Like Israel, but Aspirational
Some reflections upon leaving Israel after two weeks
I’m sitting in the Ben Gurion Airport waiting for my flight home to Buenos Aires.
It’s unfortunate that the power of this place has been diluted by the amount of bullshit you hear about it — as a child being insultingly told it’s the land of milk and honey, Birthright girls seeing a whole country as one big Disneyland raving about their Aroma iced coffee, settlers telling you this will always be your home without the implied caveats, or even from those who scream about the West Bank but couldn’t tell you the difference between Meretz and Habayit HaYehudi.
This trip I think I really got to see Israel for what it might actually be. I looked at the buildings in Tel Aviv in awe that we built a city with a massive imagination for what a Jew could be. I saw people I know and love marginalized — whether they know it or not — by a government more interested in creating a Trumpian utopia on someone else’s homeland than take care of their own voters. I saw the spirit of the Jewish people in its greatest form and the people who embody that personally and politically. I saw the challenges of bringing together in one place a people sprinkled all over the world for thousands of years. I loved every single second of it. The glaring gaps in what should have been a dream come true and the things that made it all worth it.
And with all those experiences making my temples ache I have some things I wanna share with my community:
1) Israel is still an experiment. It is not finished. Your primary concern with Israel as an American Jew should not be defending its existence but making sure we have something worth fighting for. The difference between a Jew in power and a Jew in danger is not to be overlooked — and as Jews we are obligated to learn to balance what is required in both cases. We are privileged to live in what is a blink in the history of Jewish people. Let’s keep that eye open for generations to come by remember we still have work to do.
2) I believe Israel should be a Jewish state and not just a state for the Jews. But considering that “state” doesn’t mean “shallow fantasyland” that changes our obligation. A free democratic state means that we protect all our citizens. A Jewish democratic state means that we protect all those among us and are an example to the world in every sense. You cannot tell people Israel is a light among the nations and then complain when people hold it to a higher standard even though greater evil happens elsewhere.
3) We have to push back. A Jewish state belongs to all Jewish people as a project of our nation. If we know something is evil we can’t be afraid of backwards leaders of our communities calling us names that only serve to empower their toxic vision of a decaying people. Zionism was a rebellious idea at the time. Let’s hope our vision for a more kind, inclusive, ever-improving Israel can be that revolutionary too.
4) Remember that not all Jews are white and that gives us a special responsibility. Our histories are different but they’re also deeply connected in ways we sometimes don’t realize. Make room for people who aren’t white to declare themselves just as Jewish as you are — if it weren’t for your ancestors moving to Eastern Europe you’d still look just like us :)
And if any of this resonates with you — start here: http://goo.gl/v6uGXh
I’m so excited to keep working on this crazy project of ours with the hope that my generation does just that much better.