Eisenbud’s Odyssey: The power of one

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December 23, 2011 16:37

By myopically focusing on, and judging, Jews who decide to pursue lives outside of Israel, the Absorption Ministry missed the forest for the trees.




ISRAEL’S EXISTENTIAL crisis is very much a global

World. (photo credit:Kurt Strazdins and Kurt Strazdins/MCT)

Frequently, when strangers ask me why I moved to Israel from New York City, I answer “family business.” This is entirely true – however, most people become rightly confused during follow-up questions when I clarify that I have no family, or business, in the country to speak of.

This, compounded by the fact that I am secular and left a relatively plush lifestyle in one of the most majestic cities in the world to live a meager material existence in a place where I once didn’t know a soul, speak Hebrew or even have a job, almost always leads them to question my sanity.

However, I am indeed here on family business – and it is very much unfinished business, at that.

AS THEY once said in the American West, what I came here for is an old-fashioned “reckoning.”

It is a reckoning in the name of my family – and the six million other innocent Jews who were mercilessly slaughtered for being born into the “wrong” religion.

I made the relatively radical choice to come here to join a fight and cause that will forever dwarf me, or anyone else living or dead, because it was right for me. A fight that I am comically (or tragically, depending on how you frame it) outnumbered in.

However, I have never cared much for odds, nor cynical odds-makers, for that matter. I care about the fight itself.

And I decided that I wanted to be at ground zero for this one, and am acutely aware that it isn’t going to end anytime soon.

That said, you may assume that because I chose to move here and forsake an otherwise stable life in America that I somehow would look down on other Jews who choose not to make the same sacrifice.

You would be wrong.

EARLIER THIS month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was correct to order the Immigrant Absorption Ministry to cease and desist its harmful and ill-conceived Diaspora-bashing ad campaign designed to pressure Israeli expats living in America into going home, lest they be seen as lesser Jews.

The ads reignited an ugly, age-old internal feud by attempting to convey the message that the children and families of Israeli expats will not have Israeli identities if they stay in the Diaspora – and that Diaspora Jews are somehow inferior to Israeli ones.

The campaign even prompted the Jewish Federation of North America and Anti- Defamation League to take the unusual step of defensively issuing statements against the very country they are dedicated to supporting, saying it was being “insulting” and “demeaning.”

They are right.

WHILE I understand the well-meaning, if heavy-handed, intentions behind this campaign, I respectfully disagree with it on a practical, emotional and even spiritual level.

As an ardent Zionist – especially one who would appear to have gone above and beyond the call of duty by leaving the comfortable Diaspora he was born into to live in a borderline war zone – my sentiments may seem counterintuitive.

However, first and foremost I am a pragmatist, and recognize that what may be right for me is not right for everyone.

I also know that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

INDEED, I believe that by myopically focusing on, and judging, Jews who decide to pursue lives outside Israel, the ministry is missing the forest for the trees, and is weakening our country.

You see, this is very much a global struggle, and we simply don’t have the luxury of alienating or marginalizing Jews anywhere in the world who love Israel as much as those who live within its limited borders.

By divvying out more copious amounts of “Jewish guilt” to those who already feel guilty of the “crime” of living their lives far away from Israel, all we are doing is exacerbating the problem.

MORE OFTEN than not, I have found that there is little corollary between where a Jew lives and his or her love for and allegiance to Israel, and to assume otherwise is a dangerous miscalculation.

The concepts of geographical preference and love of country must finally be recognized as being mutually exclusive and damaging to our global struggle, which far exceeds the borders of Israel itself.

Tactically, to suggest otherwise is foolish at best, and deadly at worst.

We need every Jewish soldier in this war on every continent of the globe to carry his or her weight by defending our right to exist, and support this great, vilified and outnumbered nation.

Indeed, we need to continue to recruit several thousand good men and women from every corner of the planet to refute the patent lies and absurd double standards Israel is routinely subjected to.

To think we can do all the heavy lifting from our small speck on the map in the Middle East is impractical and self-defeating.

Near or far, we are in this war together, and to devalue those who choose to fight from a different location is a tremendous mistake on multiple levels.

AS I wrote several weeks ago in “The Art of the Intellectual War,” Israel’s existential crisis is very much a global one, and we need capable soldiers wherever there is anti-Semitism, which, unfortunately, is everywhere. This is not the time to mitigate the value of soldiers who live in the Diaspora – and are very much needed there.

EVEN THOUGH I decided to come here to be at the epicenter of this war to manage my “family business,” I am no better than any other Jew in the Diaspora who is taking up this cause far away, where they are needed equally.

By disrespecting Jews who choose not to live here and adopting a holier-than-thou stance in an already deeply fractured society, we are only weakening ourselves and our cause.

This reckoning is not going to end any time soon, and we need all hands on deck, near and far, to do what they can.

Indeed, we must fight as one.

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