Our View: Party for Israel
OpinionOur View

Our View: Party for Israel

Sunday's community Israel@70 event should set the tone for continual Israel engagement.

Record your 70--second birthday video at the AJT booth at the Chill Zone on Sunday, April 29.
Record your 70--second birthday video at the AJT booth at the Chill Zone on Sunday, April 29.

Sunday, April 29, should be a big (and, we hope, sunny) day for Jewish Atlanta. The Israel@70 celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park could be the biggest gathering of the community since Federation celebrated its centennial with 7,000-plus people in the new Georgia Aquarium a dozen years ago.

If you’re part of a Jewish family or love Israel or both, don’t miss this opportunity to show it. You don’t need to spend the whole time at the party. Just check out the schedule in the AJT or at https://jewishatlanta.org/israel70, plan your visit to catch what interests you, and buy your extremely affordable tickets ($10 in advance or $18 at the door for individuals, $18 in advance or $25 at the door for a family).

Be sure to stop by the family-friendly Chill Zone, sponsored by the AJT, where the activities will include our own “70 Years, 70 Seconds.” We’ll offer everyone (free of charge) a chance to record a 70-second video birthday wish for Israel. Our plan is to post them all online as a communitywide collection of our love and support of Israel.

The more, the merrier — as is the case for the celebration at large and support for Israel in general. Our challenge will be to build on Sunday’s spirit all year long.

Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple made the point during the Israeli Consulate’s Yom HaAzmaut reception Wednesday, April 18: All who love Israel need to roll up our sleeves and participate in the work of building a nation that fulfills the best of the Jewish prophetic visions.

That means we should visit as often as possible, but we also should continually engage with our Jewish homeland. Keep up with the news from a range of sources. Participate in organizations that are involved with Israel. Listen to what other people have to say.

That last point is vital. A generation ago, Israel was the one thing we knew united us, but today the pro-Israel consensus is cracking, particularly among younger Jews.

It’s no accident that the youth-driven activist group IfNotNow has responded to Hamas-provoked violence along the Gaza border by protesting American Jewish institutions, or that a young Israeli led the effort by 51 student groups at New York University to boycott Israel and pro-Israel student organizations, or that students at Barnard College (where a third are Jewish) voted in favor of a BDS referendum.

Too many young Jews believe that neither Israel nor U.S. Jewish institutions will listen to them or will care what they have to say. As a result, we’re losing them as part of our community and as part of the Zionist dream.

As Jews and as humans, we are always going to have disagreements about Israel, from its borders to its policies toward its neighbors to its respect for diversity in Jewish practice. None of us should expect to see an Israel identical to our personal visions. But if we accept that disagreements over particulars don’t rule out belief in the big picture — an independent, democratic nation that is a haven and a home for all Jews who choose to live there — we can work together to ensure that the Zionist dream flourishes.

To start, let’s all pray for sun Sunday.

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