Jewish Journal


May 8, 2008

Crushing on Israel



JJLA Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman was featured today on 89.3 KPCC. In case you missed his segment about Israel during your drive to work this morning, here it is in its entirety:

I love Israel.

  When I hear an American Jew say that, when I hear myself say that, I always stop to wonder: what exactly does it mean?

  Do we love it so much that we would, as the school kids say, marry it? Apparently not. Though Israel’s Law of Return entitles any Jew anywhere in the world to citizenship, a minuscule number of American Jews have picked up and moved there.

  Do we love Israel enough to fight for it? No. Only a handful of us have actually taken up arms during any of Israel’s wars. The American Jewish arrangement has long been: we give our money, you give your sons. We give our opinions, you give your lives.

  The truth is, too many of us love Israel like young girls love Miley Cyrus, like women love George Clooney, like white guys love Springsteen. We swoon. We idealize. We have a crush.

  Once we believed Israel existed to physically save us, to be our refuge when the world came after us. Now we know better: many more Jews leave Israel to come here than leave America to settle there.

  So 60 years after the Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland came true, Israel has become more of a spiritual refuge for American Jews than a physical one. It’s an emotional home away from home.

  We boast of its remarkable accomplishments in technology and culture, its vibrant free press, its social vitality. And we leap to its defense against its many enemies and critics.

  But the problem with crushes is that the instant our crush disappoints us, we become disillusioned. The problem with crushes is we overlook faults until they turn dangerous and tragic.

  Israel at 60 is a wonderful achievement. But it also faces monumental problems that cannot be overlooked: it desperately needs to improve the quality of its democracy. It needs to narrow the gaps between rich and poor, between secular and religious, between Arab and Jewish Israelis. It needs to pursue agreements with its enemies. It needs to reject the ideologies that have mired it in the folly of settlements for the past 40 years.

  And we who love Israel have to learn to scold it, to correct it, to not stay away out of disillusionment or keep quiet out of deference. The father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, once said, “Nothing happens as one hopes, nor as one fears.” A real state in the real world doesn’t demand reverence, it demands we raise our voices and get involved.

  Crushes are fine when we’re young. But Israel is turning 60; it’s time we grew up too.

To listen to Rob’s segment, click here.

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