If You Lived in Israel, How Would America Look to You?

Posted on: December 8th, 2011 by Hayim Herring
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From Fox-Photography_VE on flickr

Imagine that you’re a Jewish Israeli citizen who was born, raised and is living in Israel. Because you have family members living in the United States and you care about them, you follow the news in America with some regularity.

Over the past several years, despite changes in presidential administrations, you’ve become increasingly worried for your American mishpacha. Americans seem to have one foreign policy approach: wage war (either overtly or covertly); and one response to domestic issues: cut taxes. Public bigotry seems to be tolerated, if the rate at which gays and lesbians are demonized is any indication. Individual liberties have been curtailed because of the Patriot Act and social protest movements don’t seem to be tolerated well.

Many of the Republican candidates seeking the presidency seem to have been named after the cartoon character Dopey (one of the dwarfs in Snow White) and while President Obama would make a great orator-in- chief, he certainly doesn’t know about leadership. And at times he seems ambivalent about your own country: Israel. While you never planned to live in the United States, you’ve visited it periodically. You used to admire it, but now, you’re not so sure….America seems morally and politically adrift. It is starting to remind you of other broken democracies in the West.

You can substitute some of the facts and names, but that’s how many American Jews increasingly feel about Israel. (See blogger and columnist, Jeffrey Goldberg, for three big concerns that American Jews have about Israel in an article entitled, How Israel Can Stop Alienating American Jews.) At a time when there’s an external international effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, some Israeli leaders seem hell bent on making political choices that are internally destructive. Internal and external dynamics then feed off of one another, further fueling these crises.

So what should Jewish leaders who love Israel do? First, leaders have to be honest. That means while expressing their love, they also have to name the issues that trouble them. Second, they have to provide context and nuance for discussions. If they can accomplish these two acts, then they create a condition for a discussion where divergent points of view are heard. They can model that being clear in your own positions doesn’t negate the need to hear other points of view. Finally, leaders need to remember and remind others of the adage that, “no one ever built a statue to a critic.” If you’re ready to criticize, then be ready to get to work to improve the situation.


Rabbi Hayim Herring


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