PALESTINIAN DEMONSTRATORS set fire to a representation of a US ag during clashes with Israeli troops in Hebron last month, in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
“And there arose a new king, who knew not Joseph....”
This famous quote from tomorrow’s Torah reading headlines the pivotal saga of the Jewish experience in Egypt, which was the ultimate roller-coaster ride, symbolic of our entire history.
We lived for almost a century in this first diaspora as privileged, even pampered citizens. We inhabited the cushy suburb of Goshen, living the good life; our spiritual freedoms were respected as we multiplied exponentially.
Our good name was established; we didn’t even pay taxes, due to our “elite” status as the relatives of Joseph, Egypt’s great benefactor.
But then the tables turned, and our lives turned bitter as maror. A new administration took over, and suddenly we found ourselves demonized as a fifth column and demoted to the very bottom rung of Egypt’s social order. We suffered every indignity, from slavery to torture to genocide, until finally we were liberated amid miraculous wonders, leaving Egypt behind for greater glory in our own homeland.
This captivating story takes on even more significance as we ponder the greater state of affairs in the world today.
We here in Israel are basking in the light of US President Donald Trump’s bold statement affirming the eternal Jewish connection to Jerusalem and our rightful guardianship of the Holy City. The Trump administration – led by the real Wonder Woman, Nikki Haley – has shaken off the knee-jerk opposition of the Muslim world and its European Union allies, staunchly defending the proclamation in world capitals and in the United Nations.
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But what happens in three or seven years down the road, when Trump is no longer president? What happens if the Republicans are turned out of office, and the Democrats return to power? From the moment that Trump assumed the presidency, there has been an unprecedented wall of opposition to virtually everything he says or does. Democrats vote down the line against his proposals, licking their wounds and biding their time until they get the chance to undo his policies. He can do no right by them; if he says “White,” they scream “Black.” If he supports tax cuts, they are against it. If he limits immigration, they vow to expand it.
So what will they do with a US Embassy sitting in Jerusalem, as per Trump’s promise? How will they react to a continued Israeli presence in the West Bank, which US Ambassador David Friedman has declared is decidedly not under occupation? As the next administration looks to punish Trump and his supporters, will we Jews be caught in the cross fire? ONE OF the darkest storm clouds on the horizon emanates from our own coreligionists, casting its own ominous shadow on the future.
For some time now, there has been a growing disaffection between Israel and various segments of American Jewry, particularly among the younger generation. This is most vividly apparent on college campuses, where throngs of deluded, diluted Jews espouse the Palestinian cause while castigating Israel for its “crimes.”
According to a study released by Brand Israel Group, in 2010, 84% of US Jewish college students leaned toward the Israeli side of the conflict with the Palestinians. But in 2016, only 57% did, believing Israel falls short of values such as human rights, tolerance and diversity. At the same time, Jewish college students grew increasingly supportive of the Palestinians, with a jump from 2% to 13%. Overall, 82% held positive views of Israel in 2016, a 13% drop from 95% in 2010.
But there are other danger signs as well. Young Jews are less apt to volunteer for Jewish communal causes – and this includes working for Israel’s safety and survival – and they are less likely to enroll in Jewish schools and study the Torah, which, when all is said and done, is the greatest source of Israel’s claim to the land. While Brooklynite Bernie Sanders may, by then, be sitting in a nursing home watching his alter ego Larry David in reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm, his many “hassidim” will have come home to roost, bringing with them both their political activism as well as their lukewarm support of the Jewish state.
OBVIOUSLY, WE are not going to distance ourselves from Trump, or look a gift horse in the mouth. One of the primary qualities of Judaism is hakarat hatov, the recognition of those who do good to us, and the showing of our gratitude. We certainly appreciate anyone who stands up for our legitimate rights, particularly a world leader with the prestige of the American president. We have waited a long time for someone to mouth, publicly, what for us is an inalienable truth: Israel is the Jewish homeland, and we are entitled by law, history and morality to be here.
At the same time, we would be wise to be wary, and to consider the various long-term scenarios that may await us. We must continue to cultivate allies on both sides of the aisle, while continually upgrading our own capabilities and insuring our independence.
Meanwhile, we hope and pray that – unlike in Pharaoh’s dream – the seven years of plenty will be followed by even more years of prosperity and peace. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana; firstname.lastname@example.org
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