The recently passed Boycott Bill has inspired shockwaves that are reverberating across the Jewish world.
Inside Israel there are many questions that have been raised. Here is another example of a private member’s bill (not government initiated) flying under the radar until it’s too late. A healthy parliamentary democracy is usually typified by a very small number of private members bills (Canada only passed 200 in one hundred years). In Israel, there are over a thousand tabled a year, making it almost impossible for the Knesset and its committees to understand what they are actually voting on.
I was troubled to read Daniel Gordis’ recent thoughts about the place of Israel in the lives of aspiring rabbinic students. Because Danny is a true ‘lover of Zion’ and a friend, I wanted to share a few thoughts…
Based on Makom’s experiences working with rabbinic students studying in Israel from the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College, I would suggest Danny points to a real issue but may overstate his case by bringing the most extreme examples.
At the same time as there are students openly hostile (hostile is different than critical) to Israel, there are also students who are highly Israel engaged (whose parents are Israeli, who are graduates of Birthright, Lapid, and Masa programs, and who grew up in the Conservative or Reform camping systems, etc.)
I’m going through a strangely pro-American week.
It began with the realization of how much Debbie Friedman had affected my identity and values, and has now been blown away by Barack Obama’s speech in Arizona
I woke up after my long-haul flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv feeling blurred and jaded. It might have been the paradigm shift of suddenly finding myself back in Israel; the shock of realizing that my house and family are now based in America; or just the prescription strength sleeping tablets my father-in-law had given me. I think it is a sign of the quality of our relationship that I am prepared to swallow drugs he offers me, without even looking at the box.
And I was regretting this as I climbed into the driving seat of the rented car, set Galatz and 88FM as my presets, and launched onto Route 1. And suddenly I got my perspective back: there was a student demonstration against over-funding for Haredi yeshiva students; a general strike on the cards; and Ofer Eini (head of the Histadrut Labor Union) called Ehud Barak an Ahabal (fool in Arabic). Israel in HD. Doesn’t get better than that. And it made me remember the wonderful Hebrew adage – What you see from here you can’t see from there. It’s a famous excuse from Israeli politicians when they don’t fulfill election promises, yet there is a lot of truth to it.
So it’s goodbye to Rahm Emanuel as he leaves the White House and heads for Chicago. In Israel there has been a healthy mix of contradictory emotions towards Rahm, and I think it’s fair to say that we just don’t get him. His father fought in the Etzel (fairly extreme freedom fighters in the pre-State period) and that’s gotta mean something doesn’t it? Yet Rahm has been at the President’s shoulder throughout one of the roughest rides in the US-Israel friendship. Has he been the provocateur stirring the proverbial chulent pot? Yet he brought the family to Israel for his son’s Bar Mitzvah, he wore Bermuda shorts in Eilat and looked uncomfortable next to Bibi in a hotel in Jerusalem. You’ve got to love Israel if you do that, don’t you?
He’s a committed Jew, with his youngest child attending a local Jewish day school, he plays hardball and swears like a trooper – all facts which endear him to the average Israeli. But we just don’t get him, either you’re with us or your against us. It’s just that simple, right?
Driving through our new neighborhood and surrounding areas – we are about 20 minutes east of Jerusalem – one is surrounded by the beauty and quiet of the Judean hills. When you watch the steady stream of cars and buses in each direction, it is hard to imagine that anyone would think of this area as anything other than just another part of Israel – and yet there are clear signs that we are in a separate place. The West Bank.
The 4th of July passed without much notice in our household last week. Maybe it was because it fell out on Shabbat, hence nixing any barbecue plans. Maybe it was because budget cuts forced our local fireworks to call it off this year. Maybe it was because – as always – Americans seem to be much more into the sales at local department stores than any real meaning in a holiday. Or maybe it was because we already feel like we have one foot on the other side of the pond.
…We, members of the people’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement…, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.
-Israel Declaration of Independence
As I suggested in my last entry, in thinking about what it will take for Jews and Arabs to live together in peace in Israel, there are (at least) four different dimensions to consider: the political, the historical, the cultural, and the personal.
Perhaps you know something about the back alleys in downtown Jerusalem where I once lived: dusty, cobbled-stoned roads, labyrinthine alleys, and rusty railings greet you there. I entered my apartment by passing under a stone archway, turning right, jumping over a gate, climbing stairs, jiggling a difficult lock, and passing through my roommate’s room. My job was no less idiosyncratic and, fittingly, the open courtyard where I dug dirt and carried tiles was within sight of my apartment. My co-workers were Palestinian tiling experts and Ukrainian leathernecks in their fifties.
The first time I saw “Waltz with Bashir” it was with a bunch of Jewish educators. “It is going to win an Oscar for sure,” we speculated. But more than an extensive pre-Oscar betting, the kind that occupies Hollywood and the Academy days before the show, our prediction (however wrong it might have been) was a part of a different pre-game analysis.
Any newspaper reader or BBC listener would tell you that Israel is a state whose military machinery is at the center of the society, and that engaging in war, security and defense is most (if not all) that the country does. (It might even be surprising to some people to know that the citizens of the country have time for much else – like making eggs for their kids in the morning or making love to their partners at night).