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I can’t talk to my kids about Israel
I’ve written a column about Jewish parenting for eight years, first at the Forward
and for the last year at Tablet Magazine. In that time, I’ve written 11 pieces
about Jewish children’s books, nine about the High Holidays, seven about
Passover, six about the Jewish female body, four about summer camp, three about
Sukkot, and two each about vaccines, organ donation, and Tu B’Shevat. I am
painfully aware that I have never, not once, written about Israel.
That’s because I am deeply ambivalent about Israel.
as opposed to historical Israel,
is a subject I avoid with my children. Yes, of course I believe the state
should exist, but the word “Zionist” makes me skittish. (I understand that I
may be the Jewish equivalent of all the twentysomething women I want to smack
for saying, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights.”) I shy away
from conversations about Israeli politics. I feel no stirring in my heart when
I see the Israeli flag. I would no sooner attend an Israel Day parade than a
Justin Bieber concert. Neither Abe Foxman nor AIPAC speaks for me. I am a
liberal, and I am deeply troubled by the Matzav, Israeli shorthand for
tension with the Palestinians, and I do not have answers, and I do not know
what to do about it, and I do not know what to tell my children.
So, it was with a huge sense of identification and relief that I read Peter
Beinart’s controversial essay
in the New York Review of Books last week. As you no doubt know, Beinart, an associate professor of journalism and political
science at CUNY and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote that
leading Jewish institutions viscerally reject opposition to Israel’s treatment
of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and of the country’s Arab citizens,
and this has made younger non-Orthodox Jews like me—who are deeply committed to
human rights around the world, who reject being told what to think and do
without the airing of all points of view, who have issues with military
force—turn away from Jewish communal organizations and refrain from even
thinking about, let alone identifying with, the state of Israel.
“Having kids definitely played a role” in his writing of this essay, Beinart
Tablet’s Marc Tracy. “I think it made me think about not just my Zionist
identity, but what kind ofZionism was available to them. And the more I
thought about that, the more I began to worry.” In the piece, he mentioned that
he could imagine his children, who attend an Orthodox shul, winding up either
among the apathetic college students identified in a recent survey who don’t
identify at all with Zionism, or among the right-wingers who boo when the
notion of Palestinian suffering is even mentioned at an Israel
solidarity rally. “Either prospect fills me with dread,” he writes.
Oh, dude. I can relate.
To read the rest of this article, please visit http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/34105/never-never-land/.
Reprinted with permission from Tablet Magazine.
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