Rabbi Charges That Young U.S. Jews Have Developed Antipathy to Israel Because of War
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Rabbi Charges That Young U.S. Jews Have Developed Antipathy to Israel Because of War

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An American rabbi charged today that “the best young people of the American Jewish community” were developing an antipathy toward Israel as a result of the Six-Day War. Rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein, chaplain to Jewish students at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Hillel Foundation there, participated in the “American-Israeli Dialogue” at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth, sponsored by the American Jewish Congress. He said that these young Jews, frequently pacificist in their beliefs, had been appalled by Israel’s resort to military force. Indifferent to the Arab determination to annihilate Israel, he said, they have been shocked by the fact that Israel has had to observe the rule of naked power.

As a result, said Rabbi Rubenstein, Israel must face the possibility of an increasing alienation of the most sensitive element of the American Jewish community. This element was described as the young men and women of the New Left, imbued with “messianic liberalism and alien to the realities of power. It was,” he said, a generation that gives its”strength and passion to every man’s cause save its own.”

An Israeli writer, Shalom Ben-Horin, who took part in the American-Israeli exchange, told the visiting Americans that “if we in Israel are suffering from an overdose of nationalism, you in America are in danger of losing your Jewish consciousness altogether because you have failed sufficiently to emphasize the peoplehood aspect of what it is to be Jewish.”

Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, president of the AJCongress, opened the discussion with an admonition to both Israelis and Americans about their interdependence. “Without Israel to make us aware of our responsibilities and deepen our research for the meaning of our heritage,” he said, “we American Jews might easily become a placid element in the stream of Jewish history. Without a vigorous Jewish community in the United States to support Israel and keep the state alive to its long-range objectives, Israel might degenerate into a militarized, levantized state inviting destruction by failing to stand for its own future.”


A sharp attack on nationalism in Israel was made at today’s session by George Steiner, author and critic, who held the Albert Schweitzer chair of humanities at the City University of New York last year and is currently critic in residence at Churchill College, Cambridge University. “If one believes deeply that the nation-state is an obsolescent model for economic, political and moral association,” he said, “then the State of Israel looks like a solution which, in part at least, is irrelevant or even inimical to the obligation of Judaic humanism.”

The writer said he believed in supporting Israel financially and asserted that “my self-respect, my sense of spiritual identity could not endure if the State of Israel were to be destroyed. But at the same time,” he added, “someone like myself must work toward the evolution of political concepts and habits of personal and social feelings which will subvert tribalism and the nationalist mystique – the nightmare of our age.” He affirmed that “a man like myself must simultaneously labor for Israel and against it-or more exactly, against all those forms of power relations and nationalist sentiment which compel Israel to be an armed state and Just another nation among nations.”

Israeli nationalism was defended by Abraham Avihai of the Prime Minister’s staff. He said it was a cultural, spiritual and religious force, not militaristic or extremist or one that glorified force and violence but rather the spirit of man. “There is nothing wrong in trying to defend oneself and to be concerned with being part of something greater than our individualism,” he asserted. “But there is something terribly mistaken about throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

An Israeli writer Matti Megged, told the session that “as an Israeli, I don’t need any kind of apology for my Jewish existence. For me, Zionism is the only answer to Jewish existence.” Shulamit Aloni, a member of the Israel Parliament, said the “tribal association dating from Biblical days,” is not the Jew’s only claim to the land of Israel. She said that the League of Nations and then the United Nations had recognized the fact that Jewish pioneers had come to work the land and had succeeded in making every “stone bear fruit.”

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