You need to understand that when Israelis worry about ‘dangers, threats, and extremism,’ they’re thinking about Palestinian terrorists
Dear American Left Wing Jews,
We love you. You are our brothers and sisters. We know that Israelis have disappointed you in elections this week but please don’t take it personally. Israeli votes were about Israel, not you. You were energized by Prime minister Rabin’s Oslo peace process. He brought a new dreamlike optimism to Israel. No longer would Israel be at war. Israel’s safety would be secured through diplomacy instead of war. While it stalled under Prime Minister Netanyahu, the peace process was slightly resuscitated under Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert. Understandably, you feel let down. The peace process is all but dead and the loudest voices in Israel are silent on peace with the Palestinians.
This week’s election results must seem like a rejection of your values. You’ve expressed concern over Israeli priorities and it looks like we’re ignoring you. Very few Israeli parties talked about the religious pluralism you hold so dear. The Western Wall deal, conversions, and marriage were hardly mentioned in the campaign. Israel seems to be embracing racism, its darkest demons coming to the forefront. Values of equality between privilege and underprivileged don’t seem to be a shared value between American and Israeli Jews. Worst of all, Israelis have embraced Donald Trump. To American left-wing Jews, President Trump is the vilest side of a nation. The Israeli embrace of President Trump represents the rejection of all things holy to the Jewish left.
Over 80% of Israelis chose parties who did not put peace with the Palestinians, the creation of a Palestinian state, or a changing of conditions for Palestinian Arabs under Israeli control. Over 50% of Israelis chose a party that advocates annexation and extending sovereignty to lands captured in the Six Day War. Israelis seem to have lost all interest in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that places improving the lives of Palestinian Arabs as a priority. Creating equity between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs is important to you and it doesn’t seem important to Israelis.
American Jews, just as you want Israelis to hear you, Israelis need you to hear them. Israelis live under incomprehensible stress if not lived personally. The thought of a rocket landing, a bomb exploding, or a surprise stabbing creates unending pressure. Israelis know that American Jews care about their safety and security, but to Israelis, it is a living beast that hovers over them at all times. The danger traumatizes Israeli children and fractures family life. It isn’t enough to be aware of Israeli security needs, Israelis need American Jews to put their safety as their first priority. Israelis put all values second to safety because they are forced to in the name of their own security. They embrace President Trump because his U.S.-Israel policies protect Israeli rights and security.
Israelis hear American Jews talking about religious pluralism, racism, social justice, equality for Palestinian Arabs and a two-state solution. Israelis hear the criticism of Israeli leaders, corruption, and policies. What Israelis aren’t hearing are the voices that express concern over Palestinian delegitimization of Israel, of economic attacks like BDS, and most of all, of Palestinian Arab attacks against innocent Israelis. Last night, Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of American left-wing Jewry’s J-Street sent an email detailing “dangers, threats and extremism” in Israel. Yet he wasn’t talking about Palestinian terrorists, he was talking about over 80% of Israelis who voted for a vision of Israel he doesn’t share. When Israelis hear those messages coming from American Jewry they feel distanced and estranged from their American siblings.
Israelis value their American siblings on the left and right. Israelis care deeply about a strong relationship with all American Jews. Israelis want all American Jews to be heard in Israel and feel at home in Israel. This is the homeland of all Jews. When Israel is safer than it has ever been, financially stronger than it has ever been, and growing like it never has before, unity should be the emphasis of all Jews. Now should be a time that American and Israeli Jews repair old wounds. American and Israeli Jews should now focus on recognizing each other’s values, priorities, and concerns. I don’t know how we get there, but the first step must be to begin listening and accepting each other’s opinions. Now is the time for unity.
Your Israeli Siblings
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator. As a teacher, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.
This article was first published in The Times of Israel.