Joe Biden got it right last week when he said: “I think that without Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world who’s secure. I think Israel is essential.”
What a breath of fresh air. And from an American. The President, no less! How I wish I would hear similar words spill out of the mouths of many of my friends and family in the United States. Long gone are the days when American Jews felt unabashed pride over the Jewish State and understood how important it is to them. Today, the “un” is out and bash is in, admittedly sometimes warranted, but sometimes not.
It’s easy to be critical of a country when you don’t live in it and don’t understand the nuances of its life. Yes, our government is hard to swallow, but it too will pass. If anything, I’m bursting with pride over the Israeli people, the thousands and thousands who relentlessly fight to uphold our democratic principles and whose weekly massive protests (38 and counting) are being covered around the world, and are world class demonstrations of Jewish values. Of course, over the decades this country has made mistakes, sometimes horrendous ones, but which sovereign state hasn’t? The way I see it, we’re a work in progress. Seventy-five years of nationhood is the equivalent of teenage-hood in human development, and you know what that means! Even if we’re in that “fashtunkina” stage, many of the accomplishments we’ve made and continue to make in so many spheres is astounding.
As an American-Israeli I have a foot in both camps. I understand and appreciate the importance of Americanism to American Jews, and how vital it is to keep pace with its trends. Still with today’s rising antisemitism, knowing that there is a Jewish State that will always have your back should be a comforting thought. If only it had been around in the 1930s and early-mid 1940s when Hitler and his troops decimated most of my family in Austria and my husband’s in Germany. Scratch the surface of many American Jews and you’ll find similar scenarios.
That’s why the value of having a Jewish State should be shown to children, starting from a young age. There are many wonderful picture books to use as tools for introducing Israel to them and making it part and parcel of their lives. I for one have written three, and two more are under contract. If your child has a mischievously hyperactive side, “Zvuvi’s Israel” is the book for him/her, and PJ Library has even translated it into Spanish. For nature lovers, I’ve written “Stork’s Landing,” a touching story about bird migration inspired by a true event in Israel. Finally, my award-winning book “SOOSIE, The Horse That Saved Shabbat” shows that Jews have always lived in Israel, way before it attained statehood. Tie it in with the fact that we always end our Passover Seders with the line Next Year in Jerusalem, and your child will begin to grasp that Jerusalem belongs to every Jew, not just Israelis.
None of my books are preachy. They’re enjoyable tales taking place in Israel, just like the charming “Fast Asleep in a Little Village in Israel” written by Canadian-Israeli author Jennifer Tzivia McCleod, that brings to life many of the sounds of tiny town life in Israel. This same author has also introduced an Ethiopian-Israeli holiday through her delicious tale “Pumpkin Pie for Sigd.” It’s part of the diverse Israeli mosaic, as is “A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night” written by American-Israeli author Allison Ofanansky. This delightful story which takes place in Morocco, reveals a Moroccan Jewish custom held at the end of Passover that has become part of the Israeli landscape. Tradition aside, history and action are combined in the Jodi picture books written by Canadian-Israeli author, Anna Levine. “Jodi’s Hanukkah Dig,” “Jodi’s Passover Adventure” and “Jodi’s Shabbat Surprise” dig into Israeli archaeology, interweaving the distant past with adventure.
I could go on. There are so many titles out there. The common denominator threading through all of the books mentioned above is that they are all written by native English-speaking Israelis. We know our country inside out, understand its nuances, giving our books authenticity.
Sadly, lots of times I hear Americans from of all walks of life say books on Israel don’t interest them or they don’t sell. Not only is that disheartening, it also shows a lack of knowledge regarding the role many Americans – Jews and non-Jews – played in the establishment of the Jewish State. There’s enough material on that for not only a blog, but a book! So I say to my fellow American Jews, you were there for us from the start, we’re here for you (hopefully) forever. Our destinies are intertwined. Ask your president.