Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews - The Atlantic

Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews - The Atlantic

It just gets worse and worse. Sarkozy and Obama move over. We who love Israel and are upset by this, we DO have to deal with it every day. The only alternative, which is unacceptable, is to disengage.


See the videos and read Jeffrey Gold berg's comments below.

I don't think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads. I understand the impulse behind them: Israel wants as many of its citizens as possible to live in Israel. This is not an abnormal desire. But the way it is expressed, in wholly negative terms, is somewhat appalling. How about, "Hey, come back to Israel, because our unemployment rate is half that of the U.S.'s"? Or, "It's always sunny in Israel"? Or, "Hey, Shmulik, your mother misses you"?

These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America. How else are we supposed to understand the "Christmas" ad? Obviously, assimilation and intermarriage are issues in America in ways they aren't in Israel. Israel has other problems of course, such as the fact that many of its rabbis act like Iranian mullahs. (I'm not even going to try to unpack my complicated beliefs about intermarriage and assimilation and life in the Diaspora here; that's for a book. But let me just say that intermarriage can also be understood as an opportunity.)

The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don't mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.

I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg that it is offensive, but it is hardly new. This is reflective of the stereotypic way Israelis have viewed American Jews and Judaism for decades. We, in their eyes, are Jewishly irrelevant - which is laughable, because they, in many of our eyes, are Jewishly malignant. Visiting Israel ignites the Jewish soul. But the right wing extremist strains of Israeli Judaism are threatening to turn that ignition into a conflagration. Maybe we all need to settle down and recognize that none of these stereotypes is entirely accurate - and in the case of the Jewish child who knows not of Hanukkah, they are stunningly inaccurate. And if anything, many American Jews know more about Israel's civic celebrations (like Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron) than they know of Shavuot and Tisha B'Av. But if American Jews (and the Israelis who marry them) are not as comfortable with Israeli culture as we should be, it's because Israel is in the dark ages in disseminating their culture to us. Where is the Israeli Al Jazeera, broadcasting all things Israeli in English to a world wide audience 24/7? The Israeli Network, a poor excuse for internationalized Israeli television, can be seen only by those who have DISH Network or the chosen few who can get it on Comcast cable. We get the occasional film festival and cold falafel, while Polish, Russian, Italian, French,Chinese, South Asian and of course Hispanic transplants feast on their homelands' manifold offerings on local cable systems. The best of Israel's news and entertainment programs are nowhere to be found.

But of course, if Israeli cultural fare were easily available here, not only would American Jews identify more with Israeli culture - but the Israelis living here would have one less reason to go back. And American Jews, used to getting one-sided and distilled Israeli news from their propagandists of choice, miss out on the rich and nuanced dialogue that goes on in Israel's news media every day.

But maybe, again, that's what the Israeli government wants.

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