The Diaspora rallies

We Israelis don't tell our Diaspora brethren often enough how grateful we are for their support.

pro-Israel rally 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
pro-Israel rally 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The boys wear yarmulkes, the girls hijabs. Chaperoned by their Muslim teacher, they hold signs with the word for "peace" in Hebrew, English and Farsi. They are Jewish schoolchildren in Teheran - at an anti-Israel demonstration. In times like these, our thoughts go to the predicament of Iran's 25,000 Jews. Just 52 years after Theodor Herzl published The Jewish State, transforming the Jews' age-old longing for Zion into modern political Zionism, the State of Israel was born. But our visionary founder got two things wrong: He assumed that with the creation of a Jewish homeland, the Diaspora would disappear, and so would the anti-Semitism endemic to it. Surprisingly, the non-disappearance of the galut has turned out - from a Zionist perspective - to be a blessing of sorts. Israel and the Diaspora sustain each other religiously, culturally and politically. For affiliated Jews, some level of attachment to Israel has become the sine qua non of an authentic Jewish life. Jewish civilization continues to thrive outside Israel, though demographic and other challenges are seldom far from the surface. This synergy, however, is not without its downside. As the IDF fights on the Gaza battlefield and campaigners wage an uphill battle to make Israel's case in the media, we Israelis are mindful that events here are having a deleterious security impact on the Diaspora. We worry, for instance, about the 15,000 Jews of Venezuela, being browbeaten by Hugo Chavez. But life is uncomfortable not just for Jews in hostile countries: Jews have also been targeted in the UK, Belgium, France and Sweden. Anti-Jewish louts marched brazenly through London's Golders Green. A synagogue in Brussels was hit by fire-bombers. A Jewish girl was beaten in Paris. A Helsingborg shul was nearly set ablaze. A VOCAL minority of Jews has joined the anti-Zionist chorus. Our tradition teaches that such defectors have been part of the scene ever since the Israelites came out of Egypt. For some, tragically, this is their only Jewish connection. To paraphrase the late US Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart in a famous 1964 pornography case: "Self-hatred is hard to define, but we know it when we see it." Besides the self-haters, there is another small yet well-connected grouping of British and American Jews that identifies itself as friendly to Israel, but whose endeavors undermine Israel's security. These people make a fetish out of breaking with the community's consensus. Now they're urging the British and US governments to pressure Israel into accepting an unsatisfactory Gaza cease-fire which would leave the Islamists emboldened. Most Israelis look past them and draw comfort from the solidarity of the vast majority of affiliated Jews. We know the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations stands solidly with Israel. Expressions of support come from its constituents - the Union of Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. We acknowledge with appreciation the support of the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, and of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish organizations. The Australian community, too, is with us. Pro-Israel demonstrations were held this past week at the gates of our embassy in Washington. A standing-room-only midday crowd packed the Sixth & I synagogue in the US capital. So many people came to a pro-Israel rally outside Israel's UN Consulate in Manhattan that police had to turn some away. The United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Federations of North America have been steadfast. The Jews of Boston are rallying; the Los Angeles community has established an emergency fund for victims of Hamas terror; San Francisco's community has been praying for the peace of Israel. Up and down America - from Providence to Tucson to Memphis; from Kansas City to Dallas to Chicago - this has been a week of solidarity with Israel. In Europe, pro-Israel rallies have been held - or are scheduled - in every major city. On Sunday morning, London's Jews will gather in Trafalgar Square on behalf of Israel. We Israelis don't tell our Diaspora brethren often enough how grateful we are for their support, or how cognizant we are that what we do to defend ourselves sometimes complicates their lives. So we're telling them now: Toda raba!