’t give up on their kids, but there are so many Jews today who are just simply willing to give up on other Jews. you know, I don’t, I’m not gonna speak lashon harah.

Donniel Hartman:
It’s not that I don’t like lashon harah, I’m human, we all like lashon harah, but this isn’t lashona harah because this is something that she said, and I’m just quoting her. I want to present what she said. And you want to talk about when I feel shame, I feel shattered when I hear that, Carolyn Glick at a recent, um, conference about Israel,-diaspora fears held by an Israeli newspaper. You were, you and I both had that conference. And, um, she, um, was talking about the future of the relationship between Israel and the diaspora, principally Israel and liberal north American Jews. And this is what she speaks in Hebrew to Israelis. And she says to them, the problem of north American Jews is not their criticisms of Israel because you want to know something, all their criticisms do not grow out of anything that Israel is doing.

Donniel Hartman:
Their criticisms have grown out of the fact that they’re assimilating and there assimilating into liberal America. And I want to tell you, she said, that’s good, because they’re going to assimilate. And she quotes just like the criticism of Israel is identical to intermarriage, they’re assimilating, and she said, in a generation they’ll be gone. And American Jews will be much smaller. Most of them will be Orthodox and in practice, god willing, And then they’ll be, they’ll be as difficult as Australian Jews. They might have a voice, but they’re not going to be relevant. And then we could be free to walk away from them. We don’t have to answer them anymore. We don’t have to be compelled by them. Their criticisms are going to be gone. And then we Israelis will be free to connect to conservatives who are our only true ally, because the world is divided between the progressives and the conservatives.

Donniel Hartman:
We can never win with the progressives, but we’re still trying. You know why? Because of the Jews and when you get a survey like this, she she’s not shattered. this, this is a celebration. This is just one more self validating fact on the journey of walking away from Jews. And I want to tell you, I was raised this way. My most significant commandment in my life is don’t walk away from your people. You just don’t. That’s, for me, you stopped doing Judaism. This is not Judaism. When you walk away, it’s like I was raised. And I remembered this. You know, there’s certain moments in your life that you remember, you never forget. And one of those moments, when I was 14 years old and, uh, an oultra-Orthodox teacher of mine in Yeshiva told all of us how yeshiva kids, you are part of the, of the army of God.

Donniel Hartman:
And it’s forbidden for you to go into the army. And I come home that night and my school was from 6:30 in the morning, till eight o’clock at night. I would come home at about a quarter to nine. And I went to my Abba, to my father and I said, Abba, you know, we just made Aliyah, this is the greatest honor. And be my teachers telling me that Jewishly, I’m not supposed to serve. My father says Donniel come sit down. I have to teach you something. And we opened up tractate Brachot, and in tractate Brachot the rabbis ask, why did God say to Moses at the golden calf go down? Right, he couldn’t go down. Now the simple meaning in the Bible is go down and God says, I want to destroy the people and start all over again with you. The rabbis, turn it on its head. And they come up with the following line, which if I have a sha’ar hada’at, if I have a principle of faith, it’s this where God said to Moses “Lech, red, klum natati lecha gedula elah bishvil ha’am, v’achshav shechatu otcha lo alah.” But God says to Moses, I have given you greatness. I put you up here on this mountain for one reason, only for the sake of this people. And now that they’re sinning, like, you’re of no interest to me. And he tells Moses to go down and he says, there’s no, Torah, there’s no Judaism. So you know, different moments in our history. We’ve had to deal with heretics at different moments in our history had to deal with people who are turning away. And now this is our test, Yossi. You know, I hear you. You have to be shattered or mourn to feel the enormity, but this is our moment, Yos. This is our moment when we’re going to be tested. Okay? I know you know how to fight for Jews with someone, wants to kill them. Something has happened. Are you going to celebrate this moment? Just like the ultra-orthodox celebrate reform, is that it are we the lovers of Israel. I told you American Jews. And I want to tell you, there’s such a temptation. There’s such a temptation. And that’s why you’re, you know, even though, as you know, you and I sometimes disagree. When you say you mourn, that’s where our souls meet, because when mourn, you now have something to do, you’re not celebrating and you’re not denigrating, and you’re not. You’re starting with that moment of mourning.

Donniel Hartman:
I don’t want to be in a place of anger. I, I want, I much prefer to be in a place of mourning because a place of mourning is a place of love. And, uh, and that’s what I feel for AmericanJewry. I feel, first of all, I feel enormous gratitude to the community that raised me. I feel enormous appreciation for the values and the generosity of American Jewry, the decency, and, and the more time that I’ve spent in Israel, the more I appreciate where I come from, uh, uh, and I am fully committed to this relationship, but this is it. There, there are, there are questions. There are questions.

Donniel Hartman:
Let’s take a, you know, like for me, I’m a dual citizen. I am an American Jew, and half of my life, even though I live here is, embraces that and knows that Judaism, as I said, as I live today would be inferior of it wasn’t for American Jews, I’m both, I’m an Israeli Jew and American Jew. And I am not going to let us walk away from each other. We are just not going to do that. And these numbers, I, I frightened me because so many people use them, not as the way you mourn, but as a triumphalist moment of “You see, I told you so,” so let’s go to, let’s leave the numbers for a moment and go in much deeper or not even deeper, go to where, where, where the problems sometimes get even, it gets even more acute. There was a famous, just a few weeks during the gaza war, there was a famous letter written by 90 students signed by 90 rabbinic students, which caused a huge uproar and they were attacked.

Donniel Hartman:
And what are we supposed to do? But in many ways, symbolizing for those who are ready to check out, look at the future of American Judaism, the rabbinic students. It’s not, it’s not the uneducated. It’s not the person, the she’eino yodeah lish’ol. It’s not the child in the haggadah who doesn’t know. It’s rabbinic students. 90. You know what percentage that is? Let me read to you a section of what they said, Yossi And I want you, um, to now go beyond mourning to “What do we do?” Okay. And, and, and I love the way you framed, I really appreciate you’re frame with them today. This is a section from the letter. And by the way one of the interesting things about the letter is they never used the word Apartheid. They don’t go there, but they say as follows: “This year, American Jews have been part of a racial reckoning in our community.”

Donniel Hartman:
Our institutions have been reflecting and asking, “How are we complicit with racial violence? Jewish communities, large and small have had teachings and workshops, held vigils and commissioned studies. And yet, so many of those same institutions are silent, but abuse of power and racist violence erupt in Israel and Palestine. So many of us ignore the day-to-day indignity that the Israeli military, and police forces and act on Palestinians and sit idly by as Israel upholds two separate legal systems from the same region. And at the same breath, we are shocked by escalations of violence. As those, these things are not apart of the same dehumanizing status quo. The current reality in the streets of a land that our tradition deems holy necessitates a spiritual crisis. A spiritual crisis requires more than prayer. It requires heartbreak, which demands reflection, but then which also demands action.” In the middle of the war in Gaza this letter is put out, um, is it the timing? Is it the content? Who cares? Are they in mourning? Just like you? Or is there something else happening here?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I could live with that letter. I could even live with the timing of that letter. If there were some acknowledgement of what my reality is as an Israeli is like, if they were seeing me, if they were acknowledging me, that letter has erased my experience, the experience of the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews, w w we, we don’t exist in that letter.

Donniel Hartman:
Yossi can I read you something? I wonder if you could do something. The letter starts “Blood is flowing in the streets of the holy land. Fires are burning on the Hills of Jerusalem and buildings are smoldering in Gaza. Violence is spilling onto the streets of Lod and Haifa. With each refresh of the news and each rocket that falls new images of terror sear themselves into our minds. We find ourselves in tears.” Is it really they don’t see us? Does that count enough, even though the rest follows, Yossi?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
What I need from my American Jewish partners are two things I need. First of all, an understanding of what I’m up against in the middle east, what it means to be a Jewish state in the middle east. That’s the first thing that I need. I need an acknowledgement that the Palestinian national movement has never accepted my legitimacy here to this day in all of its factions. That’s the first thing I did when I hear that from American Jews. Then the next thing, that I need

Donniel Hartman:
If I want to emphasize this for a moment. So your comeback to me is, and I hear you. And I understand that. I want to really, I want to clarify. I want to put it in its place. Is when you’re saying that you want, you want them to hear you? It’s not to hear your suffering.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
No, no, it’s

Donniel Hartman:
Not that they’re, you know, the old one, all you’re worried about Palestinian death. So why aren’t you worried about Jews

Yossi Klein Halevi:
No, no

Donniel Hartman:
Exactly because this is the point you’re making. That’s what I want to articulate. I want to give it a place because it’s important. It’s different because there’s a lot of things get mushed together. You’re saying that there’s, that, that any condemnation of Israel’s actions, um, which you might share or not share, have to be put into the context, not of the fact that there’s missiles but the context of the continual de-legitimizing action and not to have that.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Exactly.

Donniel Hartman:
You know, every story, it depends where you start the story, right? You are trying to thread a needle and why I wanted to stop it, because I appreciate the difference, the nuance that you were trying to put forth.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I, I so much appreciate your lingering on this point. I’m not looking for sympathy. You know what I have, I have the most powerful army in the middle east. I’ve got the iron dome. Don’t worry. Don’t worry about me. I’ll take care. I’ll take care of the rockets. I want you to understand

Donniel Hartman:
You want them to understand you, not to prove that they care that Jews are dying. Here it is. You’re being the philosopher. Now you want the intellect. You want the intellectual statement of the complexity and you were so the emotional affinity, you’re not questioning their emotional affinity. It’s something else. That’s really an important distinction.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Yes. Don’t buy in to the current progressive discourse that paints Israel as the unequivocal aggressor. It’s more complicated. And I need to hear that from, from, from Americans

Donniel Hartman:
As in, the story doesn’t start in 2021. You want them to say the story starts in 1947. You want to tell, okay. Fair enough. Okay.

Donniel Hartman:
Yes. And, and what I also need from American Jews is what much of that letter is. I need partners who are going to hold us here to the standards that we pretend to hold ourselves to, but don’t really, I need American Jews from their distance to uphold the integrity of the Jewish people. And do you know when you’re caught in the middle of a day to day conflict, as we are, as we’ve been from day one of our, of our existence, it’s very hard to hold on to a morally complicated conversation to hold, to hold yourself to the standards that you need to, to apply. So I need, I need American Jews to be part of this conversation. I need them to remind me what I’m not seeing, but I can only hear them Donniel. I can only hear them.

Donniel Hartman:
If you feel that they understand, that they hear you first. I hear you.

Donniel Hartman:
That they understand my situation. You know what I feel about that letter? Honestly, it’s not a letter to me. It’s a letter to the, to their progressive allies. That’s what this is. That’s what this is directed.

Donniel Hartman:
You know, I made a mistake Yossi. Um, I read about this letter in the newspaper. And then I heard all of the debate and the condemnation and the mistake I made was to actually read the letter. I actually read the letter. Now. It’s interesting. You, you said that I’m okay with the time. Most of the people are attacking that. Somehow, whenever we go to war, we’re supposed to, this is not the time. This is not the time that we, we get you always on the time. But as you said, when is the time right? When you read this letter, it was, it was a cry. And you know, I don’t think this was a letter to their progressive friends. I think this was a cry to themselves. I think this was a letter of mourning, just like you, Yossi. And, but it’s a mourning that says, I have to wake up the next morning and we have to begin to do something. I think it was a letter saying to the American Jewish community. We have another conversation that you’re not engaging in enough. And so what we have here, Yossi are two different. We have 25% saying Genocide, 30% saying apartheid. And the next generation of young Jewish leaders who are saying, I don’t want to talk about genocide. And I don’t want to talk about apartheid. But I want to tell you something that’s really wrong here. Can we talk about it? We have to do something about it. We have this, this, we can’t allow this to continue. And in many ways I feel that now, this is the fine line, because when we, you know, we could put all of them in the same place, the rabbinic students, the young people, or we could put them all in a, in a little box and we can say, oh, they’re losing a blah, blah. Look how far it’s going, American Jews. But there’s really different statements going on here.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
I think that’s very important.

Donniel Hartman:
And we have to hear. And one last point, I said this the other day on the session here at the Institute, in our summer program, where so many of the, now we have to talk about us, the older people, it’s a new place for us, Yos. We, the older people, you know, we look back and they just don’t get it. Oh, you know, this is just a disaster. And for so many of them, I feel that what you really want to do is we say, you know, we have no one to pass this on to. We better stay around for the next 70 years because the next generation is lost. I think part of what we have to do is we have to hear these letters and we have to sit down with them and we have to hear the nuance. You know, even if it’s a nuance that we feel is not nuanced enough, there was a real attempt here.

Donniel Hartman:
And part of our challenge is how do we hear the way different generations, more, they love Israel and they’re mourning something. And so many people are going to say, oh, you’re criticizing you don’t love you. You know, you’re not committed. You’re this. We have to hear the different voices of mourning.

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Do you see love in this letter?

Donniel Hartman:
Unbelievable love. I see love. I see mourning. I see sadness and I see care. I see a call to action. I think the challenge is, how do we maintain it, Zionism in north America, which is built on one value system and the experience of an Israel, which is very, very different. And the gaps, are the gaps sustainable? Does Israel have to be like America to be loved, accepted by Americans? You know, our, our colleague Mijal Bitton speaks up in our iEngage seminar and says, “I think one of the real responsibilities is that the future relationship is not an insisting that we’re going to be the same, but by accepting that there are multiple moral ways of doing something. And that Americans have to get over the notion that they have a hedgeable beyond morality and decency. And she wants to push that. You know, we’re debating how far does it, but I think this is a letter which is saying, I want, I was raised to love Israel. I am the next generation of people who are gonna carry the relationship with Israel. Cause you’re, I’m the ones that you’re calling on to say a north American zionist, who am I, I’m here. I’m telling you something’s broken here. How much longer we can sustain it, what do we need to do? This is a cry that angst of not knowing what to do. Let’s take a short break. And when we return Elana Stein Hain will join us.

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Donniel Hartman:
Elana, it’s great to be here with you. At this moment where there’s so many different types of criticisms going on, and when they’re all getting a lot together, do you have anything, anything within our Torah that that could help us at this moment?

Elana Stein Hain:
So here’s where I want to go. We can describe ignorance and ascribe ignorance to people on both sides of these debates, right? You can say people on the right don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know the facts, people on the left don’t know. they don’t know the facts. What I’m more interested in is among the people who are very committed, who are very engaged, who really know the facts. And it’s actually not about facts. It’s about ideology and they have a different ideology. And so what I want to look at is I want to look at a rabbinic understanding, um, that I think really illuminates this moment in the conversation about Israel within the American Jewish community. And it is from Leviticus Rabah or Vayikrah Rabah, um, section four, subsection six. And it goes like this: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught, “To what can the people of Israel be compared? To the case of people who are on a ship together, one of whom takes a borer or like a drill and begins boring beneath their own place on the ship. That person’s fellow travelers say to them, what are you doing? And the person who’s boring a hole in the ship says, what does it matter to you? I’m just drilling a hole under where I am. And they said, no, no, no. The water’s going to come up and flood the ship for all of us.” Now. I’ve been thinking a lot about this metaphor recently, because I think that within American Jewry, you have two very loud camps and then a bunch of people in the middle, right? Let’s let’s call these loud camps, you know, progressive left and right wing establishment. Not that the whole establishment is right-wing, but right wing establishment. So we’ve gotten the progressive left people going over and saying, you’re sinking our ship. Zionists, Zionism is sinking our ship. Why? Because you’re selling our soul. There are deep ethical problems. There are Palestinians who are on our ship and they’re endangered. You are in bed with fascists.

Elana Stein Hain:
You’re sinking our ship. What are you doing? And their response by the way is not, oh, who cares? I’m just boring a hole under mine. It’s, what do you mean? I’m saving our ship. What are you talking about? I’m completely saving our ship. And then you have people who are more establishment and maybe more right wing, but establishment say, you’re sinking our ship. You’re on the wrong team. You’re playing for the wrong team. You’re endangering us. You’re endangering Israeli lives, the state of Israel, standing in the world, playing into the hands of antisemites. And you’re the one endangering our ship. And the response is no I’m saving the ship. I’m not endangering the ship. I’m saving the ship. And this to me, this ideological conflict, I don’t think it’s enough to do a these and these are the words of the living God, on this one, I think it’s a really difficult conflict.

Elana Stein Hain:
And I just been thinking about where do we go with this conflict? It’s clear to me that we’re probably going to see, or this is what I think we’re going to see in the next, whatever number of years with an American Jewry, there are going to be places where it’s going to be radical compromise, where we just say, you know what? We’re all going to have Passover Seder together. It doesn’t matter what you think about Israel. Israel is not the front burner of the conversation right now. We’re all we’re going to radically compromise and co-exist here. And then you’re gonna see places where there’s just going to be a split. It’s going to be these organizations, these institutions, these people for this particular issue, or for this particular context, we’re going to be split. And that’s actually, there’s going to be a Jew versus Jew.

Elana Stein Hain:
And I’m not saying blood in the streets, but I am saying there’s going to be real life consequences. People who are fighting for conditioning aid to Israel. People who are fighting against conditioning to Israel. Like all the things that come with a split. And then I think we’re going to see a third piece, which is a strengthening of the people who say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We want to re engage a center. We want to, re-engage a center and a center needs to move. And maybe we have values that we have that really animate the center. Let’s say a value. Zionism is a value in there. Justice for Jews and Israelis is a value in there, and justice for Palestinians is a value in there. And the re-engaging the center. Of course, that’s not so easy because we’re all about polarization right now, everybody either wants the split or let’s not talk about it.

Elana Stein Hain:
But the re-engaging the center is a critical part of these three things, right? Meaning the people who say, we don’t want to pull this whole thing up, we don’t want to drill a hole under the boat. We want to work together. And I see, I actually see necessity, all three of those in different places. So that’s, that’s where I’m at with all this. So to me, it’s not about the letter and it’s not about Ben and Jerry’s, and it’s not. It’s actually about how the Jewish community in America is going to move forward. And I think we’re going to see different strategies at different places.

Donniel Hartman:
Let’s play for a minute with that. And now with the boat analogy. Now at the end, you were speaking about splits within the American Jewish community, but I want to put forth something that maybe we need to think about you’re right. For some people, you know, you’re boring a hole and for some people you’re saving the ship, right? Um, where it gets even more complicated. What happens when I say that you’re boring a hole and you say I’m boring the hole and each one is saying what the other one thinks is making the hole, the other ones. They themselves see it as saving us, but what I was wondering, is whether part of, at this moment. We have to recognize that we’re not in the same ship, maybe were in the same Navy, maybe were in the same ocean. Maybe we’re connected somehow. I’m not saying we’re not connected, but that part of, I think Zionism in north America is only going to work if it’s authentic to zionism in north america, and it’s going to have to answer to north America’s issues, and zionism in Israel, it’s going to have to be authentic to Israel. And we’re not the same experiences aren’t the same. And our politics might not be the same and our sensibilities and just living in different places that this notion that we’re on the same ship creates a pension, which might be unnecessary. As I, you know, I wrote in my, uh, PhD thesis many years ago, difference doesn’t undermine social cohesion, attitudes towards difference, undermines uh, social cohesion. Maybe we have to accept that a good Zionist in north America is not going to be one who agrees with Israel. Maybe they have to be like, Yossi that I have, I need to know that you understand me, then you could be different, but at least you understand some core part that shaping and Israeli has to understand the core part that’s shaping a liberal American Jew. You have to understand that. That means I have to say, you’re not, I understand that you’re not crazy. And that means as an Israeli, I have to accept that, that you’re going to be a liberal Jew. And I appreciate that the pluralism starts not with where you’re going, but that I understand you and then accept that you we’re in two different boats. And that the question then will be, are the boats sailing together or are the boats sailing away from each other, using that same analogy? That for myself very helpful.

Elana Stein Hain:
Yeah. Look, I think it’s interesting. It’s, it’s funny how sometimes a metaphor can actually open things up. It’s actually really interesting as you were talking. I think part of my question is, and this is why I talk about a center reasserting itself is I think we actually are going to see anti zionism normalized, liberals Zionism, hopefully strengthened, and right-wing Zionism strengthened. And I think the question of what is going to be that dividing line between liberals, Zionism, and antizionism. And I think that really is a difficult conversation that Jews on the left are having right now. I think that’s where I ask myself, well, wait a minute. Is, is, is moving to different ships helpful. Um, and I, I think it’s, uh, I think it’s an important question. And that’s why I think some places where you compromise and, and put Israel on the back burner and some places where you really split, and some places where you create a bridge, you can talk to both sides, but I don’t think like, I think even the analogy it’s like, well, we actually have to see how far we can straddle before we’re not exactly in the same Navy.

New Speaker:
That’s correct, but we don’t have to have a notion that together this requires of us to be in the same ship. You know, it’s like with your, you now, you know, you have little kids, you know, my kids have moved out already. I did see, you know, part of me says, you know, my kids leaving me is betrayal. Know you should be living, get married, live in my house. I want everybody under the same, you know, part of me in some obscene, fantasy love the old, I want all my kids to live, like build another floor,

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Totally, duplex.

New Speaker:
But like, I’m crazy, you know, like, “Abba, I love you. But you know, needing my space and being different from you doesn’t mean less love,” but then you’re right. Just like, as your kids grow older, you have to work much harder on keeping the family and the love and the relationships together, 6-10,000 miles away with serious ideological differences, seeing each other is, creating holes and it’s going to make it complicated.

Elana Stein Hain:
I think the last thing that I want to say is I’ve been talking to rabbis a lot about this issue. And I think because we’re an Institute that really deals with leaders on the ground, I think we’re very poised to take this on is essentially what I’m going to say. And I, it’s a long adaptive project and I think we’re poised to take it on is what I’m, you know, that’s, that’s going to be where my optimism comes in. I’m less of an optimist than you are, then Yossi is becoming, but I’m, there’s work. There’s work to do.

Donniel Hartman:
Thank you. Yossi, last thoughts about this?

Yossi Klein Halevi:
Yeah. I want to go back to something that you said earlier, which is there has been no greater time in history to be a Jew than this moment. No more exciting time. And one of the reasons, one of the main reasons for that is we’ve never had a strong and as vibrant of sovereignty as we have now. And we’ve never had a strong and vibrant diaspora community as we have in America. We can’t allow those who would de-legitimize either project who would dismiss the significance of either project to dominate Jewish discourse. That’s our job. That’s the job of the Machon, of the Hartman Institute. And I think that that’s really the conversation that we’ve been trying to, to model today.

Donniel Hartman:
Beautiful place. Yossi, Elana, thank you very, very much. For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by Tali Cohen. Transcripts of our shows are now available on our website, typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at shalomhartman.org. We want to know what you think about the show. You can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected] subscribe to our show in the apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, audible, and everywhere else podcasts are available. Look forward to you joining us next time. Laila Tov from Jerusalem.