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Customer Review

on January 5, 2008
In this book, more than one hundred American Jews reflect on what Israel means to them. It's fascinating.

I'll mention a very few of the points made by some of the contributors. Alvin Rosenfeld says that "six decades after the founding of their state, the Jews of Israel should not have to argue for their national existence. They are at home in their land by a long-established right, and they can take justifiable pride in their country's history and achievements." And he says that the least any decent person can do is join them in affirming this.

Thane Rosenbaum mentions the fact that many people who have never been to Israel derive great pleasure from knowing that it exists. But, on the other hand, many people who have no intention of ever visiting Israel are extremely animated by "intense animus over its very existence," as if Israel were a nation on some sort of probation "awaiting final global approval that will never come."

Danny Siegel writes poetically that he'd "rather drive a taxi in Jerusalem than be the King of all of South Dakota." Ariel Beery says that "we Jews are not just a spiritual community - we are a people, one that will only fulfill its collective potential with a state in which we can hammer out the details." Richard Friedman says that "Israel must be now what it has stood for from the very beginning: a people seeking to bring blessing to every family on earth."

There are some historical perspectives as well. We see Stephen Wise, in 1948, say that "organized gifts to the Arabs" (meaning to those who fled their homes in 1947 and 1948) would seem to him to be "acknowledgement of wrong" when in fact it is the Jews who have been wronged. As he explains, "the Arab states took part in the Partition discussion for weeks and weeks preceding the Partition decision of November 29. Immediately thereafter, they began to war upon Israel." Albert Einstein wrote in 1919 that "one can be an internationalist without being indifferent to the members of one's tribe. The Zionist cause is very close to my heart.... I am glad that there should be a little patch of earth on which our kindred brethren are not considered aliens."

Lillian Hellman is quoted as saying "historically, the Zionists turned out to be right. What are they saying? That Europe is doomed for the Jews. Liberal democracy won't save us. The Socialists won't save us. The Communists won't save us. Whatever else may be wrong with the Zionists, on that fundamental insight, they were absolutely right." And Marie Syrkin, in a 1983 interview said that "Jewish self-haters, without taking the trouble to look into Zionist history, subscribe to the most outrageous statements. I think this willful ignorance and the readiness to accept the worst interpretation - that Jews were the aggressors from the first moment, they kicked out all the Arabs, etc, etc. - the acceptance of the libels, the readiness to perceive the rights of every group except one's own, which is characteristic of a great many Jews, is a form of Jewish self-hatred."

At the end of the book, we see a few pages constituting "Zionism, a Centenary Platform," which was adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis at its annual convention in 1997. It shows the Reform movement's "unquestioning and unfading commitment to Israel."

I recommend this book.
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