For millennia the Jewish people have lived, and often thrived, amid prejudice.
But even if we can get along without the respect of others, that doesn’t prevent
us from desiring it. That is why the mood right now for Israel’s supporters in
America is so gloomy.
The one-sided view of the blockade of Gaza, which
pops up in opinion columns, blogs, demonstrations and conversations, reveals
large numbers of people unwilling or incapable of putting themselves in Israel’s
position. Some commentators have even questioned its strategic value to the
Last week, protesters impeded the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship
in Oakland, California.
Within the Jewish community, there is angst about
a younger generation either indifferent or alienated from any relationship with
the Jewish state.
AS PRESIDENT of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist
Organization of America – an organization that has never wavered in its support
of Israel – I find the current climate painful. At the same time, I think a
hard-headed look at how Israel’s image is faring in the world reveals a bigger
picture than today’s headlines.
To begin with, Hadassah’s representatives
in most countries in Europe and South America report growing efforts to
delegitimize Israel. Through Hadassah International, an organization of men and
women of all faiths, established by HWZOA specifically to build bridges through
medicine, Hadassah International leaders stand up to debunk myths about
unethical behavior, many of them related to medical care.
successfully fought European calls for boycotting Israeli doctors and
scientists, and practice “health care diplomacy,” and in doing so bring to the
world’s attention Israel as a moral and ethical society.
WHILE THE effort
to delegitimize Israel seems to be spreading in Europe, it still has gained
little traction in America. Public opinion polls consistently reveal broad
public support among Americans.
Despite inevitable debates over specific
policy questions, that backing at the grassroots level extends to the corridors
of power in Washington, where bedrock support for Israel remains the rule rather
than the exception.
There are many reasons for this support. Though the
media doesn’t like to recycle the same vocabulary every day, most Americans know
deep down that Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East. Americans
admire the Jewish state for its self-reliance and its success against great odds.
They recognize that it shares America’s values.
American support also
rests on the efforts of a Jewish community and organizational structure that is
spread throughout the US, from Florida to Alaska. Hadassah, for example, is made
up of 300,000 households, located in every congressional district, involved in
both local affairs and talking to our friends and representatives about
Those who know us – our neighbors and officials in Washington –
know that we build as well as talk. They know that Hadassah contributes to
Israel’s reputation as an ethical society.
They know that our hospitals
in Jerusalem are oases of peace in a troubled region. From our example, they
know that medicine can transcend politics and borders.
We not only
cooperate as individuals in local affairs, we also partner with other
organizations to advance common goals. Hadassah’s newest partnership is with
Komen for the Cure – a global power in the fight against breast
cancer – and the city of Jerusalem.
This coming October, that partnership
is bringing the Komen organization’s Race for the Cure event to Israel for the
Through coalitions like this, we strengthen Israel and engage
in health care diplomacy.
As the largest nongovernmental employer in
Jerusalem, Hadassah is as dedicated today to the building of Israel as
grandmothers and great grandmothers were when the organization began in
are not Pollyannas who believe Israel is perfect, but we refuse to make
action or decision taken by an Israeli government a test of our
This month, 1,500 Hadassah convention delegates will gather
Hallandale, Florida, where we will reaffirm our support for Israel in
in practice. We’ll explore what actions we can take to protect its image
world. We’ll discuss our health and education programs, including the
Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, the new medical facility we will
Jerusalem in 2012.
And we’ll talk about our youth movement, Young
a pillar of Taglit-Birthright, and how to strengthen the ties between
Jewish youth and the Jewish state.
Neither Hadassah nor the other
dedicated Jewish organizations in America can convince everyone in an
indifferent or hostile world that Israel’s security concerns are
we firmly believe that a world in which Israel and the Jewish people are
respected is a world that is better for everyone.
We don’t take
support for granted, nor do we consider support from any quarter
lost. We are committed to making our case and doing our work.The writer
is the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization