How very, very sad.
Recently, a terrorist attack on a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Ofra resulted in the shooting of a young couple. The woman was 30 months pregnant and was shot in the abdomen. Three days later, her premature baby died. She and her husband were able to hold the baby right before he died but were not able to attend his funeral on the Mount of Olives.
Shortly after, at a press conference at the hospital where the couple is recovering from their wounds, the baby’s father, Amichai Ish-Ran said, “Our baby, Amiad Israel, managed to unite the Jewish people in the three days he was alive, something most people never manage to do during their entire lives.”
On the one hand, I wish it were so that the baby managed to unite the Jewish people. On the other hand, how sad it is if it was so.
No, the baby did not unite the Jewish people since it seems that today nothing can unite us. Indeed, as a result of the shooting, we had both sides dig in deeper to their corners. Settlers demanded that the Bibi government take revenge, institute harsher measures against the Palestinians, destroy the homes of the terrorists, immediately build more settlements. Those who believe that incidents like this occur precisely because of the settlements and the lack of a peace process said it showed that you can move the embassy to Jerusalem, kill the Iran deal but until there are some genuine moves toward peace, innocent Jewish babies will continue to die and that responding with more settlements only ensures more bloodshed.
To which those on the right said we tried a peace process and it only led to Jewish deaths. To which those on the left said giving up is not an answer, new ways must be tried. And so it went, anything but Jewish unity.
But yes, of course, all Jews felt grief at what happened, at the loss of this innocent so young Jewish life. Which raises the question of why must it always and only take tragedy to bring us together, even if only for a minute. Why can’t we make the most of the overwhelmingly good times in which we live to become a more united Jewish people, recognize that yes we have differences but we have much more in common, and that at a time when we have a strong and powerful state of Israel, at a time when Jews are accepted around the world, at a time when our ways are respected and defended, why must Jews constantly be fighting with each other, attacking each other, calling each other names, saying each other are not really Jews. And why do we only call a very temporary ceasefire to jointly mourn the death of Amiad Israel, and then right away go back to going at each other’s throats.
Sad to me also is that while this grieving father consoled himself with the notion that his son’s death united all of us, the sad truth is that most American Jews, especially young American Jews, had no idea this even happened, paid no attention at all.
That is the tragedy of believing that things can just stay as they are forever. Young Jews are increasing alienated from Israel. Sure you can point to those who go on Birthright or join some youth organization, but we are just kidding ourselves if we don’t understand, don’t see that many young Jews are pulling away from Israel, see the terrorist attack on the bus stop near Ofra as just part of a never ending cycle that will never stop, never be solved.
Young Jews want to associate themselves with things that are hopeful, positive, something that can give them a sense of meaning and purpose. We need to stop building Holocaust memorials believing that learning about the six million will make young Jews want to be Jews, and we need to make real efforts to find a solution with the Palestinians instead of deluding ourselves that deaths like that of three day old Amiad will make young Jews want to be committed to Israel.
Young Jews don’t respond to the message that the world hates us, that to identify with Judaism, connect with Israel means you are a target, that there is no hope for Israel to feel at home, be at peace.
So no, the tragic and heartbreaking death of Amiad did not unite the Jewish people. And to the extent it did, we should be ashamed of ourselves that we only unite when Jewish babies are murdered.
While one can forgive a grieving father for anything he said, I found it sad that he called on Jews everywhere to remain united by saying “They can stab us, shoot us, run us over, throw stones at us, murder us, murder our children, but they cannot break us, we won’t let them.”
That is a darkly cynical view of the world. In today’s world we are being embraced, respected, defended, looked out for, supported. I could quote a million examples from every corner of the world to show that that is so. What I would say is that we are squandering all the good for us in the world by not being united. No, they cannot break us, but we must not break ourselves.
Speaking of which, did you see how Naftali Bennett, the head of one of the major political parties in Israel, recently blamed the increasing distance between Israel and diaspora Jews on, you guessed it, diaspora Jews. Again, instead of reaching out to us, placing blame on us.
During a cabinet meeting announcing a new effort to convince French Jews to move to Israel, Bennett said, “Israel and the Diaspora are in the throes of an unprecedented crisis. We’re used to being told that it’s because of [prayer rules at] the Western Wall, the Palestinian issue and other ideological controversies. It’s not correct. There’s a terrible problem of assimilation and growing indifference of Jews overseas both to their Jewishness and to Israel. That is the entire story.”
Yep, said Bennett, it’s not at all their fault, it’s all our fault. Forget that the Bibi government has gone out of its way to insult American Jews, belittle American Jews, first promise to provide all Jews with prayer space at the Western Wall then renege on that promise, interrogate American Jews as they are entering or leaving Israel about their political views. No, if there is a reason diaspora Jews are feeling alienated from Israel, it’s all because of the shortcomings of diaspora Jews.
Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and a Jew, begged to differ. “There is a crisis between Israel and World Jewry but the reason is not assimilation,” he tweeted. “It’s the extreme policies advocated by @naftalibennett and his government’s refusal to treat Reform and Conservative Jews as equal to his Orthodox constituency.”
Bennett showed how much Jewish unity is not at work these days. Oh, did I mention that Bennett, get this, is Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs.
Speaking of Bennett and the lack of Jewish unity today, consider this juicy little tidbit that we just learned about. Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince the owner of a popular Israeli news site to run a negative story about Bennett’s wife. Yes, his wife. That’s politics, Israeli style.
Israel Television News reported that the prime minister called on Shaul Elovitch — at the time the owner of Walla News — to run a report saying that Gilat Bennett once worked as a chef in a non-kosher restaurant.
The police have previously recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for allegedly offering Elovitch favors in exchange for better coverage. Earlier this week they again recommended his indictment in a separate case in which he stands accused of offering a similar quid pro quo to the owner of the Yediot Acharanot daily newspaper.
Bennett described the prime minister’s alleged attempt to tar his wife as as “despicable and cowardly act.” In turn, the Likud party accused the prominent national-religious politician of hypocrisy and of slandering first lady Sara Netanyahu.
Earlier this year, Sara Netanyahu was indicted for allegedly using $100,000 in state funds to order takeout from high-end restaurants despite employing a cook at government expense. Police have recommended she be indicted in the Elovitch case as well.
Ah, the Jewish family that gets indicted together stays together. Which brings us to Bibi and Sara’s oldest boy, Yair. Did you hear that recently Facebook actually blocked the account of Yair Netanyahu after he shared content banned by the platform that called for avenging the deaths of Israelis killed in recent days by Palestinian terrorists?
You know, in the terrorist attacks that were said to have united the Jewish people.
That was only one of Yair’s crazy posts and that was only this week. Yair said in another post that the press, as well as left-wing NGOs and politicians, are “traitors,” and in yet another post suggested that all Muslims leave Israel. Let’s see, the media is the enemy of the people and there should be a Muslim ban. Wonder where he could have gotten those ideas.
So pop Bibi is going after a political foe by smearing his wife, mom Sara is ordering fancy restaurant meals at taxpayer expense while employing a chef at taxpayer expense, and boy Yair is inciting violence, branding reporters as traitors and advocating the expulsion of all Muslims from Israel. Ladies and gentlemen, the first family of the Jewish state.
I know. I recently got a nasty email slamming me for criticizing Bibi and for criticizing Crown Prince Jared Kushner. Proving that, like so many right wingers, he doesn’t understand what either journalism or democracy is all about. It is our right, our duty, as Jews, as lovers of Israel, as Americans, to voice our views when we think our leaders have gone astray. That is not only the American way, it is the Jewish way.
It would really be nice to see Jews unified about the right of all Jews to speak up and speak out and the duty of all Jews to respect those Jews who think differently than you do. That would be a positive, healthy reason for Jews to come together. It would really be nice if it didn’t always take a funeral for us to recognize how precious is each Jewish life and how precious is Jews being united.