Ross: Israel 'shaping its own future' [pg 4]

"Israel must retain the high moral ground in all dealings with the Palestinians while simultaneously attempting to reach out to a Diaspora Jewry that lacks a natural connection with the country," said former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday. Ross noted that though there were two models for moving forward in the peace process with the Palestinians - namely further unilateral measures or the attainment of mutuality - he felt that at present the former would be the most appropriate since, "it puts Israel in a position whereby it shapes its own future." He elaborated on the need for Israeli outreach to the rest of the Jewish world, saying that the majority of Diaspora Jews were born after to 1973 and thus, "they have not experienced the sense of community and connection created by the traumatic historical events of that time." The afternoon sessions at the conference dealt with issues of patriotism, Judaism as culture in the age of globalization, and a prescient look at what the Jewish world could be like in 2025. Event organizer Uzi Arad presented a report which attempted to gauge the degree of national pride felt by Israelis, as well as their willingness to defend the country in times of war. Though 83 percent of Israelis said that they were proud to be living here, this did not compare favorably to similar studies about Americans attitudes toward the US. MK Yuli Tamir asserted that this relatively low sense of patriotism could be rectified, in part, if Israel decided to "court its citizens" by showing them that "this is their home and a place where they can fulfill their dreams." In a debate about how to define "Jewish" culture in a multicultural world, President of Bar-Ilan University Moshe Kaveh maintained that globalization poses a unique problem in promoting a cohesive Jewish identity. Kaveh noted that although Jews form only half a percent of the world's population and nevertheless had produced 25% of the Nobel Prize winners, "Judaism has not yet created a consolidated Jewish culture of its own." Kaveh explained this by asserting that ultra-Orthodox groups had responded to globalization by isolating themselves, while secularists, who lack a strong link to Jewish culture, had attempted assimilation. Other speakers at the afternoon session included writer A.B. Yehoshua, professor Alan Dershowitz, who discussed the problems facing America's secular Jews, and Director of the Jewish Agency Ze'ev Bielski, who passionately exclaimed that, "Every Jew should know that his natural place is in Israel and that despite the difficulties it is our unique homeland."