Kingdom of Priests

David Goldman recounts a classic Jewish joke and draws the right lesson for any discussion of Israel. It concerns a Jewish family that

invites a poor man to Sabbath dinner. The hostess brings out a dish of smoked whitefish, and the poor man proceeds to wolf it down. Chagrined, the hostess says, “You know, whitefish is very expensive.” Between mouthfuls the poor man replies, “Believe me — it’s worth it!”

There are a lot of things that are worth it when you don’t have to pay for it yourself, and one of them is Jewish blood.

That’s a great way of encapsulating my objection to American Jews who feel entitled to tell Israel what to do — whether that is giving up land or holding on to it. Remember all the storm and cries from the American Jewish “hawk” community over Israel’s decision to evacuate Gaza? Especially when I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I recall often hearing Jews talk about what Israel “must” do, in the first person plural: “we.” These were people who might visit Israel with some frequency but who didn’t live there, never served in the military there (or anywhere else), had no children living there — in short, people whose stake in Israel’s future was religious and sentimental but not personal in the real sense of having your person — your life or that of your family, your blood — at risk. They lived safe and secure lives as American Jews.
It was altogether too easy for these people to thump their chests and take a hard line. How dare they comport themselves as “hawks”? Or as “doves,” for that matter.
Jews who live in the land of Israel aren’t any wiser than we are but whatever decisions they make about settlements and similar matters will very directly affect their personal safety. It won’t particularly affect mine, except insofar as I spend optional time in Israel on business or as a tourist. It’s my business to pray for their well being, to ask God to bless them with wisdom and courage as citizens and soldiers. It’s none of my business to tell them what they — “we” — should do.
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