Scene of shooting attack near the Cave of the Patriarchs (Tzabam News).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The creation of the State of Israel raised the value of Jewish life everywhere. Before, Israel Jews were slaughtered en mass without an army to protect them. They were reduced to begging leaders like FDR to bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz. With the establishment of a Jewish state the Jewish people suddenly had a country to call home and an army to defend themselves.
But the recent wave of attacks against Jews in Europe and especially in Israel is bringing us back to a time when Jewish life is cheap. Israelis are being murdered, often several a week. Yet it merits scant mention in the world’s leading media outlets. People like Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by the foreign minister of Sweden, Margot Wallstrom, blame the Jews for their own murders because of settlements and occupation. No other group besides the Jewish people is blamed for being the victim. No woman who is raped is blamed for dressing provocatively. No child who is physically abused is blamed for drawing the attention of an adult.
But a big reason as to why Jewish life in Israel is growing so cheap is the nonresponse coming from the American-Jewish community. Where are the giant marches in American cities to show outrage over the ongoing slaughter? Where are Peter Bergson’s public pageants that he employed so brilliantly during the Holocaust? Our organization the World Values Network has emulated his strategy of placing ads in the world’s leading publications to inform the public of the injustices being perpetrated against the Jewish people.
Just last week, new emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server showed our ads’ effectiveness when it was revealed that Sidney Blumenthal, father of arch-Israel-hater Max Blumenthal, discussed the impact of our Elie Wiesel ads with the then secretary of state.
But so much more is needed.
If we Diaspora Jews want to be honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that our dedication and support for the Jewish state has over the years become secondary to the pursuit of affluence and comfort.
I was a vocal opponent of the Iran deal and felt passionately that a government threatening the Jewish people with annihilation should not be legitimized by the United States. Only 20 percent of the American people supported the deal.
Yet somehow it passed, and a big reason was a lack of sufficient Jewish communal support in opposition. A shocking 40% of American Jews supported the deal, double the national average.
Now we watch as Iran, emboldened by American appeasement, wreaks renewed havoc across the Middle East.
In the end, how many of us are willing to make ourselves uncomfortable to help our brethren in the holy land? Do our hearts jump with anxiety when we hear of another terrorist attack in the streets of Tel Aviv? Do we experience that level of pain that compels us to do something to change the situation? My son Mendy, a New York University undergraduate, watched the growing assault on Israel last year and although he was already a ferocious anti-BDS fighter on campus, informed his parents that he felt compelled to join the IDF. It goes without saying that he, along with his elder sister who was likewise an IDF soldier, serves as a great inspiration and source of pride to their parents.
Two years ago Mendy received his rabbinical ordination from one of the world’s leading Chabad rabbinical seminaries which happened to be in South Africa. A rabbi involved in the ordination required that our son commit to serving the Jewish people over the next few years to show he was serious about his ordination. But when he discovered that Mendy had joined the IDF he questioned whether Mendy had kept his word. Shouldn’t he have been studying Torah? Are you serious, I asked him. Is there any higher commitment than a preparedness to risk all so that the Jewish people might live? I said, “With all due respect, while others enjoy the sunshine of South Africa, my son is currently sleeping in a freezing ditch, soaked to the bone, as part of what IDF soldiers call hell week, a week of grueling training in the field that will help make sure that the massacre that we saw in Tel Aviv last week doesn’t happen again. And you don’t consider that the highest Jewish commitment?” With rabbis giving guidance like this it’s no wonder that we cannot muster the resolve in the Diaspora to show sufficient support for Israel that will counter BDS and growing global media bias against Israel.
And I predict that it will only get worse.
I recently saw a poll that something like 48% of Republicans and 45% of Democrats will no longer allow, or encourage, their children to marry someone of the opposite political persuasion.
That’s how divided America has become over politics.
In the US Jewish community it is now Israel that is becoming a wedge issue.
We already know that in the Jewish community there is little marriage between Reform and Conservative Jews, on the one hand, and Orthodox Jews on the other. But I now predict a third division, within the Orthodox world itself, between those who are observant but make their focal point a love for Israel, and those who observance is tied to Diaspora Jewish life.
The biggest movement affected might just be Chabad. Chabad loves Israel but remains conflicted about Zionism. This is, of course, curious given that the Rebbe was the foremost proponent of Jews settling the land and perhaps the world’s staunchest voice against territorial concessions.
The number of Chabad families with children in the IDF remains relatively small and I have now seen firsthand the tensions this creates when children from Zionist Chabad families date those who do not treat Israel as a priority.
Chabad families like ours with children who serve in the IDF may marry increasingly less with Chabad families who believe that a life in the IDF is subordinate to what they believe is an even more important army spreading Judaism in the Diaspora.
Both, of course, are necessary.
I was the Rebbe’s emissary in Oxford, England, for 11 years. Promoting Judaism around the world is the greatest necessity. We must rescue the Jewish people from the corrosive and identity-destroying effects of assimilation. And there cannot be a strong Israel without a strong Diaspora.
But it’s a question of priorities. And right now, there can be no question that stopping the murder of Jews living in Israel is the Jewish people’s highest priority and the goal to which we must dedicate our foremost efforts.
Shmuley Boteach is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including Wrestling with the Divine and The Fed-Up Man of Faith, both of which deal with the problem of human suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.