Which Israel Are You Talking About?

Which Israel Are You Talking About?


By Dave Schechter / dschechter@atljewishtimes.com

Excuse me.

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

I hear you talking and you make your points strenuously, but which Israel are you talking about?

I often want to interrupt discussions and ask that question.

What do you mean? Israel is Israel.

It’s not that simple.

If you ask “Do you support Israel?” I want to know which Israel you are talking about.

Unless it’s clear which Israel is being talked about, conversation may degenerate to argument, using slogans written on bathroom walls (or, if you prefer, in online comment sections).

There is the quasi-fairy tale many of us were raised on in Sunday school, contrasted with the Israel that exists today: diverse ethnically, culturally, racially, politically and economically and home to roughly 43 percent of the world’s Jews (themselves diverse religiously).

So, which Israel are you talking about?

Do you mean Israel “the Jewish state” or the Israel whose citizens are 75 percent Jewish but also 17 percent Muslim and fewer than 2 percent each Christian and Druze — or, put another way, 75 percent Jewish and nearly 21 percent Arab?

Do you mean Israel the Jewish nation or Israel the democracy, and are these (with a nod to Gershom Gorenberg) opposing or complementary terms?

Do you mean Israel within the 1949-1967 armistice lines or post-1967 Israel, which includes control of territory that much of the world refers to as the West Bank but that many Jews call the biblical lands of Judaea and Samaria?

Do mean the Israel of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians or the Israel of a two-state solution or the Israel of a one-state “solution”?

Do you mean the Israel of Tel Aviv beaches and nightlife and Jerusalem holy sites or the Israel of “settlements” in disputed West Bank territory, border checkpoints and a separation fence?

Do you mean the Israel that encourages all Jews to make aliyah or the Israel in which non-Orthodox Jews are discriminated against in matters of marriage, divorce and conversion?

Do you mean the Israel world-renowned for its medical and high-tech sectors or the Israel in which nearly 22 percent of the citizens live in poverty away from the hotels that cater to tourists?

Do you mean the Israel that American Jews hold fervent opinions about or the Israel that more than half of American Jews have never stepped foot in?

Do you mean the Israel in which citizens carry on a 24/7 debate about every aspect of life in their country or the Israel that American Jews talk about, the one in which openly discussing some issues can be problematic?

Do you mean the Israel that suggests American Jews make aliyah or refrain from offering advice or the Israel that receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid and counts on American Jews to lobby their elected representatives on its behalf?

Do you mean the Israel that calls itself (and is) America’s greatest ally in a difficult region or the Israel that sometimes behaves as if it takes American support for granted?

Do you mean the Israel that brings us such naches or (and) the Israel that can cause us such tsuris?

Little about Israel is black or white. Many of the “or” statements above could be “and” or “and/or.” Discussing these and other issues is important in itself because it means we care. Each of us has our own personal Israel, and no two will be the same.

So, which Israel are YOU talking about?

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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