One must be wary of generalizing about Jews.

 
Not only are we individualistic, perhaps more than most other ethnic/religious groups, but different communities of Jews have been developing in their own ways over the course of 2,500 years. 
 
Since World War II there have been changes more pronounced that in earlier periods of comparable length.
 
Many of the changes have been due to the Holocaust and subsequent migrations. Included here are the responses of Gentiles to the Holocaust, and their cutting more slack for individual Jews. Quotas in higher education and gentlemen's agreements that limited Jews' choice of housing or profession held on for a decade or so after World War II, then began to give way to legal challenges and changes in morality.
 
Another great event was the collapse of the Soviet Union. It not only allowed the migration of more than a million Jews to Israel, the US, Germany, and other western countries, but it permitted a resurgence of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union and what had been the Soviet satellites.
 
While Jews usually applaud the changes, some worry about the disappearance of Jews via greater acceptance, acculturation, and intermarriage.
 
Israel's creation, and its growth in population, economics, technology, and military power is arguably the greatest accomplishment of Jews since the Holocaust. 
 
There are Jews, perhaps most of them in the Diaspora, who would argue the point. Jews have been predominantly a Diaspora people since the exile to Babylon 600 years before the Common Era. The economic and cultural wealth of the Diasporas, and the dynamic growth of Jewish organizations have been as impressive as anything Israeli.
 
With all the appropriate reservations, the most prominent differences among contemporary Jews are between Israelis and all the rest.
 
Most obvious is the large majority of Jews in the Israeli population, and the uniqueness of Israel as a Jewish state.
 
Also prominent is the tendency of Israeli Jews to identify primarily with the ethnic element of being Jews and not the religious element.
 
Israelis can celebrate holidays, learn and argue about Judaic traditions, and identify as Jews without praying, paying dues or darkening the doors of a synagogue, Temple, or Jewish Community Center.
 
One can argue about the percentage of Israeli Jews who are primarily secular, or largely secular even while describing themselves as "traditional." Something close to 10 percent of Israel's Jews actively identify as Orthodox, and another 10 percent as ultra-Orthodox.
 
Among the results is the lack of support shown by secular Israelis to non-Orthodox religious movements that want to expand their importance in Israel by gaining more support from the public treasury, and acquiring equal authority for their rabbis to decide about marriage, divorce, and conversion, all of which is currently the monopoly of the Orthodox Rabbinate.. 
 
Secular Israelis see themselves as outsiders to religion, and don't see the point in "another religion" under the headings of Conservative or Reform Judaism.
 
Israel's primary support for Orthodox varieties of Judaism reflects a national ethos that has religious as well as national roots, and reflects the weight of political parties based largely on the votes of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. Among the results is the support of the settler movement, and the numerous issues focused on the ultra-Orthodox: the problems of introducing secular subjects to their school curricula, the recruitment of their young men to the IDF or some other national service, and the promotion of work rather than a lifetime of study. Less prominent but of potential importance is the issue of high birth rates among the ultra-Orthodox, and their low rates of inoculation against childhood diseases. 
 
The vast majority of Israel's Jews came to the country from communities in Europe or the Middle East. With the prominent exception of those who came from Germany when the openness of Weimar moved to the persecution of the Nazis, and the partial exception of those from the Soviet Union, they had not been acculturated to secular societies that made them citizens of national states with something like equal rights. The result is that Israelis may be more insular and parochial than Diaspora Jews, the vast majority of whom now enjoy high degrees of equality and living standards in western democracies.
 
Again with the prominent exception of the Germans, the large migrations of Jews to Israel had not been exposed to non-Orthodox Judaisms. 
 
Jewish issues dominate Israel's agenda, most of which are not explicitly religious. They derive from the politics of the Jewish majority, threats of violence, boycotts and other pressures, and the country's participation in international politics. 
 
Years ago an Israeli friend returned home from a year at a mid-Western American university, and complained about the parochialism of American media that focused almost entirely on America.
 
He was right. Israeli media is more cosmopolitan. It is filled with news not only about the Jews of Israel, but also about the Jews of Europe, the United States, Latin America, and wherever else there is a Jewish story. And the current posture of various governments with respect to Israeli interests.
 
Among the arguments of Israelis are those concerned with the Judaic content of education and the public discourse. For some it it too much, and for others not enough. While the media is basically secular, there are numerous discussions that deal--either directly or otherwise--with classic Judaic themes. Among those topics are social justice as introduced by the Biblical Prophets and modified by one or another modern perspective, and the distortions in classical Hebrew due to imports from other languages and the slang created by Israelis.
 
The traditional religious holidays and the national holidays to commemorate Israel's independence, fallen soldiers, and the Holocaust bring forth a media flood of discussion and personal stories. Israelis learn about the many sides of secular and religious Judaica while eating breakfast, listening to the car radio, and as part of evening television. Much of it comes at a high level of intellectual quality, from individuals well schooled in the religious and/or secular aspects of the Jewish experience. 
 
Involved in the tensions between secular and religious Jews was the effort of Naftali Bennett to make Jewish Home more attractive to secular Jews by including a football hero high on his party list. Due to a rebellion by the rabbis and other Orthodox Jews who had formed the basis of Jewish Home's ancestor National Religious Party, Bennett and the football player canceled their agreement. To date, the party has failed to return to what had been a higher tally of Knesset seats in prior polls. Guesses are that some Jewish Home voters may have moved to Likud or one of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
 
There are elements of the Israel/Diaspora tensions, as well as the party politics of both Israel and the US in the arguments about Bibi's speech in Washington.
 
Among those Jews who are opposed, one sees indications of loyalty to the American Democratic Party and Bibi's political opponents in Israel. Also apparent is an archaic American view that foreigners should not meddle in American politics. That has been archaic since the US sought a role of world leadership. Insofar as the US acts to influence many countries, it should be no surprise to Americans that their foreign clients seek to influence the US Government. And while Bibi may be playing in US politics, there are US Jews and US politicians playing in Israeli politics. 
 
We hear from both sides of the fuzzy border between Israel and the Diasporas something like "stay out of my backyard" or
 אל תתערב כאן.
 
Politics being what it is, none of that should surprise us. 
 
What marks Israel more than other Jewish communities is the intimate linkage of Jewish issues to government. It is not be absent elsewhere, where there are disputes about the propriety of infant circumcision, kosher slaughtering, or placing a Chanukah menorah on a public site alongside a Christmas tree or a Nativity scene. Yet in Israel the linkage is more thorough and intimate, involved with marriage, divorce, conversion, as well as the rights of non-Jews.
 
For some, the Jewish nature of Israel marks it as the Promised Land. For others it is a pain in the neck. And perhaps for most, it is simply the way things are.





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