Israel no longer needs the support of American Jewry, which is a good thing, since it is quickly disappearing
I had to suppress a giggle when after the services at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Halifax Nova Scotia, the rabbi passed around the blue and white Jewish National Fund collections box and mumbled something about making a donation so that Israel could make the desert bloom again. I wanted to giggle, because Israel is much wealthier than Nova Scotia and Israelis enjoy a much higher standard of living than Nova Scotians. Halifax, with its half a million strong metro population is about the size of Haifa, Israel, but is has none of the high technology businesses that Haifa is so famous for. The flagship academic institution in Halifax, Dalhousie University, is ranked between 250 and 300 in the world, whereas my Alma Mater, the Technion, which is located on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa is ranked 77.
This incident got me to thinking about something profound. To many North American Jews, for many decades, Israel was their little pet project. It was their indulgence. It was their way of assuaging their guilty conscience that they were putting the almighty dollar above everything else, including their own Jewish identity. Son married a “shiksa” (derogatory name for a Gentile female) and the grand kids won’t be Jewish? Put a twenty in the collection box. The images of Arab terror attacks on innocent Israelis got you feeling a bit down? Write a check to AIPAC. Oh how the American Jews liked traveling to Israel in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s and even 90’s bandying about their dollar bills and platinum American Express cards.
And in all seriousness, these donations and much more importantly the political power that the Jews in America wielded with their votes in swing states like Florida and in Democratic primaries across states like New York and California were of tremendous if not determinative help to Israel. The Jewish political influence in the Democratic party came into its own in the late 60’s and early 70’s when they, acting through handpicked senators, forced the Soviet Union to make it possible for Jews like my parents and me to leave that god-forsaken country and emigrate to Israel or, for those who so chose, to America.
Then came the 90’s. Like in a Vegas slot machine, Israel became the beneficiary of three positive developments all coming to fruition at the same time. The collapse of the Soviet Union made life there nearly impossible. Jews and anyone who could half-credibly pretend to be Jewish lined up to get their Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Among them there were many highly skilled and hard-working people. People not afraid to get their hands dirty be it in civilian life or in the military. Nearly a century of investment in a world-class post-secondary education system, primarily in STEM, combined with Israel’s need to develop and build advanced weaponry to produce a generation of young Israelis that were exceptionally good at math and engineering precisely when such skills were about to be richly rewarded by the information revolution. Finally, after decades of socialist and highly centralized economic policies, Israel implemented market-oriented reforms that made it much easier to start businesses and created in Israel one of the world’s best climates for both direct and indirect foreign investment.
The result was a Milton Friedman economic miracle and the birth of the “Startup Nation”. Now, Tel-Aviv is too expensive for most American Jews. Their dollars, while welcome, do not impress anyone. Non-“white” Jews, Jews whose names are not the familiar “Goldberg” or “Bernstein”, but “Hadad” or “Shar’abi” are now taking their rightful place in the center of Israeli society. Israel has more Jews than America and they are not the kind of Jews that American Jews recognize as their own kind. Most American Jews, perhaps as many as seven out of ten are progressive globalists who shun the “tacky” concepts of nationalism and nation-states. Israel has just passed a foundational law defining it as the exclusive homeland of the Jewish nation and stripping its non-Jewish citizens of any communal rights such as the right for self-determination.
It is time to face the facts. There is not much if anything at all in common between the Jews residing in Israel and the Jews residing in America who are not Israeli expats. A small number of American Jews revel in Israel’s strength, its independence. They are glad for having helped incubate it from babyhood to adulthood and are happy to see it spread its wings and take its rightful place among strong and prosperous nation states. Most American Jews do not share this view. They look at Israel with equal parts disdain and alarm. Disdain because it represents everything they find offensive and morally reprehensible. Alarm, because as far as the world is concerned, Jews and Israel are one and the same.
This breeds resentment in the hearts of the majority of American Jews and this resentment gives rise to reactions ranging from strained neutrality to outright hatred. Many synagogues and Jewish community centers (JCC’s) where Jewish life in America happens, are beginning to simply ignore Israel, going about their diaspora existence as if there was no Jewish ethno-state on our planet. This is especially true in places that do not have large communities of Israeli expats. Other corners of American Jewry, such as Jeremy Ben-Ami’s J-Street, and the Reformed Jewish movement are becoming actively anti-Israeli, or at the very least allow themselves to shamelessly inject themselves into the Israeli political debate, offering strong opinions and condemnations without ever being there to suffer the consequences.
These self-hating Jews, these auto-antisemites, are on an ever ratcheting binge of virtue signaling, eschewing nothing that would put the slightest iota of distance between them and the “racist” Israel. They align themselves with terrorist sympathizers like Reps. Omar and Tlaib, they actively contribute to the election of additional such people to positions of power in America, and they lobby the American government to ally the country with Israel’s worst enemies like Iran.
In Israel, the mirror image of this is happening. Where once America, New York, Boston, Miami, LA, were the sine qua non of any Israelis aspirations, the shining cities on a heap of “Benjamins”, this is no longer the case. The large influx of Russian Jews who were brought up with no love lost for America, the continued “browning” of Israeli Jews and their continued trend towards religious orthodoxy, the difficulty for many young Israelis in obtaining visas to America whereas most European countries do not require them and most Asian countries grant them as a matter of course have shifted Israel’s focus away from North America and towards other places where Israelis feel more welcome. These countries include Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Asia-Pacific, the Indian subcontinent, and even South America. The strong Israeli shekel and Israel’s unique brand of success rolls out the welcome mat in these countries with no judgment attached. Even Israel’s military prowess and its unabashed use of force in the defense of its interests are positives in these countries, countries that value strength over weakness and see in it its own moral justification.
The alliance between American Jewry and Israel is on its last legs, but so is American Jewry itself. The progressive wing, the largest wing of American Jewry is one generation at most from devolving into ethnic and religious mutts, people for whom being Jewish is eating fried holiday foods and making money and incessant progressive virtue signaling. Even if these Jews married other Jews exclusively, their birthrate is half of what is needed for population maintenance, but seeing as the opposite is true, they are all a bunch of dead walking JINOs (Jews in name only). America will always have Jews, I suppose. Israeli expat communities in NYC, Miami, LA, Boston, and Atlanta will thrive and so will the ultra-Orthodox, but it will be a few hundred thousand, maybe a million, nowhere near the often bandied about six million number.
With this decline in population, the influence that Jews wield in American politics, be it via their votes or their dollars, will also inevitably decline and that is already happening at a pace that no one could have predicted a short decade ago. By 2050 if not much sooner, America will be home to a small and totally irrelevant Jewish diaspora, no different than the ones in Britain or France. While one can always wax nostalgic about things that pass, it is important to remember the prayer that each and every real Jew says every single day: Blessed are you, our Lord, King of the universe, who collects the exiles back to Zion.
I love Israel!