The latest West of Eden column by Chemi Shalev epitomizes what happens, even in snarky Haaretz-land, when hardened, cynical Israelis really get to know the Diaspora. More often than not, they are swept away. He writes about Limmud:
Limmud offers bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enthusiasm, rather than humdrum establishment routine; it celebrates an insatiable Jewish thirst for knowledge at a time of reality-induced, mind-numbing mediocrity; it features original ideas and outside-the-box thinking against the backdrop of increasing uniformity and spreading dogma; it gathers Jews of widely disparate backgrounds while isolation and sectarianism abound all around; and it allows free and open debate of the most controversial topics in a long-forgotten atmosphere of curiosity and mutual respect.
He even quotes another Israeli who had the same experience of falling in love.
As author and pundit Jacky Levy rapturously wrote…, “They spend less time picking at anxieties and more time in constructive activity: Building bridges and building new worlds, weaving new possibilities, and a future. Not another fence, another wall or another Halachic stringency.”
And, recognizing he’s nevertheless writing for Haaretz, he all but apologizes for his “childishly uncritical” feelings:
So, to get to the punch line of this childishly uncritical article, I propose that “the Jewish people,” whatever that means, consider coopting Limmuds as their own.
He’s right: we need more Limmud. We also need more shlichim to go abroad and learn from the Diaspora. And we need more Limmud types to come to Israel and bring that world to Israelis. Believe me, Israelis will love it.