As the United States presidential primary season heats up, I am often asked whether Jews have the obligation to work to get a pro-Israel candidate elected. Not necessarily, I find myself thinking. Maybe domestic issues affecting Jews should take priority.
But then I ask myself whether I still really care about Israel. Actually, I have been asking myself this is a question a lot lately. Well, intellectually, of course, I care about Israel—my wife and children have Israeli citizenship and my wife’s entire family lives there. In addition, I love the land and I visit whenever I can. In fact, we have a family trip planned for next month.
But I have less passion than I once did for all things Israeli. When Olmert says that he plans on giving half of the Holy City of Jerusalem to the sworn enemies of his own country, I am unmoved and just skip over and move on to the next article.
When I hear that President Bush is going to Israel to pressure them to do things that are clearly against their own national interest, I don’t feel concerned at all. My lack of care for Israel and what it does has been bothering me recently.
I have traced my ambivalence about the affairs of the State of Israel back to the unilateral disengagement that took place under Ariel Sharon’s government. Watching the Israeli army forcefully evict my Jewish brothers and sisters from their homes in Gaza instead of continuing to protect them from the murderous and virulently anti-Semitic Palestinians caused me intense disillusionment.
The disengagement made me realize that the government of Ariel Sharon cared less for its citizens than I did. If I had lost all trust in the Israeli government, however, at the time I still believed in the Israeli people. My rationale was that Ariel Sharon was elected as a hawk who would be tough on security issues but who changed his policies once elected.
However, when Israelis elected Olmert on a platform of additional unilateral disengagements and thus further forced evictions of Jews from their homes, it became clear to me that the average Israel was on a mission toward national suicide. It seemed that most Israelis either cared little about the perils of further unilateral disengagement or were blind to them.
As time progressed, rockets began flying from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns and people were getting killed and the Israeli government did little to protect the poor inhabitants of Sederot. The conclusion became inescapable. If Israel was unwilling to protect Jews within their own country from attack, then how could it be trusted to protect us Jews who lived in the Diaspora?
The popular notion that Jews around the world should support Israel because it is our insurance policy against another holocaust has become redundant. What, then, was the point of the Zionist enterprise? To gather all Jews into one place so that they should be sitting ducks for an attack by our enemies? Add to this the corruption that pervades the country from Olmert downward and the question just grows stronger.
So is it important for us to support a pro-Israel candidate? Sadly, my answer is no, because the experience of the last eight years has shown that Israel will continue along the path of self-destruction irrespective of whether the US president is pro-Israel or not. Ironically what Israel really needs is an Israeli prime minister and government that is truly pro-Israel: without that a pro-Israeli president of the United States will make no difference.
Ultimately, I want to care as passionately about Israel as I once did, but I need Israelis to lead the way and show me how.
Rabbi Levi Brackman (www.levibrackman.com
) is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills (www.jitf.org
). His upcoming book, about Jewish Business Success, is set to be published in late 2008.