Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

Why Do Jews Care So Much About Israel?

Last year I attended the Irish Fest in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The music and ambience make it one of most unforgettable days of the year.


Listening to a concert, I struck up a conversation with someone standing next to me. I told him I was a rabbi, and once we got past the usual incredulity and discussion of why I don’t have a beard, he turned serious.

“I’m Irish,” he said, “And I love Irish music. I’m here celebrating being Irish. But I don’t plan to move to Ireland. I don’t talk about it all the time. Why do Jews care so much about Israel? It’s all I hear—Israel, Israel, Israel.” 

Judging by his tone and manner, my new friend did ask this question in a pejorative way. He simply did not know. He thought Israel functioned for American Jews in the same Ireland functioned for Irish-Americans or Italy for Italian-Americans. A place of fondness and sentiment, but not of existential concern.

Many Wonder

His question is asked by many others. And it is of critical importance today, when Israel faces existential concerns, and when one of America’s largest church groups, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from several companies operating in Israel.

I found the very best way to sum up my answer is with an insightful joke from Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann. Someone asked Weizmann why the Jewish people would only accept a state in the land of Israel. There are so many other places where you could live.

Weizmann replied, “That’s like asking why you would drive 50 miles to see your grandma, when there are so many other nice old ladies in your neighborhood.” 

Israel’s Blessing

Israel is not just another country. It hold a unique place in our hearts. It is where the Bible was written. It is where Moses led a people scarred by slavery but enlivened by God’s promise. It is the place the prophet Isaiah described as God’s holy mountain, the source of truth and righteousness.

The Jewish people left only because they were forced out. And each time they were forced out, they sought to return.

Without Israel the Jewish people may not have survived the physical and psychological destruction of the Holocaust. Without Israel, there would be no Judaism, and the world would be poorer for it.

Feeling the Pain

Robert Frost once defined “home” as the place where “when you have to go there, they have to let you in.” Israel is that place for the Jewish people. Even those of us who do not live there recognize this truth.

Israel is not perfect. No country is. But Jews care about Israel in the some way a mother cares about her children. The Prophet Isaiah makes this very comparison, proclaiming “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you and in Jerusalem you will find comfort.”

When others unfairly attack our children, we feel pain. In the wake of the Presbyterian vote to divestment, we feel that pain.

Previous Posts

Why We Still Love Fiddler on the Roof After 50 Years
As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question. Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as parent of a seven-year-old, I would not have been so bold. Since that first experienc

posted 6:59:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Healing From Pain
I sat with the two children of a mother who had just passed away. They were recounting her life for me in preparation for the funeral. As we spoke, the mother’s long-time caretaker came into the room. She began to speak about their relationship. Though her English was not perfect, the three

posted 12:35:43pm Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Do You Know What Hurts Me? A Story
  A great rabbi went into a bar. He overheard a conversation between patrons.   One said to the other, “Friend, do you love me?” “Of course I do,” the second man replied. “We’ve known each other our whole lives.”   “Then tell me, friend,” said the first man, “

posted 1:01:07pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Does Religion Cause War?
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just

posted 12:36:26pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it. Williams was a singular genius. He brought

posted 2:26:21pm Aug. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.