Talking through the gas mask

My gas mask arrived today, hand delivered, courtesy of the State of Israel. It''s an exciting little package, sitting there where I left it, a neat brown box with all sorts of warnings not to open it -- presumably until absolutely necessary.


I hope that necessity never arrives and those warnings retain their dignity. But the truth is it might. We all know by now from where the rockets and missiles may come though I still have trouble understanding the why.


But it doesn''t matter. The little brown box packed with a grotesque objected inside, which is there to protect against a grotesque threat, is the heart of the matter: that Israel will protect itself and its citizens.


The nations of the world, America included, may not like this fact. The US worries that if Israel decides it has to disarm an apocalyptic-minded Iranian theocracy the price of oil might jump. The election might be in jeopardy. The economy could falter.


There are some in the Jewish community who share these concerns. They don''t like that Israel is rocking the boat, making decisions that are not necessarily in line with that of its benefactor. Jewish American voices, particularly in the media, warn that the outcome could be a further distancing of American Jews from Israel.


Would that not be a price worth paying? To choose between Jewish American patronage and an Iranian nuke, the choice is not hard. But more than this, what if Israel distances itself from American Jews?


Already this is happening. In Israel, my friends and I discuss, as a daily matter, the gas mask, the bunker, the loom of 200,000 rockets -- and the resolve that springs from these conditions.


It''s not that we don''t care about what our brethren in America say or feel about the situation: we barely even know what it is they''re saying or what they feel. They''re speaking in terms we don''t understand.


As we worry about gas masks they''re worrying about gas prices. We''re thinking of 200,000 rockets and they of the effects those rockets might have on jobs numbers. It''s a human concern they''re expressing for their wellbeing and that of their country. But it''s one that for us is blotted out by the shadows of missiles.


American Jews want Israelis to relate to them: think about the position they''re in, having to defend us as we continue to splash and thrash around in the bark. I look at my brown gas mask box sitting up-ended on a stool and think that maybe they should relate to us, defending a lone Jewish state while our allies sternly caution us against anything that may affect their standard of living.


The American Jewish commentators are right -- a chasm is opening up between the two communities, Israeli and Diasporic. It''s sad, actually tragic, but far less so than the prospect of Israel falling into that chasm in an attempt to stay close to a receding Diaspora. I hope the Diaspora sees this, and understands the best thing it can do for Israel is try, as well, to remain close to us.