Jewish Journal


What do Israelis want from Diaspora Jews? EVERYTHING

by Shmuel Rosner

June 20, 2012 | 12:23 am

Israeli President Shimon Peres addressing a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem.

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.‎

Click here and here to see two detailed tables from this poll on expectations.‎

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