"pleasantly informal but also supercilious, harsh, rude, and quite often racist"

“Looking at Zion, the Jewish perspective on Israel” is an online project that aims to present a more comprehensive look into the Israel- Diaspora relationship. In order to reach this goal we will present members in Jewish communities around the world a series of questions, asking them to articulate their thoughts and feelings towards Israel.
The interviewee - Hasia Diner, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History, New York University. Born in Milwaukee; Hebrew speaker, from an immigrant Zionist family; religiously observant but liberal; Jewish life was the core of my existence. Graduate of Habonim, the Labor Zionist Youth movement.
In your opinion, what importance, if any, does the existence of a Jewish state have to you personally and to Jewish people in general?
“For decades Israel as a Jewish state played a central role in my Jewish self-expression but that is no longer the case. On the other hand, for most of Jewish history, Jews did not need a state but in the last few decades Israel has become a central pillar of communal identity.”
Do you feel committed in some way to defend the future existence of Israel?
“I do not know what defend means. If it means, defense by ending the Occupation, then I do and will give money. If it means advocating that the United States pressure Israel to undo its oppression, then I do that.”
Do you feel morally responsible for Israel’s actions (such as its management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)?
“Yes and as such I feel shame. I also feel this as a US citizen.”
In your opinion, what is the main thing Israelis fail to understand about the reality of being Jewish outside of Israel?
“That our Jewish lives matter to us; that we care about being Jewish and those many expressions function independent of Israel.”
How would you describe Israel’s policy (formally and in practice) regarding its relationship with the Diaspora?
“Israel wants the ‘Diaspora’ – a term I do not accept – to give it money and to use its political clout for it, but it has no respect for or appreciation of its richness, complexity, and seriousness.”
In your opinion, does Israel have an obligation to defend and help Jewish communities in need?
Have you ever been to Israel? if you have, can you summarize your impression from the Israeli reality?
“I have been there many times. I found Israel and Israelis both warm, welcoming, and pleasantly informal but also supercilious, harsh, rude, and quite often racist.”
Can you tell us a bit about the Jewish community in your hometown? Is it organized? Are there community activities?
“New York? There is so much going on here, so many ways to engage as a Jew whether formally or informally.”
For more interviews, go to - lookingatzion.com