As American Jews, we have a unique and profound connection to the land of Israel. For centuries, Jews have looked to Israel as their ancestral homeland. Today, it is a place of refuge and renewal in times of trouble and persecution and serves as a well from which we can draw culture, pride and security. Israel remains a vital part of our identity as a people and a cornerstone of our global Jewish community.
Too often, however, American Jews take for granted the role Israel serves in protecting our interests and security, failing to recognize the critical mutually beneficial role that Israel and the Jewish Diaspora play for one another. This is a dangerous and misguided approach, one that threatens to undermine the very future of the Jewish people.
It is time for American Jews to take greater ownership of our relationship with Israel, to inform ourselves and become more engaged, and to play an active role in shaping Israel’s future. Doing so, in turn, ensures our own future. This means advocating for Israel’s security and democratic values, supporting Israel’s interests on the world stage, and building personal connections with Israelis and Israeli institutions.
The Israel-Diaspora relationship is not one-sided
At the heart of this effort is a recognition that our relationship with Israel is not one-sided. Israel has much to offer American Jews, including a rich cultural heritage, a robust network of entrepreneurs and educated experts, and serving as a shining example of a vibrant democracy. We must work to build bridges between our communities to deepen our understanding of each other and to support each other in times of need.
This requires a concerted effort on the part of American Jews to become more involved in Israel advocacy, to support Jewish organizations that are working to strengthen ties between our communities and to engage with Israeli leaders and institutions. There are difficult and complex issues that face Israel and the Jewish people today, including the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism around the world and the challenge of building a diverse and inclusive society in Israel.
WE MUST engage with these issues forthrightly and be ready to speak out when we see discrimination against Jews on an individual basis and against Israel as the national expression of Jewish peoplehood. In doing so, we can help ensure that Israel remains a vibrant and vital part of the Jewish people, a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who value freedom, democracy, and human dignity.
Our relationship with Israel, however, is not to be rooted in blind advocacy without criticism of policy. Israeli society has been moved to action in the face of a judicial overhaul proposed by the government’s current administration. At first glance, it may appear to be a domestic issue, but Israelis opposed to the judicial overhaul (of which there are many) are looking abroad to Jewish communities for support.
As a general principle, such support is not an altruistic endeavor. American Jews have a vested interest in the survival and prosperity of Israeli democracy. In the face of biased criticism against Israel in the international diplomatic and political arena, Israel cannot afford to lose one of its primary legs on which it justly stands proud.
There are many ways that American Jews can become more involved in Israel advocacy and engagement. We can support Jewish organizations that are working to build bridges between our communities, attend events and conferences that promote dialogue and understanding, and speak out in support of Israel when we see injustice and discrimination.
We can also make personal connections with Israelis, whether through travel, study abroad, or social media, and engage with Israeli leaders and institutions to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing Israel today.
Ultimately, the future of our relationship with Israel and the Jewish people rests in our own hands. We must take ownership of this relationship and work tirelessly to ensure that it remains strong and enduring for generations to come.
As American Jews, we have no alternative but to take ownership of our relationship with Israel and to work tirelessly to ensure its future success and prosperity. It is, after all, our home away from home.
The writer is an Israeli-American attorney and engages in Jewish diplomacy through the American Jewish Committee.