What U.S. Jews need to understand about Israel and Israelis – and don't

The American delegation participates in the Jerusalem March on September 27 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The American delegation participates in the Jerusalem March on September 27
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
1. Our national identity is Jewish (and democratic); yours is American, which, for liberal Progressives means the Democratic Party. This explains why the overwhelming number of non-Orthodox and secular (non-affiliated) Jews in America voted for Barack Obama despite his hostility to Israel and his pro-Muslim bias, voted for Hillary Clinton, and may continue to support the Democratic Party despite its turn against Israel. Bipartisan support for Israel should be at the top of America’s agenda.
2. In Israel, we are close to the source of our identity, our unique connection to Eretz Yisrael. Our connection to Judaism is part of our national heritage, history and culture, confirmed in texts and archeological discoveries. Jews of the Diaspora are welcome to make aliyah and share our Israeli and Jewish national identity.
3. Israelis speak Hebrew, the language of Jewish prayer and sacred writing, which reflects Jewish identity and consciousness; knowledge of Hebrew is essential for Jewish survival.
4. Israeli culture comprises many Jewish cultures from different communities – Yemenite, Kurdish, North African, Egyptian, Syrian, European, Asian, and North and South American; although Israelis, we are not homogenized in a “melting pot.”
5. “Pluralism” – non-Orthodox versions of Judaism – doesn’t attract Israelis; it is a major issue for North American Jews confronted by rampant assimilation and zero population growth and are attached to liberal Progressive values. At the same time, we welcome Jewish creativity.
6. Jews in Israel are under constant threat of attack and are victims of Arab terrorism; Jews in the Diaspora may be threatened as individuals, but not collectively or as communities. Israel’s vulnerability should never be taken for granted.
7. Israel’s national symbols and national holidays are Jewish and are connected to events in Jewish history, especially the Shoah and our Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
8. Many Israeli Jews observe Shabbat and holidays, some more strictly than others, but nearly all agree on their significance and importance in our national life.
9. Jewish life in the Diaspora is centered around synagogue/temple affiliation and communal organizations; Jewish life in Israel is more cohesive and definable, centered around political parties and community.
10. In Israel there are many Jewish farmers and shepherds; in the Diaspora there are very few; we are closer to the land as producers and every city and town has a shuk (open-air market).
11. Materially, things such as housing costs are often cheaper in the Diaspora; in Israel, however, education, health services and health insurance, and locally produced food and wine, for example, are significantly cheaper. Israeli kosher products are more available, reliable and consistent.
12. Most young Israeli Jews serve in the IDF or participate in national service organizations; in the Diaspora, tikkun olam projects attract Jews who are seeking meaningfulness but are unconnected to Judaism.
13. Israeli Jews are divided on creating another Palestinian state in our homeland (the “two-state solution”). In my opinion, the obvious risks and dangers are too great and no Israeli government would agree to another disaster. The idea has been dropped by all Israeli parties, except the Arabs and the Left. Moreover, the PA and Hamas refuse to negotiate.
These differences define our national identity, Zionism, and the future of the Jewish people.
Remember: we are family; we may disagree, but we stand together. We are here for you; will you be there for us?
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist in Israel.