Zack Bodner
Seeker | Writer | Storyteller | Community Builder | Doer

Time to cultivate a familial love of Israel

My wife and I agree on just about everything – from the superficial stuff like decorating styles for our house to the more important decisions like parenting calls. But every once in a while we’ll disagree about a significant family decision and the conversation gets very heated around the dinner table. But no matter how frustrated we get with each other, we work out our differences behind closed doors. Neither of us stands in the middle of the town square and insults the other – at least, not yet!

That’s how families who love each other should discuss, disagree and argue with each other. That’s how families who love each other work things out. That’s how families who love each other compromise.

I think it’s time to cultivate that same familial love for Israel among our community in the Diaspora. For if our community truly loves Israel, then we can disagree with her leaders, we can be upset with specific policies, and we can even be frustrated with the decision of her people to elect a certain government – but we will disagree the right way.

Right now, those who proclaim to love Israel berate her and her leaders and her decisions openly and harshly in the town square of public opinion, claiming to do it for Israel’s own good. I’ve even heard one critic claim he is trying to save Israel from herself, “…like taking the keys away from a friend who’s had too much to drink.” Seriously?!

Don’t get me wrong. Hopefully we all would have the courage to take away our friend’s keys if he’s had too much to drink. However, I doubt any of us would embarrass our friend by telling the local newspaper the next day what we did.

The problem with these individuals and groups who say they love Israel and seem to want to save her from herself – and seem to know better than the Israelis who live there, who struggle to make it there and whose kids serve in the military – is that it’s the very arrogance that none of them would put up with themselves, if imposed from someone else.

Whether it’s those Diaspora Jews on the left who urge our own government to publicly berate Israel when Bibi makes a decision they don’t like, or those on the right who blast the Zionist Union for being anti-Zionist – they’re both arm-chair quarterbacking in the most hubristic way.

I get the argument that in today’s Zionism, “if we want to have a stake then we should have a say.” But I will make two short points:

First, if you really want to have a say, then move there today and earn it.

Second, if you aren’t ready to move there today but you want to support Israel and keep Israel strong – maybe for that day you may need to move there (like the 15,000 Jews from France projected to emigrate this year) – then disagree respectfully, like you would with a family member: behind closed doors.

Jewish communal leaders in the Diaspora have a responsibility to cultivate a love of Israel amongst our constituencies – a familial love of Israel – a love that is deeper than policies, decisions, governments or prime ministers.

A love like that doesn’t mean we must support every Israeli decision any more than my love for my wife means I have to agree with all her decisions. Though if I know what’s good for me, I will!

About the Author
Zack Bodner is the President and CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, CA and the Founder of the Z3 Project, an effort to reimagine Diaspora-Israel relations. He is the author of "Why Do Jewish: A Manifesto for 21st Century Jewish Peoplehood," a #1 Amazon New Release in Religion and Philosophy. Learn more at Zack lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and three kids.
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