has offered the 2 similar viewpoints of JoeSettler
thesis that the US Jewry is disengaging from Israel. Before I offer my own theory, I would like to comment on the “bottom line” of the 2 different collection funds for Gaza Refugees and Katrina Survivors. Just because the Katrina fund collected far more money $600K vs. $170K, I don’t think that is a proper litmus test of American’s Jewry’s loyalty to Israel.
From a halachik standpoint, עניי עירך קודמים – charity should be first given to the needy of your local hometown, prior to the needs of other communities. I don’t fault US Jewry for donating more to Katrina survivors; they are probably observing this halacha correctly.
I would like to offer a different perspective on US Jewry’s attitude towards Israel, focusing on the Orthodox segment. How “engaged” has US Orthodox Jewry been in the first place? What real connection exists between these Jews and the daily lives of Jews living in the Land of Israel?
Sadly, the first word that comes to mind to describe the connection among most US Orthodox Jewry, is “Disneyland”. Israel is the largest theme park in the world that caters to the Orthodox Jewish world. Bigger than OU/NCSY takeover of Six Flags Great Adventure on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Larger than the Kosher Food Expo in the Javits Convention center in NYC. Even more grandiose than Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas at Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands.
Starting with the ELAL flight to Israel, the comical routine starts at the airport with that extra special ELAL security check-in, davening shacharit in the aisles on the plane, and culminating with the grand entrance at the new terminal 3 in Ben Gurion airport. Every Israeli is a larger than life Mickey Mouse, every IDF soldier a Donald Duck, and the old city of Jerusalem is the ultimate Epcot center of Orthodox Judaism.
The braver souls may take the scary Hevron bulletproof bus ride, take the Gush Katif Kassam attraction (temporarily closed due to renovations, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience).
Need a spiritual attraction? The Kotel, or the countless shuls around the country. We’ve got graveyards of gedolim, tzadikim, and your relatives located everywhere! Want to get the season ticket? Learn in a yeshiva for a year...we’ve got more yeshivot than emuna threatening posts on GodolHador’s website
. Everything is in Hebrew…what a funky language. Check out that settler in orange! Don’t even get me started on the gift shops.
I admit it. It’s offensive. I used to be one of those season pass tourists from the US learning in yeshiva in Israel. Yet, I wasn’t really connected. In fact, it’s incredibly hard to be connected to Israel from afar. Some people wore gas-masks in the US in 1991 whenever scuds fell in Israel, but that’s not a connection.
One of the main reasons that 50% of all North American olim return back to the USA within 5 years, is because they were seeking the Disneyland Israel. It’s not their fault, and living here is far from a rose garden. The only way to really understand Israel is to live here…for a while, as real people, and not on a season ticket pass, or a 2 week Epcott special.
My main theory is that based on living in Israel being a different dimension of existence than that of US Jewry, which is very difficult to comprehend. The book Flatland
is a great midrash that could explain the difficulties in understanding Israel from the perspective of US Jewry. The world of Flatland is a 2 dimensional plane. There are lines, squares hexagons, all who live a very wonderful existence within their dimension. One day, a stranger appears from the 3rd dimension: A Sphere.
He tries to explain how he can intersect the plane of Flatland and he has a wonderful quality called “volume.” Needless to say, it’s very challenging for him to explain to a 2 dimensional being what a 3rd dimension is.
As it is almost Yom Kippur, I would like mention that this suggestive comparison is not meant to be, G-d forbid condescending towards US Jewry. I was there, and even after moving to Israel, I didn’t at all comprehend what was really going on. I didn’t understand the inner workings of Israel’s politics, the passion of the Left, the tenaciousness of Israel’s media, or even what loving the land really meant. It took time, a lot of time to comprehend what a different dimension Israel is, from living in the US.
Living in Israel today, means you have your finger on the pulse of Jewish history, you are part of Jewish history, and you are living proof of the Prophesies from the Tanach. We are the living legacy that the Jewish people have returned home to rule ourselves, in our homeland.
When Gush Katif was destroyed this summer, my children participated in the struggle against the Disengagement. We went to every protest possible, and it was a challenge explaining to them about democracy, rule of law, Ahavat Chinam, Ahavat HaAretz, and what are the boarders of acceptable Jewish behavior in protesting the government’s policy. You can’t compare that to the summer plans of Orthodox Jewish children in the US. My children saw our friends thrown out of their home, and they lived with us till they got back on their feet.
My children know that I will do whatever I can to ensure that we return and rebuild Gush Katif. If however, G-d forbid, I am unsuccessful, then it will be their mission to return and rebuild. This is a mission they will pass on to their children as well.
Living in Israel today is the fulfillment of the promise our forefathers made 2000 years ago when the Romans destroyed the Beit HaMikdash.
How do we bridge the spatial gap between Israel and US Jewry, and get them to feel what is going on here? I’ll let you think about that over Yom Kippur.
May we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, Good health, Unity and Prosperity.