IDF Operation Cast Lead.
(photo credit: AP)
Last week’s survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research into British
Jewish attitudes to Israel was greeted with a sense of communal relief. Some 90
percent of respondents had visited Israel. Similar numbers regarded it as the
ancestral homeland of the Jewish people – a historical no-brainer but reassuring
nonetheless. Our “bond with Israel is strong as ever,” bellowed the front page
of the Jewish Chronicle. However, it would be premature to start cracking open
the sparkling Israeli chardonnay.
Only 29 percent surveyed regard Israel
as central to their Jewish identity.
What’s more, the survey of
sympathetic attitudes did not reflect the levels of knowledge and understanding
of Israel within Anglo- Jewry. I fear, we are regarding it on the one hand as a
holiday destination, and on the other through the prism of the
GROWING UP, Israel was at the very heart of my Jewish being.
Not identifying as a Zionist was out of the question. My parents and
grandparents carried living memories of Jewish statelessness –
pogroms and ultimately the Holocaust.
As their generations diminish, so
does our appreciation of what it was to be a Jew in a world without
As a child in 1960s Wales, I was inspired by the miracle of
Jewish redemption in our ancient homeland.
My bedroom was adorned with
posters of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan. Unlike most British Jewish
today, I had never set foot in Eretz Yisrael. But I knew its
features and landmarks as well as I knew my local neighborhood.
heroes were my heroes. Its achievements were my achievements.
Cardiff state comprehensive, I stood out among Huws and Gareths. Yet
feat of Israeli audacity, from the raid on Entebbe to Eurovision
was the toast of the school. My pride in Israel was boosted by my
classmates. A child in the same position today would paint a different
TODAY’S KIDS are bombarded with images of a powerful Israel
pouring out its wrath on weak, beleaguered civilians. It is a far cry
enduring image of the Yom Kippur War – of Ariel Sharon’s tanks
Egyptian forces, but ensuring that convoys of food and water reached the
Since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israel’s standing within
the British media and public opinion has been in decline. British Jews
fact that it is not perfect. My knowledge, understanding and belief in
proved strong enough to withstand this realization, but many in the
community lack the tools to cope with negative press. Fed a media diet
Israel’s failures, we are losing our ability to appreciate its
every action Israel takes to protect itself is condemned, so our pride
It is one thing describing Operation Cast Lead as a
legitimate defensive action to a confidential Institute for Jewish
It is another to state so boldly and unreservedly in the
Our Zionism is blended with our Britishness – our slightly
awkward, “don’t cause a scene” Britishness. It is scarcely surprising
first chief rabbi to adopt a more openly passionate Zionism was Lord
a German Jew. Or that one of our few lay leaders capable of galvanizing
support for Israel today is a South African, Mick Davis.
Visits to Israel
Knowledge of it has declined. The story of Israel is one
of the greatest tales of human endeavor, but we have stopped telling it.
time that we took stock of how much the community knows of its
How much awareness is there that Israel is the only country
with more trees today than in 1900? How much do British Jews appreciate
daily life is conducted with microchips and software developed by
terms of university degrees per head, Israel is the most educated
spending a greater proportion than others on research and development.
Groundbreaking agriculture, medical excellence and economic creativity
a source of pride, regardless of the complex politics of the region. But
survey our attitudes, they don’t even register as a footnote.
rebranding is not before time, but any product launch or relaunch must
Advertisers and marketers must know the product
With the right depth of information, they can cope with the
occasional bad review or product recall.
The Jewish community contains
thousands of potential sellers of Israel’s unique brand and must not be
overlooked. But we are failing to equip ourselves with the tools of the
Grumbling about “bad PR” is fast becoming a cliché, but Anglo- Jewry
ask whether we are pulling our weight. We remain a Zionist community but
time has come to remind ourselves what that means, update our pride in
achievements and cast off our British reserve in sharing that pride with
Then, I’ll be the first to raise a glass of Galilee
The writer is a media relations and reputation management
specialist who has advised a wide range of clients ranging from
corporations, to public and voluntary sector organisations.