September 13, 2007
We must teach about Israel—warts and all
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Confronted with all of this ambiguity, unprepared to respond to it, many young American Jews are doing the obvious thing: They are turning away from Israel. Numerous recent studies indicate that American Jews under 30 do not have the same kind of personal commitment and connection to Israel that their parents have.
And why should they? The Israel they see is not the one they were raised to believe in. And those who don't turn away are left unsure of how to build a relationship with an Israel that they don't really understand.
To fix this, the American Jewish community has to change the way it talks and teaches about Israel. It needs to acknowledge that Israel is imperfect, that it is not infallible and that American Jews have the great opportunity to help Israel become the country it can be, one that lives up to the dreams of its founders and the ideals enshrined in its Declaration of Independence.
We need to embrace the notion that tokheha, loving rebuke, is both profoundly patriotic and profoundly Jewish. That the capacity for self-criticism has always been one of the great distinguishing hallmarks of the Jewish People. We need to teach American Jews to love Israel, warts and all, because Israel is worth loving and supporting.
Israel is that rarest of things, a country that is also an idea and an experiment, an attempt to be better than what came before. It's a living, breathing example of the deeply Jewish idea that hope and liberation are always possible, even when things are darkest.
Americans understand that kind of complexity instinctively; we too have a country that, although deeply flawed and wildly off course, is desperately worth fighting for. Give young American Jews the truth and the tools, introduce to them to the real Israel with all of its flaws and promise, and they won't need ad campaigns, propaganda lessons, guilt trips and fundraising drives to trick them into caring about it or to teach them how to talk about it. They'll want to go out and help save the dream all by themselves.
Daniel Sokatch is executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.
To read David Suissa's response to this column, click here.
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