Hey Israel, is America still the Golden Medina?


Writing in the Forward, David Hazony says the real story in the fight over those "come back to Israel before your kids turn into Americans" ads is not the ads themselves. No, according to Hazony, the real story is the "hysteria of the response, the insecurity of American Jewish life."

Say what you will about the political wisdom, the fear-mongering, and so forth, on the part of the Israelis. The fact is, at the heart of the campaign lies a truth too painful for many American Jews to handle: That the chances of one’s grandkids ending up identifying as Jewish are indeed significantly higher in Israel than they are in the U.S. — and that this is important in thinking about our future. I really do believe that if American Jews were to step outside their own emotions for just a moment, to stop changing the subject and actually focus on the issue being raised, they’d admit that, seen from an Israeli perspective, the fear expressed in these ads is, to a large extent, quite justified….

So hey, American Jews, consider this a wake-up call. It’s too easy to change the subject, to blame Netanyahu or the “clinical-sounding” Ministry of Immigrant Absorption for that uncomfortable feeling you get when Jews in other countries look at your numbers and worry about our collective future.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle insecure. A self-assured ad campaign would play up all that Israel has to offer its expats rather than rely on emotional scare tactics.

But that’s not the only way Hazony has it backwards — one could just as easily argue that the wake-up call in all this should be for those who preach Israel as the bulwark against assimilation and the loss of Jewishness brought on by the Enlightenment, emancipation and McDonald’s. Instead of sounding off about the psyche of American Jews, maybe Hazony should focus his brainpower on the question of why so many Israelis are leaving Israel. Is it a flaw in Zionist execution — are Israelis fleeing a country that is too (fill in the blank). Or, at the end of the day, are Israelis just like most other folks in the world who see the United States as the place to make it big?

If it’s the former, then the real story is that Israel needs to start fixing whatever is broken. If it’s the latter, then the Zionist premise of Jewish nationalism providing the most durable, primary form of Jewish identity is called into question. What does it mean if at the end of the day many Israelis are as eager to leave Israel for New York as their great-grandparents were to leave Eastern Europe for the shores of Ellis Island?

Recommended from JTA