Have American Jews Become Overly critical of Israel?

In Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, there are people whose essence seems to reflect the sephira, or emanation of Gevurah, or Judgement. Such people are often referred to as Gevurahdic people.

Gevruahdic people are extremely intelligent. Their strength is their ability to judge everything, from when a stoplight is going to change to the most intricate case in the law. However, this quality of Gevrurah can be taken too far. WithoutGevurah, we should not drive a car. With too much Gevurah, we would have no friends, as no one could live up to our standards.

Have we as American Jews become overly Gevuradic in our relationship to the State of Israel? Can Israel no longer live up to our standards?

Please, do not get me wrong; I, too, can be quite critical of Israel’s government. My point is that we, especially those of us who are leaders within the community, should be saying more about what we love about Israel, especially when it comes to our movement there. We should be trumpeting our successes!

Let us not hide the very real security challenges that Israel faces. Let us not forget to speak about Israel as a postage stamp country that has saved Jewish lives from all over the world including Europe, Arab countries, Yemen, the FSU, and Ethiopia. Let us not forget that the only time in history when white people went to Africa to free, and not enslave Africans, was when Israel rescued more than 130,000 Ethiopian Beta Yisrael and brought them home! Let us not forget to say that Israel is the only true democracy in that part of the world. Let us not forget to say that the only place where a person who is LGBTQ can live safely in the Middle East is Israel.

Let us not forget that we have been there before with boycotts: We remember when the only Japanese car one could purchase in Israel was a Subaru and the only sodas were Coke and the local Tempo brand, because Pepsi, Toyota, and Nissan all observed the Arab Boycott of Israel. Let us not forget to mention that Israel is a world leader in communications, banking, computer science, and medicine. Not to mention, last year, a record 4,000,000 tourists visited there.

For those of us who are Reform Jews, we need to speak about the success the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism is seeing in Israel. We should be telling all about how Reform Judaism has grown during the past decade and that many Israelis come to Reform Rabbis looking for officiants at Bnei Mitzvah, weddings, and other life cycle events. Let’s speak about the values taught by our Israeli Rabbis and how communicating these values might be (short of voting) the most important thing we can do for Israel. Let’s urge our Federations to support the 13% of the Jews of Israel, who are Reform or Conservative, by allocating 13% of the Israel money to these two. (Ours hopefully is doing just that!)

Finally, lets speak about the fact that so many of us have been there and have family there, and yes family members can as we know be very annoying, but we still love them, in spite of their flaws. Maybe we should also mention, they seem to love us and our country, despite our flaws!

Yes, when it comes to Israel, there’s a lot to criticize, but there’s so much more to love!

About the Author
Fred Guttman is the senior rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, North Carolina. He has served on the Commission of Social Action for Reform Judaism. He has been recognized as one of the “50 Voices for Justice” by the URJ and by the Forward Magazine as one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.” In March 2015, he organized the National Jewish commemoration in Selma of the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March.
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