By Naomi Ragen—
Something is terribly broken in the relationship between American and Israeli
Jews. I say this as an American Jew who has lived in Israel for almost half a
century. But if anyone thinks this started with Women of the Wall, or PM
Netanyahu’s recent – and I believe unfortunate—backtracking on the agreement
over egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, he is suffering from selective
memory, if not total denial.
There was a time when American Jews not only put their pennies in their pushkas
to help the struggling Jewish homeland. They put their lives on the line. I’m
talking about Lou Lenert and Leon Frankel, Gideon Lichtmann and George Lichter,
Harold Livingston and Al Schwimmer and Bob Vickman, American Jews who thought it
wasn’t enough that they helped defeat the Nazis, they needed to join their
brothers in Israel so that the Jewish people would have a place to go when the
next Nazis came to power. They left behind businesses and girlfriends and
created the Israeli Air Force, without which I and six million other Israeli
Jews would not be living in our own country, but spread out all over the world
waiting, like the Jews of France, and the Jews of Great Britain, and the Jews of
Belgium, for the next horrible Muslim atrocity to hit them and their families.
Without these American Jews, there would be no Israel.
But like the children of the heroes of the Saving Private Ryan generation who
think patriotism is wrongheaded, this generation of American Jews don’t really
feel all that connected to Israel. I can’t tell you how many times very nice,
educated, caring American Jewish women have told me that even though President
Obama wasn’t great for Israel, he was a wonderful president for them as
Americans. “You don’t live here,” they tell me. “We have other priorities.”
I remember when former President Obama was bowing to Saudi Arabia, interfering
in Israel’s election of Prime Minister with his cash and his handpicked
“specialists” sent over to make sure Israelis voted in the Left– those same
people who brought us the Oslo nightmare, and the shameful and wrong-headed
disengagement from Gaza, the same people who almost got my family blown up in
the Park Hotel seder night. But Israelis, like Americans, aren’t listening to
electioneering slogans anymore. Hence, President Trump.
We elected Netanyahu, and we were thrilled when he went to America to convince
Congress about the existential threat to our people of allowing Iran a nuclear
capability, and incensed that our American Jewish brothers thought he should
have stayed home.
These same people did their best to vote in Hillary Clinton, despite clear
evidence of the anti-Israel bias of her party, and her endorsement by the very,
very anti Israel Obama.
And now, here we are. The Jews of America are incensed. The good ones, who
come here on vacation and support all manner of Israeli charities, and the bad
ones who have never been here once and who allow strangers to give their kids
all expenses paid vacations on Birthright in order to do us the favor of
allowing their children to experience first hand what we in Israel have died
for: a Jewish homeland with an army and an airforce and a flourishing economy,
and lovely parks and pretty homes– after thousands of years of persecution,
murder, and homelessness. Still, I’m glad they come to see, rather than
spending their vacation in Ibiza, or joining the JStreet anti-Semites.
For those who are filled with fury, I say this: I agree with you about how
disgusting it is that the haredim have wormed their way into power so that they
can distort Jewish laws and control Jewish holy sites, making life miserable for
the rest of us, including Orthodox Jewish women like myself.
But I am even more sorry that you have raised your children not to care about
being Jewish, or about the Jewish State of Israel. If you had raised them
differently – or been raised differently yourselves—then a million American
Conservative and Reform Jews making Aliyah would have completely changed the
entire political system in this country, and the haredim would be out of luck.
But as for now, it is we who are out of luck.