It’s been some time since I was active in the blogosphere. I am of the view that if a person cannot constructively contribute then they should get out of the way of those who do.
Constructive criticism fits the definition, and I end my blog hiatus on this mantra, by drawing some observations about our Perth Jewish community relationship Israel.
The Gen17 survey confirms what can be observed as the obvious; that there is a generational disconnect.
It was no more evident than this past weekend.
At 8.00 PM on Saturday night a youthful and vibrant crowd experienced the joy of Yom Yerushaliem. The older demographic of the community (and non-religious demographic) were nowhere to be seen. Approximately 150 people, at least half of them children, experienced an entertaining evening.
At 8.00 PM on Sunday night the UIA hosted a briefing from Peter Lerner. Approximately 150 people listened to the address. I scanned the room to find a person under the age of 40, and could not find anyone.
The contrast of these two events could not have been more stark.
Peter Lerner is an erudite speaker, who achieved much in defending Israel and is highly respected. Sadly, I did not enjoy his presentation due to both its content and its tone. It simply came across as outdated. There was no information that had not already been streamed through media feed. The positions advocated were yesterday’s news. For example, he stressed no alternative to a two state solution, admitted there was no partner for peace, and offered nothing over than a citizen’s hope for a utopian change to the status quo. When questioned about media bias he offered an apologists response by justifying the expectations of international media bureau staff, and suggested that diverting the discussion as opposed to confronting the discussion was the best course of action.
These positions, and the data associated with the Hizbollah missile cache, Hamas mobilisation, and PA strategy of attrition are what we have constantly been aware of for quite some time. Yet the capability of Israel to respond, and the use of its PR capability effectively, are sadly stuck behind a narrative of fear, threat, victimhood and political correctness that is doing no favours for Israel and its advocates.
On the topic of last week’s IDF strikes against Iranian military targets Mr Lerner proffered that Israel had set back Iran’s activity in Syria by 10-12 months, without contextualising the true historic significance of this pre-emptive activity. The interconnected events, the swiftness, the effectiveness, and the sheer message behind Israel’s strike has done more than simply defer, if not eliminate war from the Golan border for the foreseeable future. Iran may be more isolated and weaker now, but this is not the headline. The headline is that Israel is stronger, smarter, and more capable of defending its self-determination than ever.
Perhaps a further and broader perspective is needed here. The situation in Israel is changing very fast, and we in the Diaspora are falling very far behind.
If seventy five years ago you had gone to a Jewish person anywhere in the world and told them that a Jewish nation of six million Jews would be built with such stunning success they would have laughed in disbelief.
If even ten years ago you had gone to a Jewish person anywhere in the world and told them that Israel’s economy would be amongst the top 30 of the world, ranked by the OECD for highest growth, and the leader of innovation and invention it would have seemed unachievable. If you had have told them that Donald Trump as President would have shifted the US Embassy to Jerusalem, that the infrastructure and investment rates had lifted tenfold, that Israel was a net exporter of energy, and that the Israeli Prime Minister was able to concurrently preserve amicable and effective diplomatic relations with superpowers USA, Russia and China, they would also have laughed in disbelief.
Our world has changed. The Jewish Diaspora needs to adapt.
Which brings me back to my observations of the weekend. As I sat in the Breckler-Troy hall I looked around and counted six parents in attendance, who in addition to myself, had sons and daughters who were at that very same moment dancing the streets of Jerusalem in celebration of its reunification.
Here we were, listening to a fearful presentation of how Israel is threatened, of how the media cannot be tamed, of how the existential future of the Jewish State is at stake, and how we need to defend Israel in a public relations war.
There they were, singing, davening, waving flags and living the dream.
Here we were, being fed a narrative with a negative undertone and with a tone of victimhood.
There they were, as the whole of Israel exploded with Euovision euphoria, spontaneously celebrating with national pride and cultural unity.
Here we were, listening to a lecture, no young people to be found, lots of diatribe about how hard done by Israel is and how we need to defend ourselves.
There they were witnessing the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, with dignitaries celebrating the very important statement that Jerusalem is the undivided and eternal capital of Israel.
Following the conclusion of the lecture I returned home and sat affixed to the live stream from Israel for several hours. I watched them pour into the Kotel Plaza with flags, clucking like chicken’s in Tel Aviv, and lining up dignitaries at the US embassy.
At that moment it occurred to me that it would have been far better that night in the Breckler-Troy hall to have a live stream on the big screen in the place of geopolitical analysis, to show us what was actually happening right at that moment in Israel. Instead of continually paying large money from philanthropic donations to former leaders and high ranking officers to tell us what we already know, maybe we should try something different?
I do not believe that we will win the hearts and minds of anybody other than already committed Zionists by continually standing up keynote speakers and talking amongst ourselves. It is also evident that the next generation have little interest in this form of presence and education. They get their news from Israel in real time via social media, as participants and not passive observers.
However more than anything, it needs to be quickly understood that Israel has changed, and the way we relate to Israel as a Diaspora community has not caught up. Israel is strong, proud, successful, and if necessary will exercise its military power to defend itself.
Here in the Diaspora we are limiting the visibility of our relationship with Israel to an insular audience inside the walls of our own buildings. We are reactive and not proactive in public discourse. We are politically correct and timid when it comes to calling out home truths in the media. Above all else, we fail to celebrate the religious and cultural significance of modern Israel with the public euphoria that it deserves.
When Israel starts celebrating, it is high time we started to celebrate with them, instead of locking ourselves in a hall and lamenting on the intentions of our enemies.
Yom Yerushaliem this past weekend was more than a simple entry on the calendar. It was a moment to express the essence of contemporary modern Jewish identity. Aside from a small segment of the Perth Jewish community, we failed to turn up as a large and unified community, opting instead for the tired story of doom and gloom.
Perhaps this is the story that sits behind the alarming statistics of Gen17? Perhaps this is the polarisation that will lead those youth that are connected to Judaism towards their Aliyah, and the vast majority of the balance towards assimilation?
Perhaps we are not seeing that the old and the young of our community relate to Israel in very different ways, and that we need to break the institutional mould in order to bridge the divide.