As are many of us in this summer of 2020, I am deeply troubled. This is an election year in our country, and I can’t remember another one that was as fraught with partisanship, anger and ill-will.
We are also struggling in the midst of a pandemic. The Corona virus is a threat to us all, as is the anxiety about all aspects of it. What to do–mask or no mask, school or no school, etc. etc. Again, a source of division and plenty of anger.
But as a Jewish person, I am very aware of something else: a pronounced drift away from real concern and allegiance among some of my Jewish friends and family members, to the State of Israel. This disturbing news has been reported in many places as well as studies.
Check out ajc.org, the website of the American Jewish Committee is constantly polling on the subject.
I, and obviously others, see several reasons that are contributing to this decline.
Assimilation is fact of life here in America. The startling facts have been measured, re-measured, and analyzed. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1965 the Jewish-non-Jewish intermarriage rate was 9%, in 2013 it was as high as 58% among Jews who identified as Reform or Reconstructionist. Reams of words have been written about this alarming reality.
Politics also is contributing to the change in American-Jewish attitudes toward Israel.
Deep enmity toward President Donald Trump among American-Jewish Democrats is huge. His personality, style and rhetoric are offensive to them. I get that, but substantively it should be realized that his actions toward Israel have been vastly under-appreciated, to say the least.
To some, including me, this deep-seated negativity toward Trump is both puzzling and wrong-headed. Our American Embassy is now in Jerusalem. Finally. There is a peace agreement with the Arab Emirates and definite movement to peace with other Arab neighbors. Finally. The United States recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel through presidential proclamation signed by Trump on March 25, 2019. Finally.
How many former presidents have promised these advances and accomplished anything at all? None of them.
All the above serves to sadden me, and others, I suspect. The Holocaust and Israel have been a main focus for me throughout my life as a writer and painter. Today, in poetry, I want to reiterate what I consider the miracle of our time: Israel.
At The Gallilee
Near the only fresh water
in the desert that is Israel
I smell the heady, pungent eucalyptus.
“Our friend, before the dates and olives,”
Rafael calls it, “the tree that drained
the killing swamp, the one that helped us.”
He smiles, an old man now,
and recalls his early self:
a pioneer, a Zionist.
He says a few words about
the hard land, the work,
the suffering: “malaria, the tents,
the way the children had to be raised,
the guns, the constant shelling.”
Cool-eyed, tough still, he keeps
a certain distance, lets the blooming
speak itself: groves of date palm trees,
bananas, cotton, avocado; and I see
the man he is, the man he was,
and I wonder, ask myself:
the Hebrew word for courage.
Here bloom green
sweet with spring;
the righteous few
are not forgotten
in Our Garden.
from leaf and vine.
Note the smooth
amid the blossoms:
the sculpted mother’s
the first remembrance
of the human artist.
Beyond the blossoms
his last remembrance,
the dying ashes, the
tiny flames that
within the concrete
* Yad Vashem is the name of the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem
For poetry publication history, awards, and other material on this subject, please visit www.judithrrobinson.com