Gordis’ guide to loving Israel


A few weeks back we flagged Jay Michaelson’s "How I’m losing my love for Israel" essay in the Forward.

Now Daniel Gordis, a U.S.-born Conservative rabbi who made aliyah several years ago, responds with a powerful post on his blog:

So, yes, we’re exhausted.  And, if you’ll forgive me, I suspect that those of here are more exhausted than are those of you over there.  Life here is conducted under a pervasive cloud of exhaustion that my most of American friends simply don’t comprehend. …

The real question, I think, is not whether we’re exhausted, but rather what we do with our exhaustion.  What makes all the difference is not our fatigue, but what keeps us going when our tank feels empty, when it feels like all that’s left is fumes. …

Like you, Jay, I am concerned about some of the injustices that Israel commits.  But unlike you, I could never be “more relaxed [in Berlin] than in Jerusalem.”  You wrote very compellingly that you felt relieved that though there was political baggage in Berlin, “none of it was mine.”

But you know what I love about this place, Jay?  I love that all the political baggage is mine.  The Palestinians.  The Israeli Arabs.  (Some of) the Haredim.  A collapsing educational system.  Murders on the streets with a constancy we never used to have.  A nation of roads and drivers that kills many more Israelis than our enemies do.  That’s all my baggage. …

loving Israel isn’t like an affair.  It’s a totally different thing.  In a relationship, the person I love and I both matter – more or less equally, I guess.  But not here.  In this, I don’t matter.  You don’t matter.  Only justice matters.  Only the future matters.  Only the Jewish people’s survival matters.  And without this place, there is no future, no Jewish people.

Given that, what’s the alternative to a deep and abiding love?  I can’t think of one.  So tonight, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and head off to shul.  I’m going to put the news out of my mind, and for a few hours, I’m going to forget about the equivocation, about the fatigue.  I’m going to hold on to my son, the one kid still left at home – and when the singing starts, I’m going to dance.

Gordis’ response will certainly provide a boost to those who were angered by Michaelson’s essay, to those who haven’t lost that loving feeling. But is it an argument that will sway Diaspora Jews experiencing the same sort of alienation described by Michaelson. After all, Gordis is really writing from another vanatge point — from the perspective of an American who has chosen to live in Israel. Yes, it’s true, Gordis’ Israel-related exhaustion is probably greater, but so is his incentive for pressing forward. And, of course, one could convincingly argue that by making alyah, Gordis has already demonstrated that he is committed to a degree that Michaelson and the rest of us in the United States are not.  As Gordis himself notes, a "clarity of purpose" is often a vital ingredient for overcoming exhaustion — and in Michaelson’s case (and in the case of many liberal Jews like him) that’s what’s increasingly lacking as they see the Israel that they fell in love with drift away.

UPDATE: More importantly, what happens when you start losing your love for the bagel?

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