Protecting the Zionist Narrative, At Last

nakba60In Perspective: Protecting the Zionist narrative at last

Jun. 4, 2009

Imagine that Germany, embittered by incessant reminders of what happened during the Holocaust, passed a law forbidding German Jews from publicly marking the destruction of European Jewry. Or that the US Congress, tired of hearing Native Americans recite their tales of woe, made it illegal for them to mention their losses on July 4. If Turkey passed legislation like that, directed at Armenian memories of 1915, we would hardly blink an eye. But if a genuine democracy followed suit? We would scarcely believe our ears.

So why are we not more distressed by legislation before the Knesset that would criminalize marking the “Nakba” on Independence Day? What kind of a democracy makes it illegal for a group of its citizens to mark the losses they have suffered? And in what kind of democracy can such legislation be proposed without massive waves of protest?

So why no protests here? Surely, few of us pretend that Israeli Arabs didn’t lose very much in 1948. We know they did. Is it that we’re still at war with the Arab world (unlike America and its native population, for example), or that marking the Nakba is tantamount to asserting that Israel is illegitimate, which we cannot and will not abide?

Perhaps. But we’re also witness to something new. It’s a belief in the ability of hastily written laws to correct problems created by decades of failed Zionist education. For years, Israel has done virtually nothing to even try to inculcate loyalty to the state among parts of its haredi population, Arab communities or a younger secular Jewish generation smack in the middle of the country. But instead of asking ourselves what our children ought to be taught, what they ought to read and discuss during their education, some Knesset members prefer to bury our failures beneath legislation.

Yisrael Beiteinu ran its recent campaign largely on the issue of loyalty oaths, claiming that some Israelis (Arabs, mostly) were insufficiently loyal to the state. It was right about the problem, but wrong about the solution, and the Knesset rejected its proposal. So now, the party has a new issue. Israel, it says, is losing the battle over the Zionist narrative. About this, it is also absolutely right. Once synonymous with the greatest human drama of national rebirth, Zionism today is too often a term of disparagement. A new narrative about Zionism has emerged; in this narrative, Israel is a violation of human ideals, not their realization.

SO WHAT is the proposed response to our failing efforts in the battle to tell our story? Let’s just make it illegal for anyone to tell a competing version.

It would be funny, if it weren’t so frightening. Silencing one’s foes has never been the hallmark of self-confidence.

But what if instead of silencing those who disagree with us, or even hate us, we invested in education? Imagine that we actually cared enough about our own past to try to preserve it and to teach it. “What?” you ask. “Israel has made a virtual art form of remembering the past.” But that is only partially true. We’ve done an extraordinary job of preserving the memory of the Holocaust, but a much poorer job of remembering how we built a country to recover from it.

Now that Israel is more than 60 years old, the people who were instrumental in creating this country are dying at a dizzying rate. In recent days, Shlomo Shamir, the last living member of the 1948 General Staff, and Yehoshua Zetler, commander of Lehi forces in Jerusalem, both died. But how many young Israelis know who Shamir or Zetler were? How many know that Shamir was the only general to have commanded units from the air force, navy and ground forces (on the Iraqi-Jordanian front)? Or that he completed his high school matriculation exams at 55 and went on to university? How many Israelis still know anything about the infamous Acre jail in which Zetler was imprisoned? Very few. But now, it’s too late to record their stories for future generations of Israeli students.

EVEN MORE distressing than how little we know is how little we’re doing to try to remember. For the most part, Israelis have paid no attention to the need to preserve this historic legacy.

One person, at least, is trying. An oleh named Eric Halivni has been working on a project called Toldot Yisrael that aims to record the stories of the country’s founders – the men and women who fought, lobbied, farmed, taught and did everything else necessary in the extraordinary human drama called the creation of the State of Israel. But he, too, is being stymied by Jews’ disinterest in their own history. His hopes of creating a video archive containing thousands of interviews have languished due to lack of funding. With heroic dedication, he’s managed to film about 80 interviews thus far, but that’s not nearly enough.

Scanning his small but precious archive is a history lesson come alive. Who knew that Norman Lamm, later president of Yeshiva University, worked in a bullet factory in upstate New York when he was a chemistry student at Yeshiva College, to do his share to create the Jewish state? Toldot Yisrael filmed Lamm telling his story.

Imagine if young Israelis could watch Miriam Ben-Peretz, professor emeritus of education at the University of Haifa, recalling the morning her then-young husband departed with the lamed heh, never to return. Or Yitzhak Navon, later to become the fifth president of the state, recounting how, as a young man in the Hagana, he monitored the airwaves that night and heard the boasting celebrations of the Arabs who had just butchered the 35 men. Fifty percent of Israeli Jews don’t know who the lamed heh were. What will teach them? The Nakba law or a project like Toldot Yisrael?

Yisrael Beiteinu has inadvertently done us a great service, for the Nakba bill begs us to ask: What is really going to win the battle to right the wrongs in the way that Zionism is now perceived? Do we silence Israeli Arabs who obviously have what to mourn, or instead celebrate the lives and accomplishments of Jews across the globe who believed in the rebirth of the Jewish people, and who then devoted their lives to making it happen?

We all know the answer. The only question is whether we still possess the honesty, foresight and determination that winning our story’s battle will require.

About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

34 Comments on "Protecting the Zionist Narrative, At Last"

  • Robert Gasner says

    Daniel Gordis’ philosophy works well on paper but is naive in the real world without a partner who is willing to do the same for and with us.

    Why accept their right to use their history to hurt us when many on their side dont even have the basic decency to accept our right to exist?

    Sure they suffered…we know it, they know it, and they know we know it…so what? If we recognize their suffering will it change one mind ? Will some Palestinian say ” OK…they realize we suffered so now I will not support Hamas in its desire to destroy Israel?”

    Ok…lets do it and see what happens…OK..lets give them Gaza and see how it reforms their society…OK lets give them….what?

    The phone is not ringing from the other side and even if it did, the caller would fear for his life…its time for them to start recognizing the truths of the past 61 years, then and only then do we recognize our part in it. But to self-throw more crap and scorn on the people of Israel needlessly makes no sense to me.

    And on the other hand, who cares if they celebrate the Nakba…does anyone take them seriously anyways…let them protest the wall, the hated Jews, and anything they want, but don’t let down your guard…any good we do for them will be returned to us in blood. And if you don’t believe me just ask anyone on Sderot..or the mothers of the boys we lost leaving Lebanon…or the mothers of the murdered soldiers we traded live terrorists for last year…or…or..or…

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    Prof. Gordis, of course, you are (partially) right. Education is the key. The Arabs know this and put it into practice daily in their mosques, schools, media, and airwaves. Similarly, the public marking of the Naqba, by Israel’s Arab citizens and their allies, in support of their claims of the illegitimacy of their own state, is aimed to educate and turn world opinion to their own view. While I strongly support your encouragement for strengthening Israel’s program of education to Israel’s youth, Israel’s friends, and Israel’s enemies, within and outside the country, this in no way lessens the right of the country to require that ALL its citizens follow its laws, salute its flag, pledge allegiance, and, at least stand in respect of the National Anthem, if not sing it. It is “required” (if not enforced) in other countries, other democracies, not facing the same existential risks. Why not Israel?

  • Dr. Harvey Fader says

    Fully conscious that ‘education’ is sorely lacking in the Arab States, does that mean that Israel should fail to educate ALL its citizens about ALL its history? Can two wrongs make a right? As Jews, are we not confident enough about our history to tell all sides of the story?
    Yes, the Arab world deletes the Zionist history, but if Israel is to be “a light among the nations”, we must give light to all phases of OUR history…with the hope that we might encourage others to do the same.

  • Richard Braun, MD says

    Powerful piece, concisely stated, hopefully many will read it and consider it seriously. The call here is for all of us to know our history, which INCLUDES knowledge of and understanding of Nabka along with our own, neglected vital early Zionist history.

  • Janet Kolodner says

    I second Richard Braun and Harvey Fader. Powerful piece, concisely stated. I hope others will read it and take it seriously. It is important that Israel’s citizens and the world’s Jews and non-Jews know Israel’s history — the amazing heroism and idealism, the naive mistakes made along the way, Arab landowners’ collusion in the nakba, and everything else. In a way that makes clear what we can be proud about and what we ought to be ashamed of. The high road comes from celebrating what should be celebrated and expressing remorse, regret, and apologies for the wrongs committed.

  • Lorri Holzberg says

    Thank you for this wonderful essay on the truth of education and true democracy. It never helps to silence any one. I support your emphasis on educating all about the true history of the building of Israel – that is what impressed me when I visited Israel. All Israeli citizens deserve these freedoms.

  • Steve Lipman says

    Jefferson, Madison and Adams were right, you cannot legislate out dissent. I have never been in favor of stifling legitimate discourse and for the most part find myself a staunch advocate of Freedom of Speech (no matter how objectionable) in this country. Sadly Israel has no such enshrined right as in our US Constitution.

    I find the annual coverage of the Nakba Day events in our media to be somewhat silly. They are of course covered in a vacuum. How any similar stories of the pride Israelis feel in their country in celebrating their own achievements do we see around Yom HaAtzmaut in our press? Perhaps Independence Day stories lack the certain “man bites dog” quality that sells papers the way that “disenfranchised Arabs protesting against ‘the man’ sells papers on the other side.

    I hope the Knesset comes to its senses. By legislating away the right to protest you do also begin to cede the moral high ground. Let them protest Nakba but I also agree that Israel does a relatively poor job of coming to grips with the heroes and accomplishments of its own society, as Dr. Gordis so aptly notes. Teach the stories of the brave defenders of Jerusalem. Tell our kids about all that’s right with our country. Take pride in what Israel has built and let it stand on its own legitimate merits. Let debate about significant national issues and interests guide the educational system not silly, defensive measures such as “banning Nakba.”

    Can you imagine if this bill passes what next year’s Nakba Day stories are going to be about? Israeli policemen in riot gear tearing down posters and flags and arresting groups of demonstrators (peaceful or not?) That’s not an image I particularly want to defend. We’ve got enough on our hands in the pro-Israel Diaspora without having to deal with this nonsense!

  • Ziona Friedlander says

    Thank you, Daniel, for bringing clarity, once again, to an issue that does get muddled in the tendency to act reflexively, rather than reflectively. Isn’t it ironic that the People of the Book have turned away from education as a strategy? My heart goes out to Israelis, as well as to Jews in the Diaspora, because it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Is the tunnel even there? Nonetheless, commentary such as this is vital to prevent issues from becoming so lopsided that we can’t see our way back to what is fair, what is right, what will work for now and for future generations. Are you naive? Who’s to judge? When did that become a four-letter word? Please continue to share your thoughts about how things could be, should be. The conversation is just as important as the actions we take. Thank you.

  • Steven Schrier says

    I totally agree with your theme, although there are some security issues that the Israeli police should deal with rather than parliament making a complete ban.

    In the UK a few years ago, we held a central London pro Israel rally themed ‘Peace, but not at any price’. Nearby, 100 Muslims had a anti Israel rally, chanting ‘Death to the Jews’. We ignored it and the police later arrested some of the Muslim protesters on Enciting Racial Hatred charges.

    Citizens must be given freedoms but if they ignore their responsibilities,there is a price to pay.

  • Lise Rosenthal says

    As always, good point and powerfully stated. But equating the deliberate murder of 6,000,000 to the casualties of a war that the Palestinians could have avoided is a desecration to their memory.

  • Steve Koppel says

    The key is to educate ourselves and our children in order to be confident in our own history. If we don’t understand our history, we can’t defend it. We start to apologize for every perceived wrong and lose confidence in ourselves and our cause. I learned the story of the Hagana as a 10 yr old. The books were easily found. I was proud of our story. It is an amazing saga. My kids don’t have access to these stories and it’s difficult to find them. They just hear and read the mainstream sources without the context of historical knowledge. We’re fighting the “legitimacy” battle with our hands tied. Of course we’re losing.

  • Miriam Edelstein says

    Education is always good. Young Israelis should know about the birth pains of the country. It is always better to dwell on the positive and not just being victims. Will it fix anything? I doubt it!
    Let them celebrate the Naqba. That won’t change anything, either.
    To quote Golda Meir:” We will have peace when they (the Arabs) learn to love their children more than they hate Israel”. When that will happen, God only knows…After something cataclysmic occurs to bring them to their senses, perhaps.

  • Matan Gold says

    I agree with you that education is the key and that it is of utmost importance that we do everything in our power in order to educate the youth of this country so that they understand the true meaning of living as a Jewish people in our historic homeland.

    What I don’t understand is: why you think teaching the Nakba is a positive thing?
    Far from it. Teaching the Nakba is dangerous and it undermines the very existence of this Jewish state. if the arabs in Israel would continue teaching historic nonsense or “their version” of the story- that would just breed more future terrorists and Israel haters.

    We must come out strongly against teaching the Nakba and we must also strongly encourage teaching Zionism and Judaism in our schools. I fail to see why you think that if we would do one we can’t do the other as well…
    both are equally necessary.

    The Nakba symbolizes going against everything the Jewish state stands for and that’s why it’s essential that the Knesset pass a law that it’s forbidden to teach the Nakba in schools in this country. This is the most positive thing the Knesset has done in a long time in terms of strengthening the Jewish and Zionist identity of the state of Israel.

  • MOL EPHRAïM says

    Together with a program of education toward the history of Israel rebirth in his Land , you must give a priority to fight those forgers that present this history in a wrong light to tarnish Israel’s right to recover his national sovereignty ,one of them is named Shlomo Sand .

  • Avi Poster says

    Point raised … point acknowledged. Just as significant, however, is the awful job American Jewish educators, and families, do at educating American youth to understand and celebrate the Story of Israel. Even more said … we do a terrible job teaching the Israel story because too many Jews among us do not know, understand, or appreciate it. We need to develop and institute new mechanisms, both here and in Israel,to celebrate Israel’s emergence. Stories convey values … we need more of them to tell.

    Avi Poster

  • For years we’ve criticized the Palestinians for the biased education, claiming that they only teach their side of the story to their children, contributing to each generation’s hate and violence directed at Israel, ultimately preventing peace. Yisrael Beitenu wants to do something similar.

    We’ve seen the effects of teaching superficial, biased history to children. We are a people of learning … I read the other day that Jews reached 100% male literacy 1700 years before any other group. Let’s take Daniel’s advice and continue to be the informed, discerning, well-educated people we have always been. It’s been a key to our survival.

  • Could it be that Israel has succumbed to the Western mind set of victim-ology?

    Oppression and tragedy are part of Jewish history. But, they have not been celebrated for themselves but within the broader move from mourning to joy, from remembrance to celebration. If Ha Tikvah no longer applies, then we no longer have the confidence to respect both our history and the loss of others. If we cannot truly celebrate our freedom at the Passover table or Independence Day, then we will slouch through the losses of others – whether Pharaoh’s Egyptians or Palestinian Arabs.

    Then the losers’ strength of feeling over their loss becomes a threat to our indifference or uncertainty. The focus shifts to the “victim”. The more Israelis think in such terms, the greater the perceived threat from the “victims”. Attacking remembrance of Nakba becomes a mark of Israel’s own moral insecurity.

  • Ira Spector says

    Your essay has two distinct and separate themes.I have written you before, and said
    We need another book as a sequel to Leon Uris’ Exodus,followed by a block buster movie production by Steven Spielberg.
    As regards the Nakba, the Israeli Arab’s might just look at reality.If the Iranian’s
    successfully destroy Israel,there is no foreskin that distinguishes between Israeli and Arab.

  • As an Israeli who was deeply upset by the proposed law regarding commemoration of the Naqba and spoke outwardly against it, I can only say that perhaps Lieberman’s cronies have done us a service by calling the issue to everyone’s attention in the totally absurd manner that they have.
    I grew up in a Zionist youth movement and was brought up on the proud, unstained version of history in which the Palestinians fled of their own accord and the only atrocity committed by the Jews was the massacre by our extremists at Deir Yassin. Finding out about the events in their totality was, at first, extremely traumatic and shook my foundations, but the more I learned about them the more I came to realize that we must acknowledge their history. And they must acknowledge ours. Without that we will not attain mutual trust or achieve peace.
    I would like to call your attention to the unique booklet published by the late Professor Dan Bar-On and Professor Sami Adawi. The booklet, designed for Palestinian and Jewish high school students, has three columns on each page: The right hand one is the Jewish narratives, the left-hand one contains the Palestinian narrative, and the middle column is a blank space in which students fill in their own version after reading that of their own side and the opposite side. This booklet, and others like it, is, in my opinion, the key to enlightening young people regarding the true versions of our respective histories.
    I believe Israelis are reluctant to let the skeletons out of the closet because they are afraid that doing so will lead us rapidly down the slippery slope of justifying the uncompromising Palestinian dialogue, as well as the Ilan-Pappe-type-style de-legitimization of our right to be here. Admit our wrongs, and we admit their uncompromising right to be here instead. A gray area has to be defined by both Jews and Palestinians in which we both accept uncensored versions of our own dialogues and learn that of the other. We must both find a middle ground, in which we are both willing to admit our misdeeds while still being able to hold fast to our uncompromising right to be here.


    I agree with the article and thank you but I must add that

    (unlike America and its native population, for example),

    is a bad example to use.

    Arabs are not the native population.

  • William Bilek, M.D. says

    To Bracha, and the others: We are lost, because of good, compromising people like you. We have achieved what we have by our non-compromising, deeply-held belief that we, too have rights, just like any other people. We believed that we had nowhere else to go, “ein breira”, sacrifice what we must, survival first.

    Now, our leadership is divided, greedy, power-hungry. Our people are tired; our children left wandering; our will has weakened, our determination worn down, our search for “the good life”, well-deserved as it is, leading us into oblivion. We may “compromise”; we may “recognize”; we may desperately search for “middle ground”. Haniyeh, Abbas, Ahmadinejad will not. They are willing to bleed, and die, and dig tunnels. Once, we did too. No longer. Once, we won. Now, it seems, it is their turn.

  • Shin He says

    I’m afraid that if Toldot Yisrael does not, at last, include or at least allude to the Nakba, heroic though the endeavour of Eric Halivni is, it will be only partial. Spotlighting heroism only depends on darkening the shadows that surround it and at this stage, more than 60 years later, the entire story needs to be explored objectively, with heroism put into its proper perspective.

    It seems to me that education has been defective and spotty rather than absent. From placing high in the world’s top 10 best a couple of decades ago, our educational level in general has sunk to 40th place and is still on a downward spiral. People don’t know who Rembrandt was, what a symphony is, never mind their own history. As a matter of fact, many schools and army induction courses do cover aspects of Jewish and Zionist education, but little else in the broader cultural field. The Arabic language is as important to know in our region as English is, particularly if you’re policing Arabs. And it’s a much closer relative of the Hebrew language. Of supreme cultural value, it’s avoided like the plague except as linguistic pepper. Education needs to be broadened not only strengthened.

    I’d also suggest that we need to come away from glorifying that dashing Jewish hero making bullets in an NY kitchen (it’ll only raise questions of dual loyalties for American Jews which is precisely what Lieberman is trying to do with regard Israeli Arabs). We need to get rid of double standards and tell the story from both angles: the glorious and the sorry. And then move on to the present, which is not about telling stories at all, but about making new ones, better ones, to bequeath to those who come after us

  • Few efforts have been made to integrate Israel’s Arabs into a broader Israeli society. Obviously a parallel identity is required whereby both Israel’s Jews and Arabs sense common achievements. Such achievements occur all the time, and the Arab population, while not fully integrated, shares in and contributes to the economy of the nation.

    There is no reason, providing the kind of quality education that Israel would like to boast of, that her Arab citizens would not compete either in the market place or in the world of ideas.

    Surely there are enough common points of interest, including bread and butter issues that often bring both communities together. This could be in the way that a hospital with a professional medical staff is integrated, as in Nahariya, or when a local industry is under threat of closure, both Jew and Arab face the same dire prospects.

    Obviously national symbols and national holidays tend to be exclusionary, so without diminishing them, either amongst the minority that grapples to identify with it, or the majority that produced them,other alternatives can be sought.

    There are two national narratives that are both valid, and each are mutually exclusive. However, when it was proposed by some of the Arab legislators to hold a vigil for the late George Habash, an odious figure amongst Jewish Israelis, the law stepped in and banned rallies. On the other hand, efforts were made prior to Oslo to suppress national sentiment, especially when it came time to rally beneath a Palestinian flag unfurled on a highly charged pylon. Once this sentiment became legitimate or decriminalized, there were fewer flags and no cause for its bearer’s suppression.

    I think that government should legislate on the premise that it is doing so for the benefit of all of its citizens. A few people will always feel marginalized. Rather than exploring ways to draw Israel’s Arab citizenry around to the positive, if not necessarily Jewish aspects of the state, the current proposal to ban Nakba commemorations will do more to alienate the Arab sector; rebuff explorations toward a middle way, and make life increasingly more difficult for moderates, both Arabs and Jews, whose work will be further stymied by such a pernicious piece of legislation.

  • Robert Gasner says

    I was somewhat disturbed yesterday with my harsher than usual approach to our Palestinian cousins…we always have to be holier than the pope and I was feeking a bit sorry for us….

    The I read the story of how the Palestinians used an animal to deliver a bomb against us that was fortunately caught before detonation….and the animal was alive only becaus eit had been given a vaccine created and supplied by Israel….

    It reminded me of the story of the female suicide bomber who was caught at the border wit a bomb to blow up the hospital where her life had been saved months before…

    ….and we are going to teach Nakba so it can be used against us, as if they need another twig to throw on a fire 50 feet high..

    I pray for clarity these days….clarity as to when and if normalcy will ever reach the other side so that those who want to give will be able to give so that those who need to receive will be able to receive…

    And I still feel raw for having to be part of us that must do certain things to protect us from them…

    ….and in the end I feel that they do just fine against us without us having to supply them with more ammunition..

    Confusion begs clarity

  • Shin He says

    Mr Gasner,

    The Nakba is used against us with or without our help. The problem is our failure to take on board that it happened and that we played a part in it. Once we internalize it – it’s a reality not an invention – it becomes part of a comprehensive story that is broad enough to plant more than just dragon’s teeth.

    For normalcy to reach the other side when we control everything that reaches it, up to whom is it to supply it?

    And what is worse, using an animal or a human to deliver a bomb? The Torah is explicit on this. Human sacrifice is forbidden, animal sacrifice is not (viz. akedat Yitzhak).

    You can’t go to Gaza but you can go to the West Bank. I suggest you stand by a checkpoint for an hour or two just to observe, and then tell us how they are doing just fine.

    Confusion indeed begs clarity.

  • Brynn Olenberg Sugarman says

    Bravo! Of course Zionist education is the answer! The post-Zionist philosophy must be defeated with a resounding return to Zionism, “post” excluded…

    At the same time, we needn’t cater to legalizing the notion of the “Nakba.” At this time, there is enough pro-Arab and anti-semitic propaganda worldwide working against us without permitting more to be legalized within the state itself. America can afford to be generous when it comes to Native American gripes: Native Americans are not seeking the downfall of the United States. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a disturbing number of Arabs both within and without Israel.

    Furthermore, when I adopted my daughter from Vietnam, I needed to take a loyalty oath on her behalf to make her an American citizen. And those of us who grew up in the US all remember standing at attention before the American flag each morning, hands on our hears, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance…

    If demands for national loyalty are valid for the US, that “bastion” of democracy, then why are similar demands on the part of the Israeli government feared as “undemocratic” and even “fascist?”


    Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
    Ra’anana, Israel

  • Shlomo Vile says

    As usual, Daniel Gordis’s piece is interesting and thought provoking, but it misses the main point. The modern Zionist movement is negligent at remembering their own past by nature. The main thrust of this movement was to create a new identity – called Israeli – that would be a bold and dramatic break from the old identity – called Jew. Although the Zionist pioneers were themselves steeped in the traditional Jewish texts and traditions, they created a secular educational system that gives the Jews of Israel virtually no knowledge of their own Jewish heritage. The modern products of that system in Israel now cannot complete the phrase “Shma Yisrael” and have no appreciation for our special connection to Jerusalem or to the other holy sites and places that bind us to the land. The State of Israel is founded in large part on forgetfulness. It does not seem surprising that the State should be incidentally as forgetful of its own history as it is intentionally forgetful of its Jewish roots.

  • William says

    I’m an American secular Jew, 27 years old, who attended Zionist-minded Sunday school, Jewish day school, and summer camp. When I was a child I loved to sing the Israeli folk songs we learned, like “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav”. As I grew older, I watched as Israel made successively worse P.R. blunders and morphed into an increasingly repressive, apartheid state. I winced as Israel began restricting the travel of Palestinians. I nearly cried when they erected the security wall. I was angered when they wreaked vengeance on Lebanon a few years ago, and I was exasperated with the recent devastation in Gaza.
    Israeli leadership has made the decision to value short-term security above long-term sustainability, essentially declaring in both word and deed that they don’t care what the rest of the world thinks. And who am I to criticize? Surely if I were living in Haifa with the threat of a missile landing in my backyard, things like the security fence and destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure would seem like more appetizing options than they do to me here, sitting at my desk in New York.
    But we all see the fruits of these decisions: Zionism is becoming a dirty word. American and Israeli Jews alike are becoming divided about the legitimacy of a state which can act so callously. The Palestinians, whose leadership is a shambles of violence and corruption, have goaded the Israelis into losing their hard-won credibility and the moral high ground.
    And now Netanhayu, encouraging more settlements? Who in their right mind would claim in this day and age that we need all of Eretz Yisroel? Frankly, I hope Obama gives him a hard smack in the tuchus and reminds him that Israel is (or was) about taking the High ground. Without it, it’s just another colonizer.

  • Robert Gasner says

    Mr. Shin He,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer me on this blog, but I believe you are mistaken on my position.

    Vis a vis standing by a checkpoint for a few hours….I’m moving to Karnei Shomron next month…I have seen many checkpoints…they are there to protect those who live in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well, which our Palestinian cousins claim is also Occupied Territory. Without those checkpoints, we are all sitting ducks.

    As to supplying the other side…they seem to have no problem importing close over 50,000 missiles into Gaza and Lebanon…perhaps those who supply them with death material could supply them with life material….and by the way, yesterday Israel shipped in 140 truckloads…how many loaves of bread did the 1 billion Muslims ship in?

    I didn’t understand how Palestinians using animals to deliver bombs to murder Israelis related to Akeidat Yitzchak.

    I see little evidence that we don’t recognize or at least understand the Nakba…we have tens of thousands of Israelis who will never let us forget it – those who are honest rodfei shalom interest4ed in tikkun olam and those who are “misguided” in their hatred of everything Israel, Jewish, etc – and I recognize a huge difference between them and there is no equivalence in their morality. But lets not mistake recognizing Palestinian suffering for what it is….its mostly another attempt to spit on Israel, Jews, our Torah and moral code and our right to be “am chofshi (kadosh) beartzeynu”

    In return for all of them recognizing our right to live peacefully and securely in our ancestral homeland, I will walk down Dizengoff leading a parade with baloons recognizing the damage done during their Nakba…but Im not holding my breath for their recognition of Israel. So keep those baloons in the bag, and keep your ammunition dry because sure as hell, they and their 50,000 missiles are comming for all of us agin in the not too distant future, letz’areinu harav.

  • Shin He says

    Robert Gasner,

    Lirdof shalom there has to be a wish for shalom in the first place. You have seen many checkpoints, no doubt, and without the obligation of being processed through any of them in order to get from point A to point B, also no doubt.

    Those checkpoints do protect you from being sitting ducks. They do not protect you from becoming persecutors and certainly not from making bullies out of some of our young people of an impressionable age. Living with this kind of protection also makes thugs out of even younger kids from both the Arab and the Jewish communities. In addition, they make victims out of people who have to walk for miles to circumvent barriers and get to fields that are near their houses and then walk miles back again, all for the privilege of passing through checkpoints that are open for limited periods of time during the day, some only twice a week. Or maybe I should have said all to ensure your privilege. That is not an education I see as suitable for children. That is not a lifestyle I associate with Zionism, sorry.

    As for the akeda, was Abraham not instructed to sacrifice a ram instead of his son thereby setting a pattern of intolerance for human sacrifice? This is but of little import when a news story such as the one we read yesterday is interpreted only as ingratitude for the privilege of owning a healthy animal.

    As for the missiles, when we have a country with defined borders, we’ll be able to defend ourselves from them. There was an Israel before 1967. It was a darned sight more secure than the Israel-without-borders we turned it into afterwards.

    Education should also include distinguishing the words shalom and sheqet from one another. They are far from being the same thing.

  • Robert Gasner says

    Shin He

    I understand and respect your points even though I have different thoughts on it..

    The one point I disagree on is a nuance rather than a point…

    It is a privelege of the Kadosh baruch Hu that I will live on the land he promised us in the Torah accepted by the Moslems too…it is not a privelege of the Palestinians, the nations of the world, the UN or any other thing, that gives it to me or denies it from me.

    And just as an aside…I dont mind waiting in line at the airport for 3 hours to get on a plane, or at the US border in my car for 4 hours or other “checkpoints”…and remember, we are not waitng there because Jews blew up airplanes, or the World Trade Centre….while we are all waiting, lets be thinking about who started it, who continues it, and what its going to take to get them to come to the table to talk peace..

    As much as I’d like to continue, I feel we are misusing Dr. Gordis’ space….email me through google search even though I have enjoyed the exchange here

    Kol toov

  • Miriam Edelstein says

    Regarding settlements and the high ground..
    To the victor belong the spoils. I’m not saying that the territories can’t be used as a bargaining chip. But there has to be someone who is willing to bargain. There is no one!
    Did the US give back California, New Mexico, or Texas?
    Israel was attacked, they won. In the history of the world, when did the victorss have to give back the territory they won? Only Israel!
    Egypt was willing to bargain, so they got the Sinai back. When Hamas is willing to recognize Israel and bargain we’ll talk then

  • Jack says

    I nearly cried when they erected the security wall. I was angered when they wreaked vengeance on Lebanon a few years ago, and I was exasperated with the recent devastation in Gaza.


    You are awfully quick to chastise Israel, but you seem to ignore the reasons why these actions took place.

    You ignore the impact of terror. Did you cry for the innocent Israelis who were murdered on buses and in places like Sbarro Pizza.

    Did you cry for the Hatuels or any of the children who have been terrorized in Sderot.

    No one is saying that Israel has not made mistakes, but your suggestion that these actions are similar to apartheid suggest a severe misunderstanding of the situation.

    It is highly complex and nuanced situation that requires more than crocodile tears. Maybe for you it is easy to sit in NYC and whine.

    But for those who live it or who have family on the “front lines” it is far different.

  • Billie Kozolchyk says

    In the comment area, multiple opinions are expressed. Mine is simple… It’s scary when readers misstate what they read. Nowhere in this piece did Dr Gordis equate the murder of 6,000,000 with anything nor did he say that there needs to be education about Nakbah; he simply said that it is counter productive to criminalize its commemoration and he is absolutely right. I advocate for Israel all the time… as a democracy and as a creator of many things this world could not do without.

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