Two views | Lamenting our lost connection to Jerusalem

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For an Israeli diplomat and father, too many questions remain


In the aftermath of Tisha B’Av, when we read the saddest book of the Bible — Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem — I am also feeling a great sadness for the current destruction of the American Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

When I was younger, in the post-Six-Day War era, Israel was the light around which world Jewry would unite, especially after the Holocaust.

Today, that is no more. We are at a point at which Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has decided to make Israel a partisan issue in American politics and to align the Jewish state with the Republican Party.  He repeatedly has sought to denounce and undermine President Barack Obama —  from the last presidential elections to the recently concluded nuclear deal with Iran. Regardless of whether the nuclear deal is the best one possible or not, Netanyahu has made a “historic mistake,” to reuse his term, by making Israel a cause of the Republicans while sacrificing the support of many Democratic leaders and voters.

At this point, the nuclear negotiations are done. A veto-proof rejection of the accord in Congress would simply destroy the agreement and show that Israel can overpower the policies of this Democratic president via its alliance with the Republican majority in Congress.

What Netanyahu and so many Israelis repeatedly have failed to understand over the years is that American Jews are more American than Jewish. Given that the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats it is likely that they will remain Democrats and not be swayed toward the Republican camp  in order to support Israel. Furthermore, it appears from polls that on the Iranian issue, this majority actually supports the position of the president they voted for. To use the term that Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s former ambassador to the United States, has used in a different context, Netanyahu has created daylight between supporting Israel and being an American Democrat. As a result, Democrats, including most American Jews, will just become more angry, more distant and less supportive of Israel.

This tension will not resolve itself to the benefit of Israel. American Jews, especially younger ones, will just be less connected to Israel — and less connected to those Jewish institutions that insist on loyalty to an Israel that does not stand for the liberal values they hold dear. American Jews hold these views for good reason  — because they have been the values that underlie their acceptance as full citizens in this country. When it comes to issues like the ongoing occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands or the longstanding dismissal of religious worship embraced by most non-Orthodox American Jews, especially with regard to gender equality, Israel does not embody these values of pluralism and tolerance.

I lament for the time when Israel and Jerusalem were a cause for Jewish unity and pride. And as the Prophet Jeremiah was believed to have written in Lamentations, I, too, hope for a renewal of those days as of old. But, like the prophet, I suspect that this will only come in the messianic era.

Ron H. Feldman, chief financial officer at the JCC of the East Bay, has a Ph.D. in Jewish history and culture from the Graduate Theological Union, where he is a visiting scholar.