Israel / Jews in America / Zionism

“There are a lot of vigorously debated hypotheses about why American Jews appear to be distancing themselves from Israel”

There are a lot of vigorously debated hypotheses about why American Jews appear to be distancing themselves from Israel. Is it the policies of the government and the cover given to them by the Jewish “establishment?” Is it the naïve embrace by American Jews of the feel-good liberalism of tikkun olam that makes them oblivious, even antipathetic, to the realpolitik challenges faced by a nation-state? Is it Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison, intermarriage, or just the problem with “kids these days”? I think it is simpler than all that. We told stories about ourselves for so long that they are credibly and legitimately the authentic, endemic characteristics of what we call “Judaism.” These are stories of wandering and dislocation, praying for a return to Jerusalem but never actually expecting to concretize those prayers. In other words, even when we teach our children Judaism, it does not and will not breed Zionism. And even if the failing of a Jew to embrace Zionism and to feel a sense of loyalty to this strange beast called Jewish peoplehood may reflect a failure of adaptation, imagination, and responsibility, it does not necessarily constitute a failure to understand what it has meant for us for a long to be Jewish.

And even though I wouldn’t trade the Zionism that comes with winning the war for the nostalgia of the older and better Jewish story, I worry that this new story that has replaced the old mythology of journey is deeply lacking. Rabbinic tradition dictates that the Temple Mount should constitute the center of one’s religious consciousness and thus become a literal and metaphorical compass: We pray in its direction from wherever far off places we are, in the belief that this orientation centers us. We prayed toward there throughout a long history in which we couldn’t be there. We imagined that one day we would close the gap between our dreams and our realities, and in turn, we sustained our religious consciousness with that act of implausible imagination. And then, in recent times, the geography of the Jewish people’s consciousness transformed itself when the army radio crackled “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”

Yehuda Kurtzer, “Unsettled”, Tablet (5 June 2017) [http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/235527/unsettled-2]