13 September 2019
In a few days, Israelis will go to the polls to vote in the country’s second general election in just six months.
Many of us—across all generations—care deeply about the choices Israel makes and will be monitoring the results of this election and other developments with a close eye. As we know, elections have far-reaching implications. The leaders and policies that voters of any country choose to endorse often shape local, regional, and global realities in important and consequential ways.
What we should resist, however, is the temptation to conflate our relationship with a country, particularly Israel, with how we feel about any given leader or policy position. Israel is not simply an aggregation of policies, whether economic, social, or political, but rather an aspiration of the Jewish people to shape our own future and destiny. Nevertheless, given the inherently emotional and complex relationship that many of us have with Israel and its politics, it can be easy to find ourselves tying our support for the country primarily to its short-term politics. It can be easy to define our relationship with Israel based solely on who is leading its government.
At Federation, we see another way. We want to help people build an enduring and personal connection with Israel that transcends political waves, even long ones. We want to help people understand that supporting Israel is not the same as supporting all of its policies. We want to help people see that, just like America, Israel is both a fact and an idea in the making, with a powerful role to play in our lives and the life of global Jewish peoplehood.
To assist in this work, we are excited to welcome Noa Ohayon Bab as our new Senior Shlicha (Israeli emissary) from The Jewish Agency. Noa will serve as a central resource for Israel education and support our diverse efforts to help more community members build meaningful relationships with Israel. She will also help oversee Federation’s Congregational Shlichim Program, which brings cohorts of young Israelis to schools and synagogues so that more people have a chance to meet Israelis and learn about Israel beyond the headlines.
Speaking of which, I can’t help but recognize that political maneuvering involving Israel in the U.S. political arena will only get worse. In this hyper-partisan era, Israel will likely continue to be used as a wedge issue. I believe that, as a Jewish community, we must work to prevent that.
Our goal moving forward must be to resist the noise and political churn in both countries. We must remember that democracies cannot be defined solely by who is in power and that no one gets to define Israel for us. It is up to us to lead the way in transcending current political realities and strengthening our relationship with Israel, and Israel itself, in the long-term.