Oren’s Oracle

Recently, together with members and staff of the Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) group I was guiding, I was treated to a master class of Israel advocacy in the hallowed halls of the Knesset by Dr Michael Oren. Oren is the American-born former Israeli ambassador to the United States, who is currently serving as deputy minister in charge of public diplomacy. He is an expert on Middle Eastern history and a prolific author on the topic. Oren has written several books, including “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” the definitive history of the 1967 Six Day War, and the New York Times bestseller, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” which recounts his experience as Israel’s ambassador under the Obama administration. He regaled our group with pearls of wisdom gleaned over his extensive career as a scholar, diplomat and politician.

Tuv and Mike Oren 8 17
Tuvia and Michael Oren. Photo (c) 2017, T. Book

 

The Knesset is the DNA of Israel, according to Oren. He reminded our group how one of the most extraordinary accomplishments of Israel is democracy. Israel is the only democracy to have never known a second of peace. War is usually a democracy killer. He observed how amazing it is how close we are to war and conflict and still things get done, and done well. Oren claims that it is possible to have both a Jewish and a democratic state. One of Israel’s basic laws defines Israel as a democracy, not as a Jewish state. According to Oren, this is not a contradiction. He explained that it’s inherently Jewish to have a democracy. Democracy is good for our security. Democracy provides a space for Arab Members of Knesset to get their frustrations out. No other country could have a democracy in the conditions Israel has found itself in since its inception almost seventy years ago.

Oren is very proud of his American roots. His name was Michael Scott Borenstien before he changed it upon making Aliyah and serving as a lone soldier in the Paratroop Brigade. His father was a career officer in the US military. He explained to our group how his values as an American made him who he is as an Israeli. He also recounted how he cried when he had to give up his American passport upon being appointed as the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

One of the most controversial elements of our discussion was when he mentioned that 25 percent of Knesset members do not recognise the state or sing the national anthem. He was referring to the Arabs and Ultra Orthodox Members of Knesset. He asked when does legitimate opposition become treason?  He also posed the question of when can the Knesset expel one of its members?  He gave the example of an Arab MK from the Joint Arab List who appealed via the Palestinian delegation to the UN to open an investigation against Israel for violation of human rights to the Secretary General of the UN. That, according to Oren, is treason.

mje knesset
MJE with Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset. Photo (c) T. Book, 2017

 

He also commented that what we do on college campuses regarding Israel advocacy is too late. According to Oren, the students need to be educated and inspired whilst still in junior high school. (Two excellent organisations that are already at the forefront of high school Israel advocacy are Write On for Israel and StandWithUs.)

Oren finished his discussion with my group on a positive note. He reminded us that in 1948, three years after VE Day, 600 000 Jews defended Israel against mass Arab armies. He declared that the existence and flourishing of a Jewish state, which rose like a phoenix from the ashes, symbolises our victory over victimisation.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments