Everyone’s new favorite chancellor-elect of JTS has shared his tips for “bringing us closer with Israel” with a local (to him) California congregation. Below you can read Shamir’s bites (reactions) to each of his suggestions.
1. Increase our knowledge about the Reality of Israel, as opposed to the Myth of Israel, through films, books, magazines, newspapers, on-line sources, and maybe even satellite TV.
Shamir’s bite: This is actually one of may favorite ones. Too many people are totally ignorant on Israel — they think of it as a place where either everyone lives on a kibbutz full of cows, or like a 3rd world country with bombs falling all the time. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, those of us who only read what’s put out by Palestinian solidarity organizations. Wake up and check it out!
2. Learn more about the history of Zionism and the development of the State—especially when seen parallel to the modern history of the Jewish diaspora.
Shamir’s bite: Another important one — just make sure you do read about the histroy of “Zionism and the State” from the perspective of Palestinians, British nation, Turkish history, etc. How did the Holocaust create Israel? How did Moroccoan Jews? What else is there?
3. Visit, and when visiting get to know the place better, go beyond touring and vacation (especially if this is not the first visit) to learning more about the place, the people, the society, the culture.
Shamir’s bite: Experiential and educational tours are the new thing. If you can, go on a program in which you meet actual Israelis, and find time to go on an encounter tour or other opportunity to meet Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
4. Hebrew. Make a real effort to improve knowledge of the language, so as to get more direct access, if only to prayerbooks and street signs, to one’s people and tradition.
Shamir’s bite: Even if you’re not a Zionist, you’re still going to need Hebrew as a Jew. As someone who learned most of the Hebrew I know through college courses and JCC Ulpan, I’m living proof that you can learn it affordably and locally, if you can put time into it. If you can make it all the way to Israel and do a few months of ulpan, all the better.
5. Support partnerships such as Partnership 2000 with Israelis, and possibly Jews from diaspora communities, for work on projects in Israel, US, or diaspora.
Shamir’s bite: Whether you do an offical program or you just connect with Jews from other countries at your local grocery store, you’ll have your Jewish life enriched.
6. Encourage our young people to make Israeli connections of their own, which may be very different from ours, and may result in them getting more attached than we’d (honestly) like.
Shamir’s bite: First:Ahem, Arnie: When you tell members of a synagogue to “encourage young people” you are separating the young people from the members of the synagogue. Second: I’d love an elaboration on this. Does “more attached” refer to kids who make aliyah? Ba’alei teshuvah? What sort of attachment are they afraid about here?
7. Join and get active in “friends of” organizations, from relatively non-partisan causes (universities, orchestras) to somewhat partisan causes (advocacy of pluralism or civil rights or environmental action), whether directly or through Federation or New Israel Fund.
8. Join and get active in overtly partisan efforts: friends of Meretz or Peace Now or Likud.
Shamir’s bite: This is a sleek one. How many people do you think hear this and feel included vs. excluded?
9. Lobby—whether at the national level via AIPAC or NIF or among our own Jewisn and Gentile friends and co-workers, who don’t know that we support Israel, or why, or what it means to us.
Shamir’s bite: Let’s throw in Brit Tzedek V’shalom too here.
10. Finally, perhaps most difficult, change our attitude towards Israel, our relation to it, to accept the revolutionary change it represents in Jewish history and the nature of Jewish responsibility—for a real state, a highly imperfect state, that includes many kinds of Jews as well as non-Jews, for all of whom the State is responsible—and so for whom, indirectly, we are responsible.
Shamir’s bite: Can someone please tell the Jewish establishment that Arnie here is allying himself here with all of us post-Zionists? He may not be a pillar of post-Zionism, but on this one, I feel like he’s with us.
Though I could have wished for a reference to ending the occupation or some more specific reference to Palestinians, overall I am pleased with the list. I hope to hear more from the man, especially when some of us who are “young” and progressive on Israel are getting bashed by AJC & others.