It’s a week of conferences for me; the first, on US-Israel relations, is behind me, the second, Tomorrow - The Israeli Presidential Conference, started Tuesday. I’ll be moderating a panel there on Thursday called “What does World Jewry Expect from Israel?” that is promising to be lively and even vigorous – and on which I plan to write after the session.
But in the meantime, I’d like to share with you some of the expectations Israelis have from Diaspora Jews. These are the expectations voiced by Israeli Jews when approached by the pollsters of the Presidential Conference. In other words: I have a poll, it has not yet been published, and you might find it interesting, if somewhat disturbing.
Here’s how Mina Tzemach, the pollster, defines her findings: “Israelis expect from world Jewry to contribute to Israel and be active in public diplomacy on behalf of Israel”. Eighty-nine percent of Israelis expect world Jews to visit Israel. Seventy-four percent expect them to give money to Israel. Sixty-nine percent expect them to make aliyah – 39% of them “strongly”. Eighty percent expect Jews to assist in Israel’s battle of public diplomacy (41% of them “strongly” expect that). Sixty-one percent expect world Jews to be engaged in “political activism” aimed at bettering Israel’s standing.
All in all, Israelis believe that the world is a dangerous place for Jews and Judaism. Presented with a list of possible such dangers, they voted for them all: Anti-Semitism (83%), weakening of Jewish identity (71%), decline in the sense of identification with Israel (69%), the isolation of Israel (68%). Interestingly, while they want world Jews to make aliyah, they don’t consider Jewish refusal to follow expectations as dangerous to the Jewish people. Fifty-four percent of Israelis dismiss the notion that lack of aliya poses a danger, just 18% are “strongly” convinced that it does.
As one might anticipate, Israeli expectations and fears fit nicely with their religious identity. Thus, more than 80% of the religious and ultra-Orthodox (Haredi, 89%) are strongly convinced that assimilation and lack of Jewish identity is a great danger for the Jewish people, while the percentage of secular strongly fearing assimilation is much lower (22% are “certain” it is a danger, while 31% “think” it is). On aliyah, the Zionist-Orthodox is the sector feeling more strongly that Jews should immigrate to Israel (64%), while Haredi Jews feel less strongly about it (the secular, again, are at the bottom of this scale).
Reading these findings can be almost comical in the way they feed into our common prejudices. The secular are more worried than other groups only about one thing: the isolation of Israel – namely, what the world might think about Israel. The Haredi want money more than anything else from world Jewry (54% feel strongly about it, compared to 30% of the seculars). And for some reason – maybe hostility at home plays a role - 72% of Haredi Israelis are “certain” that anti-Semitism is a major danger for the Jewish people. That’s nearly double the number of other groups.
So what can we make of all this?
That Israelis are predictable; that they probably want to get more than they are willing to give (but questions on what Israelis are willing to give in return to all this expected support were not asked – they should be asked next year); that they know very little about the lives of Jews around the world; that they have unrealistic expectations; that they have an alarmist view of the world; that rating dangers and expectations high is easy when there’s no price and no prioritization involved. We learn a lot from this poll – and we also learn nothing.