by: MJ Rosenberg on March 8th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Ari Shavit, the Israeli journalist, has been traveling the United States recently (promoting his book) and has discovered what those of us who live here already know: Israel is a cause for Jews over 70 (and not most of them either). Below that general cutoff, most Jews have strayed from the reservation. And that cutoff will slip even further back soon. In 2016, the first baby-boomers turn 70. At the point, Shavit will need to revise his age cutoff to 71, then 72, etc. The Woodstock/McGovern Jews/Viet war protestors are not that into Israel.
As for their kids and grand kids, with the exception of the Orthodox who represent a tiny minority, they have flown the coop. Shavit writes:
Over the last few months, I’ve visited about a dozen leading American universities. I’ve spoken to thousands of people, and listened to hundreds. The situation is unambiguous: We’re losing the future. The younger generation of American Jews is much more Barack Obama than it is Netanyahu. Its world of values is the liberal world. Its perception of reality is a pacifist perception. It utterly rejects the occupation, the use of force and human rights violations.
Shavit then discusses the post-70 year old people who remain enthusiastic about Israel. He means no disrespect:
American Jews in their 70s deserve great admiration. As a rule, their personal life stories are incredibly impressive. Their community’s success story is a tremendous one. Over the last half century, they have created and consolidated a Diaspora Jewry the likes of which has never been seen before. They deserve a medal of honor. Seriously, a medal of honor.
But, he writes, their day is over. And unless and until Israel recreates itself as a secular, progressive country (not an occupier), they will be the last American Jewish generation that cares about Israel much at all.
For me, this is sad. Every single one of my Jewish friends cared deeply about Israel in college and still do. Every one of us repeatedly visited Israel on our own dime (unlike today when Jewish kids have to be paid to go to Israel). And most of us still are into Israel, although we all oppose its policies.
But the kids. Forget about it. Jewish kids, like their non-Jewish friends, do not think ethnically. Pick friends ethnically. Choose causes ethnically. Or marry ethnically.
Today, the battle for the Jewish future isn’t being waged in the luxury penthouses but on the lower floors of the house. Blue and white? If blue and white wants to be relevant in the land of the red, white and blue, it must redefine itself.
Even without the occupation, Israel would have a hard time redefining. But with it, it’s hopeless.
As one J Street college organizer told me: J Street and AIPAC have to draw from the same pool on campus, the tiny minority who are interested in Israel at all. Our message is more appealing than AIPAC’s but most Jewish kids don’t care at all, one way or the other.
Maybe someday that will change. And maybe young Jews will someday start voting Republican. One is as likely as the other.
You have to give Yigal Amir and the rabbis who inspired him credit: he didn’t just kill a man, he killed a dream.