Israelis had a rough week. The country was subjected to a barrage of nearly 1,000 rockets and missiles fired at it by Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists. Though for the most part, the Iron Dome air-defense system did its work admirably, stopping 91% of projectiles, one got through and scored a direct hit at an apartment building in the central Israeli city of Rehovot, killing one man and wounding five others.
But as is usually the case when their country is under attack from foes who wish their destruction, Israelis pulled together, united behind their government, and carried on with normal life as much as possible.
The resilience of Israelis in the face of challenges that might break other people is one of the most remarkable aspects of life in the Jewish state. The country has been torn apart in recent months by a bitter, divisive and often disingenuous battle that was supposedly about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to reform the judiciary but was really a naked struggle for political power.
While it would be an exaggeration to say that this was all forgotten amid the fighting, sirens and air raids, this past week’s events demonstrate that even in the worst of times, the vast majority of Israelis are able to rise above their differences and present a fairly united front to an often hostile world. Indeed, it was enough to frustrate the gaggle of anti-Zionist columnists at the Haaretz opinion section, who lamented the way Israelis put aside their politics and stood by their right to self-defense against people trying to kill them.
The same can’t be said about many American Jews looking on at the struggle in the Middle East with their usual mix of support, criticism and plain-old indifference.
It’s true that most of those who play leadership roles in the Jewish community made statements expressing solidarity with Israel and opposition to the terrorists. But as Jewish communities are in the process of holding some of their Israel Independence Day festivals timed to May 14, there was no massive outpouring of support for the Jewish state, as was the case in previous generations when it was under attack.
While many blame this on dislike of Netanyahu and his policies, it has little to do with him and everything to do with the changing demography of a community increasingly assimilated and lacking in a sense of Jewish peoplehood. With the fastest-growing sector of American Jewry being what demographers label “Jews of no religion,” it’s little surprise that a sectarian idea like Zionism would be a hard sell for those who feel no particular loyalty to their group identity.
Image - Yonatan Sindel/Flash90