Lost that loving feeling for Israel?


In his column at the Forward, Jay Michaelson explains why he’s losing his love for Israel:

To paraphrase a recent Jewish organizational tagline, I’ve “hugged and wrestled with Israel” for 20 years now. At first, it was all embrace: Zionist songs and culture nourished me like mother’s milk, and on my first trip to Israel I kissed the tarmac at Ben Gurion, as did the other USY (United Synagogue Youth) kids.

Eventually, the wrestling came to the fore, particularly as I became more conscious of Palestinians, settlements and religious-secular divides. In 2002, I wrote about being “a leftist and a Zionist” and how difficult it was to maintain those dual political identities. And for several years, I’ve argued for a more nuanced approach to Israel advocacy and education than the hail of falafel balls and the bludgeon of Taglit-Birthright.

But lately I’ve noticed that I’m becoming a candidate for advocacy myself. I’ve loved Israel for decades, lived there for three years, and studied in detail the subtleties of its society and conflicts. And so it is with the sadness that accompanies the end of any affair that I notice my love is starting to wane.

Michaelson offers four reasons, with plenty of explanation. But, for now, here are the bullet points:

1) "First, I admit, it has become simply exhausting to maintain the ambivalence, the hugging and the wrestling, the endless fence sitting."

2) "The second reason for my waning love of Israel is that the Israel I love is increasingly disappearing. It started in Jerusalem, with the exodus of the secular left and the slow, agonizing demise of the culture they created."

3) "The third way in which my love for Israel is waning is that I’ve started to second-guess the love itself."

4) "Finally, I think my love of Israel is fading because I feel personally implicated by its injustices, even though I have chosen to live in America and have relinquished my right to have any say over Israeli policy."

As luck would have it, in the very same issue of the Forward, Michael Kaminer has just what the doctor ordered: a feature story on the first all-Israeli gay porn film. Michael Lucas, the man behind “Men of Israel," explains that he’s simply trying to boost Israel’s image.

Lucas claims that his motivation behind “Men of Israel” was not just titillation, but also a counterbalance to lopsided portrayals of Israel in mainstream media. “It’s free PR for Israel, and it’s much better than the PR they’re getting on the news,” he said during a tour of the company’s expansive second-floor offices, with views of the New York Times building across the street. “The reality is that Israel has only one face to people on the street, and that’s the West Bank and Gaza. All people see in the media is a country of disaster. They get images of a blown-up bus.”

By contrast, Lucas said, the images in “Men of Israel” — filmed in telegenic Tel Aviv, Haifa and desert locations by Israeli fashion photographer Ronen Akerman — amount to a pornographic stimulus campaign for gay tourism.

“Nobody goes to Israel for Golda Meir, I’m so sorry,” Lucas said in heavily Russian-accented English. “People don’t care that you have a great orchestra, and they’re not particularly interested in the Holocaust museum. Gay people, and straight people, want beautiful beaches, beautiful nature, beautiful men and women, good food, good hotels. Israel shouldn’t be mistaken about why people go there. They need me.” Neither the Israeli Consulate nor the Israel Ministry of Tourism office in New York returned calls or e-mails for comment.

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