There is a limit

23 Jan

by Ilan Bloch

Jake Angeli (Photo from Wikipedia)

The guide stood with her group on the lawn facing the Capitol building. After speaking about the structure, its architecture and its history, she turned to the events of January 6, 2021. She told her tour group members that the most commonly accepted narrative is that Joe Biden won the presidential election and that there was an attempted insurrection by supporters of then President Donald Trump who had just heard him say that he would never concede defeat and that the rally participants should now march to Capitol Hill, where a joint sitting of Congress, presided over by then Vice President Mike Pence, was being held to confirm the Electoral College results. The guide continued by explaining that an equally valid alternative narrative holds that loyal patriots, battling massive and widespread electoral fraud, sought to disrupt the process, which would have falsely confirmed that Trump had lost the presidential election, which he, in reality, actually won. Moreover, she explained, that those people who were most responsible for the mayhem were, in actual fact, Antifa members.

One of the participants on the tour lambasted the tour guide, wondering how and why she would give credence to lies and conspiracy theories. The tour guide explained that she wanted to present both narratives and allow the tourists to come to their own conclusions. The participant said that although he understood that fostering independent thought was a lofty goal, it did not make sense to present unfounded accusations, which triggered violence, destabilized American democracy and dishonored the Constitution, as equally legitimate to… well… the facts and reality. This is not to say that the motivations of the insurrectionists should not be taught; a full understanding of the events of that day requires it, just as we would need to teach about fascist ideology in order to understand Italy under Mussolini. But just as we would not afford legitimacy to Mussolini, so too we should not dare to do so to those who led the march on the Hill.

Of course, we would never countenance such a travesty in the American context. And yet, we accept Israel educators in Israel and the Diaspora presenting two competing narratives as equally legitimate when it comes to the legal travails of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. This happens not infrequently and it is disgraceful. Apparently, in an attempt to be as objective as possible, educators explain to their charges that perhaps there is evidence to warrant Netanyahu being tried in three separate cases on multiple counts of breach of trust and fraud, and one count of bribery, and that the legal process which attempts to bring him to justice is legitimate and proper. Or — they continue — perhaps there is a conspiracy between the former Police Commissioner (Roni Alsheikh) and State Prosecutor (Shai Nitzan), and the Attorney-General (Avichai Mandelblit), all appointed by Netanyahu and none of who could be considered a “leftist,” in collusion with the media and the judiciary, to bring down a right-wing prime minister (even though he will likely be replaced by a right-wing prime minister).

This is not objective Israel education. It is not teaching to develop independent, critical and analytical thinking. Putting facts and conspiracy theories on the same footing is immoral and educationally unsound. Furthermore, it alienates Diaspora students — not just liberals or progressives, but anyone who values democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights — from Israel. As Israel educators we must be non-partisan — no political party which runs in Israeli elections (including those which survive attempts by the Central Electoral Commission — whether on the left or the right — to disqualify them) should be presented to our students more favorably than another. But supporting and upholding the authority of the key institutions of the state is not about left or right, liberal or conservative. It is about mamlachtiyut (which one might roughly but wholly inadequately translate as “country before party”). This is obviously not to say that one cannot make legitimate criticisms of state institutions or even founding documents, or call for their reform. (There is, of course, good reason why there have been amendments to the US Constitution). But there is a difference between this and a wholesale and manipulative delegitimization of them, for the unholy benefit of one man alone. This is not political disagreement. This is corruption. A viewpoint pillorying these institutions cannot be presented as equally legitimate to one supporting and respecting them, which should, of course, be a matter of broad consensus.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed tour guide.

Hope to #guide you in #Israel soon!

22 Jan
Hope to guide you at #Masada soon. #Israel #israeltourism #IsraelEducation #israeltravel #israelhiking www.teachingisrael.com

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

Virtual tours during COVID-19

14 Jan

by Ilan Bloch

Virtual tours during COVID-19

In these difficult times, during which travel is virtually impossible, and when we may find ourselves isolated at home, I invite you “to visit” Israel virtually, through participating in a fascinating lesson, incorporating photos and videos from one or more tourist sites, plus Jewish texts, primary and secondary sources, and song or poetry. Ideal for your synagogue/temple or Federation, or for Jewish day school faculty or parents. Contact Ilan now (director@teachingisrael.com or +972-546-911-001) to discuss your needs or select one of our ready-made tours.

Tour 1: Castel and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park – During this virtual tour/lecture we will examine the siege of Jerusalem in 1947-8 and the first major battle to open the road to the city when Zionist forces attacked the Arab village of Castel. We will explore how Israeli society remembers those who fell in the battles and celebrates Jewish access to the city today. We will also walk in the footsteps of Jewish pilgrims who “went up” to the city during the time that the Second Temple stood.

Tour 2: The end of the Great Revolt and the aftermath of the Bar Kochba Revolt – During this virtual tour/lecture we will explore the lesser visited site of Herodium. We will “meet” King Herod and examine the first of three “mop-up” military operations of the Roman Empire against Judean forces. We will learn about the Bar Kochba Revolt, including how the Zionist movement and the State of Israel grappled with the legacy of the event.

Tour 3: Jerusalem United/Divided: Past, Present and Future – During this virtual tour/lecture we will deconstruct and critically analyze the slogan “Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people” through exploring key milestones and sites related to changes to the city’s administration over the last century. We will learn about:
a) the deep Jewish connection to the city, while we visit Haas Promenade, overlooking the Old City;
b) the Arab siege of Jewish Jerusalem in 1947-8, through visiting the Mt. Zion cable car museum, Batei Machase Square and the Bell Outpost;
c) the “Seam Line” (between West and East Jerusalem) during 1948-1967, through exploring Mandelbaum Gate and the Israeli-held enclave at Mt. Scopus;
d) the 1967 Israeli seizure of East Jerusalem, through exploring the battle at Ammunition Hill and the capture of the Temple Mount/Sacred Esplanade and the entire Old City; 
e) current issues surrounding Israeli administration of the city, including Israeli settlement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the building of a wall segment of the Israeli barrier built in territory seized in 1967, including inside Jerusalem, and
f) finally, potential solutions to the quesiton of the future of Jerusalem.

Tour 4: Monasteries and monasticism in the Judean Desert – Join us on this learning pilgrimage as we visit the area of John the Baptist, of Elijah the Prophet and of Jesus. Explore the land of hermits and of seeking God. Visit: Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan River; the monastery of Dir Hajla (St. Gerasimus); the archaeological site of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; Nebi Musa, and an overlook over the Saints John and George of Choziba Monastery (St. George Monastery). 

Tour 5: Devotion and commitment in the Holy Land -Join us on this learning pilgrimage as we revisit the narratives which changed the world and meet those who devote their lives to a cause greater than themselves. Visit: Mary’s Spring, the Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem; Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant in Kiriyat Yearim, and the Benedictine Monastery in adjacent Abu Ghosh (and Emmaus Nicopolis), and the Trappist Monastery in Latrun.   

Tour 6: The Twisted Road to Independence – Join us as we visit the Museum of Undergound Prisoners in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound where we will learn about and critically examine the worldviews and activities of the three Zionist paramilitary groups active in British Mandate Palestine-Land of Israel. 

Session 7: The State of Israel vs. Benjamin Netanyahu: the protests against the prime minister – During this Zoom session we will examine: the corruption cases against Netanyahu, for which he was charged with breach of trust, fraud and bribery, as well as the “submarines and shares” case in which he was not investigated as a suspect; reasons for the protests, including economic issues (triggered by the pandemic crisis), political instability (four elections in just two years), the inchoate nature of COVID-19 restrictions and enforcement mechanisms, and “diminishing democracy”; the different protesters (anti-corruption, economic, liberal-leftist, and international), and Israeli police, and Likud and other political responses to the protests which have now lasted more than half a year.

Session 8: The Abraham Accords – During this Zoom session we will examine: the agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco; controvery surrounding the deals, and the effect of the deals on Israeli politics on annexation (and whether critiques of annexation might still be relevant), the Trump peace plan, the Arab Peace Initiative, other peace plans and the Palestinian arena.

Session 9: Shimon and Levi – During this Zoom session – available for people of faith and text learning backgrounds – we will explore Jewish texts and textual analysis. What did Yaakov (Jacob) really think about Shimon (Simeon) and Levi? Is there a difference between how he speaks about them at the end of the story of the rape of Dinah (Parashat Vayishlach) to how he speaks about them at the end of his life (and the book of Bereshit (Genesis) (Parashat Vayechi)? What do the medieval Jewish commentators the Rambam and Ramban have to say about their actions? Can we learn anything about international relations from this story? Is there a difference between Shimon and Levi?  

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

There is no commanding voice

3 Dec

by Ilan Bloch

Image taken from Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot website (https://www.bh.org.il)

One of my favorite sites at which to guide is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center), which includes a wonderful timeline of the history of Jerusalem, detailing which great power ruled the city over the course of the last several millenia. A similar — albeit more detailed — timeline (from the store at Beit Hatfutsot) is pictured above.

Canaanite (including an Egyptian conquest). Israelite (United, Divided, Judahite kingdoms). Assyrian (in Samaria). Babylonian. Persian. Hellenistic. Hasmonean (Maccabean). Roman. Byzantine (including a brief Persian conquest). Early Muslim (Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid). Crusader. Ayyubid (including a parallel Second Crusader period). Mamluk. Ottoman. British. (Jordanian/Palestinian National Authority and) Israeli.

Many Israelis are convinced that the above historical timeline teaches us one thing and one thing only — that so many conquests over the course of multiple centuries can only mean that Israel must make every effort to ensure that it is militarily superior to its close neighbors and those further afield. A strong IDF and (according to foreign sources) nuclear warheads are the most essential take-aways from learning the history of this land. In their minds, this is what the commanding voice of History (with a capital ‘H’) teaches us.

But I would suggest that there is no commanding voice of history with only one message from which we can learn. Perhaps the timeline teaches us that if even the greatest empires, with the greatest armies, and fighting in the name of the greatest gods, could ultimately be vanquished, then perhaps — Heaven forfend! — Israel can be too. Perhaps the timeline does not teach us about the essential value of power, but rather, about its ultimate limitations. It is unclear whether unrestrained military might can achieve any and all policy goals.

And perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. Maybe it is here, in this space, where Israeli and Diaspora Jews can meet to discuss and debate what it means to wield power Jewishly in a sovereign state, and what it means to live without sovereignty in free and democratic (and less free and less democratic) countries in the Diaspora.

As guides, teachers and parents, we must be careful in declaring that “History” speaks to us with a singular message. History has facts. How we build its narratives and determine its messages depends on our philosophical outlook and political values.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

They are not straying lambs

12 Nov

by Ilan Bloch

Many, if not most, engaged American Jews suffer from cognitive dissonance. On the one hand they are committed to human rights and liberalism and on the other they are committed to Zionism and the State of Israel. I do not believe they can be written off as Jews trying to curry favor with BLM or other American progressive movements. This is not about court Jews trying to ingratiate themselves with the goyim (Gentiles). It is genuinely difficult for those who believe in universal values of peace, freedom, social progress, equal rights and human dignity to reconcile these values with the hyper-particularistic manner that Zionism has been applied in Israel over the last five to ten years.

Too often we find Israeli tour guides and Israel education institutions saying American Jewish millenials are stuck in the millieu of their social media bubble (which is liberal), their media outlets (which are liberal, assuming they are not watching Fox News), their college campuses (which are liberal) and their overall Jewish community (which is mainly liberal). They will say “We’re not trying to engage in hasbara (“explaining” or Israel advocacy) but rather simply trying to broaden the understanding and outlook of our students.” But, this is really just code to explain the essential legitimacy of key Israeli policies.

A proper educational approach would at least adopt the idea that the flip-side of the American Jewish millenial bubble argument also holds true for Israeli Jewish millenials who often participate in Israel programs alongside their American peers in the context of a mifgash (encounter). Their social media feeds, their media outlets (unless they read Haaretz), their college campuses (with organizations like Im Tirzu “outing” liberal professors) and their overall Jewish community are all (mainly) conservative. A proper educational approach would try and broaden Israeli students’ outlooks too.

All participants — whether Israeli or American, whether right- or left-wing, whether Zionist or not — should get a sense that their previously held positions regarding Israel, Zionism and government policies have been healthily challenged, in a manner that leads to further growth. Hopefully, participants will even move in both directions along an axis of liberal/conservative political thought and affiliation.

Our task as Israel educators is certainly to present a wide variety of different opinions, and to attempt to be as objective as possible in our presentation of multiple and competing narratives, without sharing our own personal take on political issues. But, a line has to be drawn. The notion that mamlachtiyut (which one might roughly but wholly inadequately translate as “country before party”) should lead Israel educators to present all views as equally legitimate is folly. To present the insane theory that a liberal-controlled deep state is conspiring to foment a coup by unseating Prime Minister Netanyahu as an equally legitimate view to the facts that the (former) Israel Police Commissioner, (former) State Prosecutor and Attorney General (all of whom were appointed by Netanyahu himself), acting as the gate-keepers of Israeli democracy, saw fit to investigate, indict and try Netanyahu for breach of trust, fraud and bribery because they had uncovered evidence to suggest he was guilty, is not objective Israel education. It is immoral education.

One can teach that a lacuna in the law does not require a prime minister charged with these crimes to resign before he has exhausted any appeal, just as one can debate the pros and cons of legislation which would (for future cases) bar the prosecution of prime ministers while they are in office (e.g. a so-called “French Law”). However, to present conspiracy theories as legitimate views is doing a disservice to our students — intellectually and morally, and in terms of supporting their very connection to Israel. Even Fox News cut off White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s press statement in which she alleged election fraud without any evidence.

It is easy to say – as many Israel educators do – that we need to distinguish the State of Israel from the Government of Israel. It is much harder (if not impossible) to do so when this government (led by a prime minister who is a criminal defendant and who has been in power for more than a decade) is, in effect, at war with the State of Israel. Only a general waging war could have delivered Netanyahu’s tirade against an imagined coup by the police, state prosecutor, “the left” and the media, inside the courthouse before his arraignment on May 24. Students who see their Israel educators as not taking a clear stance against corruption and the erosion of Israeli democracy, will come to see us as apologists for Netanyahu’s misdeeds. And this will alienate them from Israel.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

Accord Tours: Emirati Visit Al Quds

18 Aug

by Ilan Bloch

UAE Iriya

Image taken from Times of Israel

The Abraham Accord will soon allow for travel between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Come pray at Al Aqsa, visit and tour the rest of Jerusalem, travel throughout the country and discover other incredible tourist sites.

Accord Tours will take care of all your travel and tourism needs, including airport transfers, hotel bookings, meals, transport and Ministry of Tourism licensed tour guides (English or Arabic).

Contact Accord Tours today in order to discuss your travel and tourism needs. We cater to individuals, couples, families and groups, for trips of any length of time.

Visit Accord Tours today.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

On knowledge as infinite and unlimited, and the multiplicity of truths

11 Aug

(אלו ואלו דברי אלוהים חיים. (עירובין יג, ב

Both these and those are the words of the living God. (Eruvin 13:2)

Infinity

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

by Ilan Bloch

I always strive to present multiple, competing and ostensibly mutually exclusive viewpoints on the historical/political issues which I raise on my tours and in my classes, always stressing that all views are legitimate. I certainly do hope that I will challenge my students’ previously held conceptions (whether they be liberal or conservative, and whether they are affiliated with one Jewish stream or another, or none at all). I want the secular liberal student, as an example, to come to realize that places like Hebron, Shilo and Ir David are the cradle of our civilization, and I want the religious conservative student, as another example, to come to realize the immense human rights violations which local Palestinians have been subjected to as a result of a Jewish presence in these areas. (See an op-ed I wrote for the Jerusalem Post for more details.) Part of this educational approach is to suggest that both views (and everything in between) are legitimate and part of “the big tent” of ideas which are, and should be, part of the overall discussion about an issue. Knowledge is infinite and unlimited and therefore, by definition, contains within it competing truths. Here, each learner is his or her own posek/et (decisor), so to speak, defining the halacha lema’ase (practical law) i.e. the truth at which he or she has arrived. There is no paradox, and perhaps something can even be mutar (permitted) and assur (forbidden) at the same time. Or, at the very least, two different, ostensibly mutually exclusive views might simply be considered to be two different elements of truth – perhaps there is no actual stira (contradiction) (a la tzvei dinim).

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

Tel Dan, Jewish (dis)unity, and Tu Be’av

4 Aug

by Ilan Bloch

sdr

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Almost three thousand years ago, toward the end of the tenth century BCE, our nation split. Under the rule of Yerov’am (Jeroboam), nine (and a half) tribes, lived in the northern Kingdom of Israel, while Rechav’am (Rehoboam), the successor of Shlomo (Solomon), ruled over two (and a half) tribes in the southern Kingdom of Judah, which was centered around Jerusalem. Even though economic issues were the trigger for the division — Rechav’am had intended to maintain and even extend his father’s taxation policy — the division also brought about a religious rupture.

The Temple stood within the territory of Judah, and even though northerners had pledged political allegiance to Yerov’am, they obviously retained a spiritual affinity for the Temple sacrificial cult. To ensure that this religious fealty would not undermine his continued political rule, Yerov’am even built two alternate altars in his territory — at Beit-El (Bethel) and Dan (pictured above) — so that his subjects who wanted to bring sacrifices could do so, without “leaving home,” that is, without venturing into Judahite territory.

One might even say that he adopted a spiritual philosophy of some of his neighbors (of the Ancient Near East) in that by placing the altars at the “border crossings” of his kingdom, he was suggesting that just as when one crosses a border to a neighboring state he not only “has his passport stamped and visits the money changer,” so to speak, but that he also accepts the god of the state whose territory he is entering, who is the sovereign of that state. One might understand, on the other hand, that although the Temple in Jerusalem, in the center of Judah, was the domicile of God (YHVH), from there below and from the Heavens above, He rules everywhere.

Yerov’am was so fearful that his subjects’ political loyalty would be affected by their yearning for the Temple that he erected roadblocks between the kingdoms, obstructing his people’s ability to ascend on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

It was tonight (on Tu Be’av), almost 2800 years ago, that King Hoshea of Israel removed these obstacles, and permitted pilgrimage to Jerusalem for all tribes once again. It is not so difficult to imagine different religious groups, with different hashkafot (philosophical outlooks), divided in terms of religious practice, with political and economic interests influencing the development, and maintenance, of the schism between sisters and brothers. As we celebrate Tu Be’Av tonight and tomorrow, we should take comfort in the idea that if (Jewish) history repeats itself in ways we would prefer not to re-live again and again, perhaps there is hope that some of its more positive episodes might also repeat themselves, and that we will merit to re-live them too.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

 

The Kotel (Western Wall)

2 Aug

by Ilan Bloch

Kotel

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Kotel Ha’Ma’aravi (Western Wall) is one of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount. It was built by King Herod as part of his renovation and expansion of the Temple precinct commencing in 22 BCE, although new evidence posits that at least part of it was actually built after his death. And, of course, it is one of the key tourist sites in Israel.

Even though Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount itself – the site of the actual Temples – because of security considerations relating to organized Israel programs, and because of some Halachic (Jewish legal) opinions which prohibit Jews from ascending the Mount for reasons connected with tumah (ritual impurity), most Jews, and almost all Israel program participants, do not ascend the Temple Mount but visit the Kotel instead.

For some reason, it is often said that the Kotel is the holiest site for Jews across the world because it is the last remaining retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Obviously, this cannot be true, for if the other retaining walls did not exist the structural integrity of the Mount would certainly be compromised.

The Kotel is the holiest of the retaining walls because it is the closest to the kodesh ha’kodashim (The Holy of Holies), the place to which only the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) could enter and only on the holiest day of the year – Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement.) This spot is also the site of Akeidat Yitzchak (The Binding of Isaac) and, according to midrash (Jewish lore), the site of Even Ha’Shetiya (The Foundation Stone), from which the world was created.

However, during the time of the Second Temple, the Kotel was simply a wall, serving functional purposes. Along with supporting the Temple Mount, the area adjacent to the wall was the “Ben-Yehuda Street” of two thousand years ago, with money change places and other stores serving the needs of the local and pilgrim population. How does such a place become holy? Is kedusha (holiness) intrinsic or a construct?

When considering kedusha though, we must not only consider kedushat ha’Makom (Holiness of Place), but also kedushat ha’Zeman (Holiness of Time – Shabbat and Yom Tov) and kedushat ha’Adam (Holiness of People – all of whom are created in the Divine image), as well as kedushat ha’Peulah (Holiness of Action – for example, tikkun olam and tzedek hevrati (social justice) projects) and kedushat ha’Chafetz (Holiness of Object – a siddur or kippah, for example). Each Jew must consider for himself which marker of kedusha is most meaningful to him as an individual. Some visitors to the Kotel view it simply as a wall – a piece of real estate. Perhaps they can connect with God more at their home synagogue/temple, or even outdoors. They might even recognize kedusha more in the actions of a human rights activist or even a beggar on the street (created in the image of God). Kedusha means different things to different people. It is the role of each individual to seek it out for himself.

When considering the Kotel, we must also discuss the concept of Achdut Yisrael (the unity of all Jews). Many people visit the site and are enchanted by what they perceive to be an incredible level of unity between all Jews, whether they are locals or visitors, and regardless of their level of Halachic observance – a true center of gravity for the entire Jewish world. Others are offended by what they perceive to be discriminatory practices against women, and against non-Orthodox Jews, which have even led to the arrest of worshippers. They davka see the Kotel as the embodiment of disunity and even sinat chinam (baseless hatred) which, according to our Sages, led to the destruction of the Second Temple.

The importance of the Kotel to world Jewry is clear; it has been a focus for our prayers and of our spiritual and national identity for centuries. But, as visitors, we must ensure that we do not approach the site on a simplistic level. When visiting the Kotel, we must consider how we relate to issues of kedusha and Jewish unity (or lack thereof). Our experience at the Wall should not be an affective one only, detached and separate from the intellectual issues which the site raises. There are no clear answers to these issues; each individual must decide for himself how he relates to them.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

On a one-state vs. two-state solution, annexation, Zionism and Israeli-Diaspora relations

26 Jul

Israel-PA

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

by Ilan Bloch

It doesn’t matter if “dyed in the wool Zionists” could prove that Peter Beinart is a non-Zionist or an anti-Zionist (or even a self-hating Jew), whatever any of these terms actually mean. (As I’ve argued previously here, I don’t think these terms mean very much at all.) It also doesn’t matter whether If Not Now activists were in breach of contract for staging walkoffs from Birthright Israel programs two years ago, whether they were impertinent for broadcasting them on Facebook live, or whether they highjacked their groups. And it is certainly irrelevant whether one of their activists couldn’t explain why there are Jewish settlers/residents in Hebron. Being unaware of this is as problematic as not realizing the connection between Jewish settlement in Hebron and the resultant human rights violations of Palestinian residents of H2 (Israeli-controlled Hebron). But it certainly doesn’t nullify the legitimacy of Diaspora activists from the left- or right-wing who suffer from a knowledge deficit. If we used such a criterion of basic level of knowledge for determining eligibility to vote within Israel (or America, Australia or elsewhere, for that matter) many people from across the political spectrum would be stripped of their right to vote!

What is of utmost importance though, when considering the occupation, the proposed annexation plan and potential political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is that the overwhelming majority of American Jewry, which votes Democrat and is not Orthodox, and which perhaps embraces a more universalistic approach to their Jewish identity, and whose young adults might consider it as simply one of multiple identities, considers the ongoing Israeli occupation to be a moral blight, which is diametrically opposed to everything which their communities have taught them to believe Judaism represents. One could could respond by railing against a supposed liberal manipulation of the idea of tikkun olam bemalchut Shadai (repairing the world in the majesty of the Almighty), one could question and doubt others’ Jewish credentials, one could accuse Diaspora Jewish liberals of being “sell-outs” wanting to ingratiate themselves with non-Jewish liberals (as if they are not as sincere in their liberal views regarding Israel as they are in relation to their liberal views regarding their own countries), and one could even simply write off large swathes of the largest (Diaspora) Jewish community in the world. But it won’t change a thing. Millions of American Jews who are deeply engaged with Israel see its actions as going against the essence of Judaism itself, standing against everything they learned as part of their Jewish education and in their participation in Jewish communal life. This is a most serious issue, which won’t be resolved by name-calling, by pointing fingers or by denigrating others who call us out for ongoing policies with which they disagree, and which they wouldn’t stand for if they were being mirrored by their own governments in the Diaspora.

American Jews who have and will be influenced by Beinart, members of If Not Now, and others who fundamentally oppose Israeli policy are flesh of our flesh, they are our sisters and our brothers, they are our students, our children and our campers, and they must be included when we talk about Jewish unity (including unity between left and right, and between Diaspora and Israeli Jewry), especially during, but not limited to, the days leading up to Tisha Be’av, which our sages teach marks, inter alia, the destruction of the Second Temple, which was destroyed because of שנאת חינם (baseless hatred). In any case, who is the תינוק שנשבה (“captured infant”), without an appreciation for Zionism and what Israel should be? The hyper-universalistic Jewish activist, deeply engaged with Israel, who cannot abide by certain Israeli policies, and seeks to reform Israel and its society? Or the particularistic Jew, who has embraced a certain type of hyper-nationalism, increasingly divorced from any universalistic context which was once part of the Zionist movement? The answer will, of course, depend on your politics, and, most likely, lies somewhere in between.

Israeli and Diaspora Jewry need to move forward in respectful partnership with one another, which must include a dialog which has room for honest criticism.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israel tour guide.

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