[Freemanlist2] JEREMY GIMPEL - Israel Inspired: Our words – Israel’s reality

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Sun Jul 28 19:48:00 CDT 2013


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Israel Inspired: Our words – Israel’s reality 
By JEREMY GIMPEL 
JPost.com - 7/25/2013 15:41     
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Judaism is a life force, not merely a religion, and we need to infuse it into every Israel-oriented conversation.  
Israeli flags. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post 
            
I have just returned from a short trip to North America where I met with local  leaders, activists and rabbis with the goal of returning Israel to the forefront  of Jewish consciousness in the Diaspora.

To put it mildly, I was greeted  with more than an attentive ear.

Although many Jewish communities host  Israel-focused events, a common theme emerges dominant – and when you connect  the dots, it’s not always pretty. If you listen carefully, an underlying tone  pervades the conversations and public discourse about Israel and the Jewish  future.

In many ways, the atmosphere and flavor of the discussion shapes  our consciousness more than the facts themselves – and we need to change the  tone fast.

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a Modern Orthodox  Jewish day school in Florida for an evening honoring Gilad Schalit, who was yet  to be released. As an American-born IDF soldier who served in Gaza, I had plenty  of thoughts to share.

While I was speaking before the parents and student  body of the school, I asked what Israel-related events they had hosted that year  in the
 school.

One by one, the students listed the “Israel” days on their  school calendar – a night of solidarity for Schalit, a day of environmental  consciousness responding to the devastating Carmel forest fire, an evening  honoring victims of terror with a mother whose son was murdered, and a ceremony  featuring a moving talk from a Holocaust survivor.

I was initially  thrilled to hear the school made such a concerted effort to engage the students  and parents with programming focused on Israel, connecting to the atmosphere –  the situation and to all that was happening in the country.

However,  after some thought, my excitement dissipated. I realized that although those  young Jewish students connected to Israel in an array of wellplanned and  well-executed events, their programming revolved around a kidnapped soldier, a  catastrophic forest fire, terrorism and the Holocaust. For adults, the situation  isn’t much better.
 The vast majority of Israel-oriented events are fund-raisers  for one worthy cause or another.

Imagine the underlying message conveyed  to all these lovers of the Jewish state. Israel is a poor and tragic country –  wanna make aliya? In 2013, if the primary connection people have to Israel is  centered around tragedies and fund-raisers, we will lose them. Although past  generations rallied after tragedies and crises often launched them into action,  our generation needs something different.

We must present Israel as it  is: the greatest Jewish enterprise in 2,000 years.

The next generation  growing up in both Israel and the Diaspora are wholeheartedly different than  their parents. Anyone born after 1973 grew with up with a totally different  Israel. They didn’t experience the resurrection of Israel from the ashes of the  Holocaust. The miracle of the Six Day War and the liberation of Jerusalem  weren’t witnessed, but studied
 in history books. The daring and heroic rescue of  Operation Entebbe play very little in shaping the connection people have to  Israel today. Even worse, the pride of the Six Day War in the ’70s has become a  source of insecurity and political defensiveness in the 2000s.

For well  over 20 years, Israel has been shrouded in negativity. For us to keep the next  generation engaged and in love with Israel, we have to combat the negativity  with positivity and meaning. In Israel, something similar is happening. Without  even realizing it, the public discourse is destroying the morale of the country.  This Sunday, the new recruits to the IDF made their way to the enlistment  base.

For more than two years, the number of potential recruits opting  out of military service has been growing, while the number of soldiers enrolling  in combat units is dropping.

In March 2011, over 80 percent of recruits  with suitable profiles enlisted in
 combat units. This August, it’s hovering  around 70%. The motivation has dropped dangerously and in only less than three  years! What happened? One of the hottest topics in the Jewish world today is the  controversy around IDF service for all. “Equalizing the burden” is the  catchphrase in Israel. In the spirit of full disclosure, my father served in the  IDF, today I serve as a platoon sergeant in an infantry unit, and I am educating  my children to serve our country as well. With that said, I am categorically  opposed to the “equalizing the burden” conversation.

It’s draining the  passion out of our national collective consciousness. The tone of the discourse,  encapsulated in the unfortunate term, has created a national negative  disposition. Instead of recruits and soldiers feeling pride, honor and respect,  they feel abused and taken advantage of.

Serving in the first sovereign  Jewish army since the Maccabees is not a
 burden. It’s an honor and a  privilege.

The discussion about serving in the IDF should touch on the  essence of service, and not the implication that some of us are freiers  (suckers).

This is an excerpt from my personal journal when I was on  reserve duty two months ago: I’m sitting at the edge of a cliff wearing an IDF  uniform that I haven’t changed in days, in the blasting heat of the Negev desert  overlooking the Egyptian border. I’m in miluim (reserves) and I’ve never been  happier.

Throughout all of our history, the Jewish people served  alongside each other in battle. There is no precedent for a section of society  to stay behind.

Not one. Moses, the greatest of all prophets and rabbis,  went out to war with the Jewish people, as did Joshua.

All throughout  Tanach, spiritual giants like David and Josiah went out to battle. The Maccabees  were priests who served in the Holy Temple, but they picked up
 arms and defended  Jewish freedom. The greatest sage and Torah scholar, Rabbi Akiva, and his  students led by Bar Kochba, went to war against imperialist Rome. Why should now  be any different? We face incredible challenges inside Israel and out. We should  confront them with our greatest gift – an authentic Jewish heritage. Our Jewish  values, identity and wisdom should permeate every public  discourse.

Judaism is a life force, not merely a religion, and we need to  infuse it into every Israel-oriented conversation.

We have the power to  shape the consciousness of our people by reframing the conversation. As the  People of the Book, it is our words that will rebuild morale and empower our  generation.

When we speak about Israel and burning societal issues, host  Israel events in our communities or even fund-raise for Israel, our  conversations should reach into the treasures and wisdom of Jewish history. It  will strengthen our
 identity and commitment, and infuse every Israeli and every  lover of Israel with a sense of Jewish destiny and a higher calling.

We  must present Israel as it is: the greatest Jewish enterprise in 2,000 years. 

The author is a filmmaker, journalist and educator. He is the deputy director of  the World Mizrachi Movement. 
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