Another post?! Yes, but I have something I actually want to say.
So I finally got around to reading Dr. Daniel Gordis' piece about American Rabbinical students and their relationship towards Israel. http://danielgordis.org/2011/04/01/of-sermons-and-strategies/ The article and especially the comments left below the article were very disturbing to me. I don't really understand the climate that has developed in the American Jewish community over the past year, while I am here in Israel, but frankly I am scared to go back to it. While I think it is important to support Israel, and while I do love Israel (if you read my blog you know this), I do think that it is important to have a nuanced and complex relationship with Israel, because Israel is a nuanced and complex place. To me this means being critical sometimes. Tough love. I will always support Israel's right to exist and I think it is so important for us Jews to have a homeland, but that doesn't mean we can turn a blind eye to the Palestinians, and to the other people that are suffering on behalf of the Jewish homeland.
It isn't just the American Jewish community that is the problem. Just last week J street was deemed to be "Pro-Palestinian" by an Israeli Parliamentary committee. Since J street does not offer unconditional support to Israel, in the eyes of the Israeli government it is not pro-Israel. I can't even tell you how frustrated all of this makes me. To expect unconditional support is ridiculous. Even as a Jew of the diaspora I believe that I have a right to speak my mind about what is happening in Israel. If you want my unconditional support, Israel, you need to start behaving like you want it. I am not only talking about "the conflict", I am also talking about some of the b.s laws that are being enforced by the rabbinic courts. For example this whole issue of mesorevet get, where the husband leaves his wife trapped in a marriage, and there is nothing she can do. Along with others.
While there is a lot I am critical of, this does not make me anti-Israel. I am critical because I care (a lot). I want Israel to be the amazing place, and the" light to the nations" that I know it can be. I want Israel to be blameless and perfect so badly, but that's not the reality at this time. I think that by being vocal and having a generation of young Jews who are vocal about both their praise and criticism, we can help Israel improve itself. Instead of accepting everything that goes on, maybe by being critical we can help change some things. Maybe this is overly optimistic, but no one ever brought about change by staying silent.
I have really loved living in Israel this past year. It is so amazing to have a place like this for Jews. A place where Jewish holidays are national celebrations, and where Jewish culture is lived all the time. It's really beautiful. I think Dr. Gordis was aiming his criticism more at rabbinical students who flat out deny Israel's right to exist, and I think that it is scary to think about future rabbis who are actually anti-Israel, but honestly I don't think there are that many of them. I think that Dr. Gordis has decided that certain rabbinical students' actions makes them anti-Israel, when in fact they just have a more nuanced and complex relationship with Israel. For example the case cited about a rabbinical student having his birthday in Ramallah.
One of Dr. Gordis' suggestions to help "fix" this situation is "could we find the funding to place academically superb and unequivocally Israel-supportive professors in the schools that want them? " Sure put professors that are supportive of Israel, but all being unequivocally so? See the arguement that I just made above. Also by sheltering future rabbis I don't think you are being much of a help to the future generation of Jewish leaders.
I think that by expecting unconditional support of Israel it alienates more people. Let's say you are someone with minimal Israel education, and has maybe come on a birthright trip or something so you have seen the happy amazing side of Israel, but not the more complicated and confusing parts, and then you come to live in Israel for a year as part of your rabbinic training (or just life) and you come into contact with the most challenging parts of Israel (whatever those might be for you). How can you deal with those? I think there needs to be some preparation. Israel education in America needs to prove that Israel has a right to exist and is an amazing place without ignoring the realities of the state. How exactly to do that is a great question, and one I am going to be struggling with for a while. I don't want to turn people off of Israel, Israel has enough haters, but at the same time I refuse to lie and I refuse to ignore the complexities of the situation here.
As a fellow rabbinical student and encounter buddy said (I feel weird using names on my blog, so I won't. ALSO I'm paraphrasing) she highlighted the fact that as Jews we struggle with difficult texts all the time. Every year we read about the binding of Isaac, and struggle with the complexities in the story. We read about God being angry and seemingly far from perfect, and we struggle with that. If we spend our lives struggling with difficult ideas that are put forth in our text, so why can't we struggle with the difficulties that exist in the reality of the state of Israel? It is not black and white, and I feel that it would be dishonest of me as a Jew and especially as a future rabbi to portray the situation as such.
whew. I hope that made sense. I welcome comments on this issue. I think this is something extremely important to discuss, because I think this tension is only going to get worse. I am nervous to see how this will all play out, but at the same time I know that there are many people who feel similarly about this situation, and that this critical and yet also supportive voice will continue to be heard.