Just musings today…not necessarily full fleshed out thoughts. so…keep this in mind.
Have Americans Jews Disneyfied Israel?
I put that question out there today because some days I think this to be true. Everywhere I turn I see the imprint Americans have left here via their organizations, private donations etc.and it makes me proud but a tad bit curious as to why we at least in New York City (my “Jewdom”) paint Israel as this utopian society that we as Jews should RUN not walk to make aliyah. Who doesn’t want to ride camels, swim in the Dead Sea, pray in Jerusalem and feel that you are part of a large functional family unit called Israel?
Over the course of my time here I have come more inspired by the shades of Judaism we have created in the diaspora that are not so readily found here. So what version of Israel are we so excited about?
When I first arrived in Tel Aviv I would literally shriek with excitement when seeing an IDF soldier in uniform…afterall, I am a “Friend of the IDF”. This sentiment is slightly mocked by most of the Israelis I have met as the reality is that IDF service is mandatory (unlike military service in the United States) and the Hollywood-esque images of IDF soldiers reading their TANAKH or wrapped in their tefillin in the sunshine of the battlefield as they protect the blue and white does not represent all soldiers. There is that archetype of soldier that IS eager to serve and serves with pride and enthusiasm but there are also those individuals that don’t back their government or have been through so much already that adding to their collected trauma would be of zero benefit to anybody or just don’t want to be part of a militant institution. This too should be respected. There’s always more than one side and I think we need to look a little closer. I have come to respect Lone Soldiers even more so as they willingly enlisted like my friend’s sister did. When I listen to her speak about her role in the IDF I feel like she is a real “hero”. I am still psyched to see an IDF soldier but the more than likely PR images procured by American organizations are slowly washing away in lieu of yearning to hear each soldier’s individual story.
Part of my time here was meant to deepen my Judaism as this is the HOLY LAND…this is where my “tribe” IS. How shocked I am to find that the community I have built in NYC doesn’t seem to exist here and some days I feel like I am panhandling for Jewish (religious not ethnic) community. Jews where are you?!!!! I thought I would be high on “Jewdy” just by breathing the air but this is not the case in Tel Aviv just 45 minutes from Jerusalem…so I wonder WHY ? Why is religious observance of Judaism so black or white…where are the 50 shades of grey (sorry…I couldn’t resist) that made me fall in love with the religion in the first place? There are seemingly two options here; Orthodox or…not. Then of course within those communities is friction…who is doing it “right” and who is “not” etc…but I digress.
I am a post – Zionist (I was recently explained that Zionism has already happened so now it is “Post Zionism”) but the Israel “as-is” is not perfect and it does make mistakes…and that is ok. It is complicated. This land is not just land…it’s this incredible multi ethnic intersection of so much…love. That is the root of it right? Faith mixed with history topped off by a healthy dose of pride. Undoubtedly this has been clouded by the psychedelic drug called POWER…on all sides but the root of it is a love for our peoplehood and the origins of it. I’m sure I will be criticized for everything I have said but I know logically there can never be any societal progress if we can’t at least discuss the successes AND failures of this country. Israel’s statehood is still in its infancy so there is still time to make a real contribution we just need to be mindful of the who, when, where and why.