Ari Shavit, while speaking at the Standard Club on Monday December 9, said lots of things about Israel and its people that I continue to think about, but his comment about American Jewry really caught my attention. It arose during the Q and A portion of his presentation on his recently published My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. Near the end of the address, Shavit expressed a profound concern over the relationship between Israel and Jewish American youth, especially those from secular, non-orthodox communities. What he said had nothing to do with synagogue participation, intermarriage, or the like. It had to do with the political behavior of Jewish American adults.
In early November, I came across the first of several reviews of Shavit’s My Promised Land. In this book, Shavit, an Israeli author and columnist for Haaretz, embarks on an exploration of Israel’s history from the early Zionist movement (of which his own grandfather played a significant role), to the present, in order to understand the source of Israel’s state of “duality” and his own fears about Israel’s survival that have dogged him since childhood. By “duality,” Shavit explains, “On the one hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is occupying another people. On the other hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened. Both occupation and intimidation make the Israeli condition unique” (xii). All of the reviews I read convinced me that Shavit had compelling things to say, so when I heard that there would be a Temple Sholom presence at the Standard Club to hear Shavit speak, I signed right up.