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The west is safer for Jews than Israel (duh)

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It’s an old trend– Jewish Israelis leaving Israel, there are said to be hundreds of thousands of them — but it was in the news twice this week.

The Forward’s Emily Hauser (who got out 16 years ago for the USA) reported on this tune by the band Shmemel:

The video features Israeli after Israeli in various international locales singing and dancing with signs in their hands:

“I left for Amsterdam.”
“I left for New York.”
“I left for Tokyo.”
“I left for Berlin.”

Rogel Alpher wrote in Haaretz last week— headline “Israel is my home, but I can no longer live here”–  that Israel is too dangerous and he’s a secular person in an increasingly intolerant fundamentalist society:

I need to leave the country. My Israeliness and my Jewishness are not essential to my identity. I hold a foreign passport, not just technically, but psychologically. Israel is my home but it is not correct to say I have no other….

If you identify with me you will certainly admit that you will encourage your children to seek their future elsewhere in the world, for the sake of their personal security, psychological and economic wellbeing. Israel is not worth the price it is exacting from us. There is a nationalist-religious-ultra-Orthodox majority, and our lifestyle will not survive in our homeland. We have a much better chance of maintaining it elsewhere. That’s the truth.

I cannot justify to my children continuing to live here. Israel is a dangerous place, which takes much more than it gives, for reasons that I do not accept. From my perspective, what goes for Tel Aviv goes for the communities on the Gaza border: You cannot live a good life here. You can die here, you can take shelter or you can simply leave.

I wonder when the New York Times is going to cover this trend. And when American media are going to show us the intolerant Israel that Max Blumenthal revealed in Goliath.

And when American Jews will at last be forced to declare how important Israelness is to their lived identities, as opposed to being a mythical ideal that summons their political support.

For all the horrifying depredations of ISIS’s Islamic state, what is the destiny of a Jewish state? Says Alpher:

I am trying to be realistic, like Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach. He claims that we must concede that in our lifetime and that of our children, every few years we will have to wage a war in which civilians will be killed too. He is right. These are the facts of our lives. Missiles will continue to fall on us, because of settlers like him and because of extremist Arab groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic State.

My fate and the fate of my children will be determined here by people who have a God whom they talk to and in whose name they act. I think they are crazy.

Orbach’s is precisely the vision of my mother’s best friend in Jerusalem, who years ago told me there would be one war after another “till the Arabs accept us.” Is that vision of a future really worth the idea/ideal/golem of a Jewish state?

Is Jonah Shepp’s American-Jewish-Zionist declaration (at Sullivan’s site yesterday) true?

Diaspora Jews of my [youthful] generation may be much less attached to Israel than our parents and grandparents, but when push comes to shove, we’d rather it exist than not, because we know that our permission to live freely and safely in any other country can be withdrawn at any moment. In our history as a people, we have seen it happen time and time again with devastating consequences. With a well-armed territorial state to our name, we no longer have to fear those consequences.

And what about when push comes to shove for Palestinians? Does that count in American Jewish moral reckoning? Oh well, I see this post has ended in a very different place than where it began. I’ll stop now.

Thanks to Terry Weber.

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48 Responses

  1. just
    September 6, 2014, 10:03 am


    I read this article in Haaretz about Rabbi Rosen, and it includes this:

    ““I gradually became a Palestine solidarity activist rather than liberal Zionist” ”
    In the wake of the Gaza war “a lot of rabbis are really concerned about speaking out about Israel-Palestine. There’s a kind of loyalty oath or litmus test that a lot of people feel,” Kleinbaum said.

    “Israel has always been the third rail for rabbis,” Rosen told Haaretz. “As a new generation of rabbis coming up who don’t necessarily share the assumptions about Israel that former generations did it’s becoming more difficult, absolutely.””

    • Pixel
      September 6, 2014, 11:57 pm

      @ just

      “in the wake of the Gaza war…”

      I know it wasn’t your point or how you truly feel but I’m always sad to read Gaza “war” anywhere, especially at MW. It was so not a “war.” :o(

      (If I knew how to type an emoticon with a tear coming down it’s cheek, I’d use that instead.)

  2. ritzl
    September 6, 2014, 10:42 am

    So what are emigrés going to do, come here and wistfully lobby for aid to their homeland? Join Zionist congregations? Subscribe to, and participate in, all the enabling behaviors abroad that created and sustain the problems which are “forcing” them to leave?

    Are these emigrés of the 5% who did NOT support the latest (or any) Israeli slaughter of Palestinians? Or are they part of the 95% of Jewish Israelis who did support the routine and ongoing slaughter of Palestinians? Are they just trying to hide behind distance so they don’t have to see the slaughter of Palestinians up close.

    Are they Liberal Zionists who seek rights for themselves but don’t really give a rat’s behind for others who are dead and dying (as a result of their cherished Zionism) just a few meters away?

    Or, in the best of all possible worlds, will they emigrate and join JAZN or JVP-type groups, akin to Miko Peled’s personal journey?

    Etc., Etc., Etc.

    How do these questions get answered? Keep in mind, these are the people unwilling to stay and fight for change in their own country. Will their personalities change at their destinations or are they just skimmers?

    I’m tempted to react with a simple, reflexive, “Not Welcome!”, but it’s really more of a “Clean up your own mess!” feeling (perhaps with location options).

    I know all this isn’t the point of the article, but it is part of the context. We have enough problems in this country without this one being exacerbated by a bunch of Israelis that can’t stand the heat they helped create, and simply want to feel comfortable again without lifting a finger to address the underlying condition.

    Note: Some of the answers to these questions may be actually be positive and/or constructive in solving this problem.

    • just
      September 6, 2014, 11:13 am

      Really good questions ritzl.

    • Shmuel
      September 6, 2014, 11:47 am

      Good questions, Ritzl. Alpher wrote that he’s not talking about morality, and the gist of the Shmemel clip is we want self-fulfilment and are tired of patriotism, victimism, manipulation and fear-mongering: we want to be “normal”.

      The political views of those leaving or planning on leaving are probably pretty representative of Israeli society as a whole – with a certain leftward (and socio-economic) bias. It’s not that right-wingers aren’t leaving; it’s just that they’re not making video clips about it.

      I happen to agree with Alpher (and Yossi Nehushtan and others who have been writing similar things) that there is no liberal-democratic future in Israel. More and more liberal Israelis come to this conclusion with each successive crisis. I don’t think the numbers are such that this will have a significant impact on Israeli politics, but “it goes to state of mind”, as they say — hopefully, among Israel’s liberal supporters abroad as well.

      • ritzl
        September 7, 2014, 5:21 pm

        ” …hopefully, among Israel’s liberal supporters abroad as well.”

        I hope so too, Shmuel.

        I don’t know if you agree with Mooser or not on the desirability of a split/branching within the Jewish community on Israel. I believe I do, if only from an outsider’s need for clarity. I hope the forces compelling “left-biased” Israelis to leave are/become equally compelling, as you say, among Israel’s liberal supporters abroad, in pursuit of that clarity. IOW, hasten the split.

        I’m not feeling quite well at the moment, so I hope that makes sense. I just wanted to respond before too much time passed.


      • Shmuel
        September 7, 2014, 5:41 pm


        Historically and ontologically, Judaism is in the rifts not the unity, as painful as the processes themselves may be. I don’t know whether there will ever be “clarity”, but I do think that a significant number of liberal Jews outside Israel are losing their emotional ties and commitment to that country – not because they have re-examined the ideology of Zionism, but because they can’t identify with where Israel is going (in a sense paralleling the Israeli Alphers and Nehushtans).

        Be well, and thanks for taking the trouble to reply.

    • American
      September 6, 2014, 3:05 pm

      @ riztl

      The last thing the US or any country needs is an even bigger Israel Zionist lobby preying upon their government and nation.
      They wanted their own country, they got one, let them clean it up.

    • chauncey
      September 6, 2014, 9:08 pm

      Ditto. Good analysis, ritzl. It sure is hard to feel sorry for this fellow, Rogel. Woe is him. His life is in danger and his economic wellbeing is at risk. Does he ever mention the wellbeing of the Palestinians? ( I linked to the article but I am not a subscriber.) Are they just grass to be mown?

    • AbigailOK
      September 9, 2014, 5:29 am

      ritzl: Thank you, my thoughts exactly. Although I’m sure there are who leave because of the intolerance (almost a eufemism), I too get the feeling lots are not wanting to go on living in a society with national religious people although they grew up with them since they have not been parachuted into israel yesterday.

      I don’t read anything about discovering the truth vis-a-vis the inception of the state or what even went on before and after. But rather, they want an easier life without much ado.

      I wonder how many among them are hasbara types to go on pushing the agenda in jewish communities abroad like here in the netherlands were from time to time we have an “expert”telling the jews how to think basically. (Another reason I stopped going to shul).

      I wonder whether – although I did check the box – I get follow-up comments of others in my inbox or whether that got lost in the process of changing the lay-out as well? Still no “edit” button restored either….???

    • Rusty Pipes
      September 9, 2014, 2:27 pm

      Speaking of the “clean up your own mess” feeling, how about leaving the remaining settlers in charge of hundreds of nukes. And Americans are told to worry about takfiris getting ahold of some nukes (as though Pakistan wouldn’t have been glad to sell them some ages ago).

  3. pabelmont
    September 6, 2014, 11:00 am

    “Israel is not worth the price it is exacting from us. There is a nationalist-religious-ultra-Orthodox majority, and our lifestyle will not survive in our homeland – See more at:

    [A]: The highlight/copy on the NEW MondoWeiss seems ALWATS to add the see-more text (see the quote above). This vexes me.

    [B] The NYT and Forward (I guess) do not print this stuff because the RELIGION of USA Jews is to keep an imaginary and wonderful Israel in mind (land of milk and honey), and this sort of reality (as also one hopes the Gaza sort of relaity) spoils the religious image. NYT policy is “to hell with reality if it spoils the dream.” (Also, “money talks”.)

    • AbigailOK
      September 9, 2014, 5:41 am

      @ pabelmont It’s not the religious image imho. Or not only, at least. It’s the way you put it before: the imaginary wonderful israel that unfortunately never existed but in many a jew’s mind to exist so they can run to it in case of danger. Selfishness. Me, myself and I and to hell with anyone else esp. the Palestinians.

      Since the older generations – unlike nowadays jewish students and under – grew up with lies and myths (= propaganda) pertaining to the skillfully concocted tale of wonder and beauty and apparently needed tales of heroism of the soldier/farmer in the land of milk and honey state of israel which always is the hated victim of its neighbors, that and the willful complicity of Judoren and Bronner at NYT and others, nothing will probably change.

      Even with B’tselem, HaMoked, Gisha, Breaking the Silence, Jewish Voice for Peace, etc. etc. It’s easier to have an easy life in dreamland than to face the truth and speak up. Believe me, without the American Jewish community’s voice thundering Washington can continue to give full military and other support (like drilling for oil and gas) without having to change their act. Idem israel itself.

  4. Mooser
    September 6, 2014, 11:09 am

    “There is a nationalist-religious-ultra-Orthodox majority, and our lifestyle will not survive in our homeland”

    I suppose it had to happen. People are moving away from Israel. It’s getting way too Jewish.

    • bilal a
      September 6, 2014, 1:59 pm

      The Joan Rivers / Sara Silverman shtick does not work in an authentically Jewish culture but Hollywood has remade America into a vibrant host . This explains anti zionist diaspora politics; they dont care about arab human rights in egypt; they jdont want the Israelis to ruin a good gig in LA/NY.

      • Mooser
        September 6, 2014, 6:59 pm

        “they dont care about arab human rights in egypt; they jdont want the Israelis to ruin a good gig in LA/NY.”

        That’s right, there are lots of damned good reasons to despise Zionism, before one even gets to the treatment meted out to the Palestinians.

    • AbigailOK
      September 9, 2014, 5:46 am

      @Mooser You call the nationalist-religious zionists jewish? There is nothing Jewish about pogroms, rallies with “death to the arabs”(mavet la aravim), stealing land, demolishing houses, beating up Palestinians, having raw sewage flood Palestinian farmland, demolishing crops, cutting down fruit trees and thus stealing and destroying livelihoods, throwing Palestinians out of their houses for settlers to steal (inhabit) them immediately which is also a daily occurence in Jerusalem a.o. places inside the state/green line.

      Sometimes your comments are mind-boggling….

  5. jon s
    September 6, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Have no fear , the next Prime Minister of Israel will be Mandy Patinkin:

  6. surewin
    September 6, 2014, 1:52 pm

    “…we know that our permission to live freely and safely in any other country can be withdrawn at any moment. In our history as a people, we have seen it happen time and time again with devastating consequences. With a well-armed territorial state to our name, we no longer have to fear those consequences.” – Jonah Shepp

    Nowadays, if one country with a large but not too large Jewish presence were to expel its Jews, a globally-coordinated effort would be able to resettle them in Israel. But if the diaspora Jews became collectively fearful of generalized international hostility, it would not be possible for anywhere near all of them to move to Israel and live normally there. Not possible logistically, economically, practically. Israel might be seen as a safe haven for Jews targeted locally, but it does not have the capacity for a global ingathering.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      September 6, 2014, 3:16 pm

      When I read this comment, it struck me how so many Jews have chosen to live in the past. Most ‘diaspora’ Jews live in liberal Western democracies like the US. I’m not saying it could never ever happen, but it’s highly unlikely that an entire ethnic group would just be expelled. And if it were to happen, there would be several groups, at least in the US, more likely to be victims than mostly prosperous, well-integrated Jews.

      So quite aside from the fact that the injustice done to Palestinians doesn’t figure into this ‘argument’, the idea that Jews can’t feel safe in the ‘diaspora’ and need a ‘spare country’ just in case, seems to be the same old eternal victimhood nonsense. And of course, these same people would justify any atrocity committed by Israel on the grounds that it is ‘fighting for its very existence. So Israel is a safe haven when that suits, and suffering from an existential threat when that suits.

      • Mooser
        September 6, 2014, 7:01 pm

        “I’m not saying it could never ever happen, but it’s highly unlikely that an entire ethnic group would just be expelled”

        All the thnic groups in America are highly intermarried. It would be impossible to delineate one for expulsion.

      • Citizen
        September 7, 2014, 7:50 am

        @ Mooser

        Overall, the intermarriage rate in US is at 58 %, up from 43 % in 1990 and 17 % in 1970. Among non-Orthodox Jews, the intermarriage rate is 71 %.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        September 7, 2014, 10:58 am

        I suppose you could argue that Jews were fairly well integrated in pre-war Germany too. Croats and Serbs were often intermarried in Bosnia. Of course I’m not trying to make a hysterical ”It could happen again” argument, but integration is not neccessarily a bar to ethnic cleansing.

      • AbigailOK
        September 9, 2014, 5:48 am

        @ Maximus Decimus Meridius

        +1 !

  7. Kay24
    September 6, 2014, 2:05 pm

    I sometimes look at the US as it is today, and realized in some ways it is almost unrecognizable.
    I was miserable during the Bush administration and the wars we have been fighting ever since we attacked Afghanistan. We have poured in trillions, killed hundreds of thousands, and still pay for those wars. I am beginning to realize that we are controlled by an alien nation who kills, maims and destroys, and gets away with it. I can understand how moderate and left leaning Israelis must feel today, when they look hard at what their extremist government keeps doing, the brutality shown towards civilians, an occupation they do not agree with, wars are waged at the slightest excuse, and many of them disagree with land theft and illegal settlements.
    They are however silenced by the loud voices of right wingerss, who keeps calling the shots.
    Just as our voices were ignored when the Bush war criminals attacked Iraq for no obvious reason.

    I do not fault these Israelis for wanting to leave. I felt like leaving many times too.
    There is a sense of helplessness that comes over you, when you strongly disagree with what
    your government is doing in your name.

    • Kris
      September 6, 2014, 4:03 pm

      @Kay24: “There is a sense of helplessness that comes over you, when you strongly disagree with what your government is doing in your name.”

      I feel the same way. It is like being in a Greek chorus, crying out that hubris will lead to disaster, but never being heard. What makes it even worse is knowing that things don’t have to be this way, if only we didn’t allow sociopaths to rule our lives.

      This morning I read this essay by Fidel Castro, “Which Will Triumph: Just Ideas or Disaster?” and I remembered his “Operación Milagro” (Operation Miracle) . Operation Miracle just celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing free eye care to the poor of 34 countries. More than 2.6 million patients have been treated, for free. The “Miracle” is that so many of these people who would have become blind, have had their vision saved.

      On the other hand, U.S. is carrying out military “operations” in 134 countries.

      • Kay24
        September 6, 2014, 11:23 pm

        Kris, I think things are out of our control. We will never see the US break away from the evil spell cast by Israel, the control in Congress, the media, and even think tanks, in our lifetime.
        Until then, we will have to suffer through the wars, weapons and aid to Israel, and seeing our leaders shamelessly dancing to Israel’s tune.

      • Citizen
        September 7, 2014, 7:59 am

        I feel the same way. BTW, in USA these says, You have to be more than half-blind with corrected binocular vision to maybe get the most basic cataract surgery paid for by Medicare (at least 20/40, now tending toward the rule as per Medicare Advantage plans (20/50). You need corrected vision of at least 20/40 to get or keep a state vehicle driving license in the USA.

  8. yonah fredman
    September 6, 2014, 4:44 pm

    The question deserves a reasoned response, but sitting in Brooklyn, I am among the guilty, not willing to move to Israel and fight the fight against the right wing in Jerusalem.

    There have been two responses to Alpher on the op ed page of the english edition of haaretz in the last week or so: One by Ilana hammerman and the other by uri avneri.

    i am too old and too experienced to fear for my life on american soil. In 1968 new york city, the teacher’s strike and the black versus jewish tension led to an explosion of fear among Jews. It could happen here in 5 to 10 years, one teacher stated. even at 13 i was wise enough to reject this: “in 50 years, maybe, in 5 to 10 years, not.”

    my support for israel is not based on it as a refuge for american jews, but as the home of the jews currently living there.

    but read ilana hammerman and uri avneri to get a true feel of the left in israel’s reaction to alpher.

    • Mooser
      September 6, 2014, 8:27 pm

      ” “in 50 years, maybe,”

      1968 + 50 + 2008. Do you hear any box cars rattling?

    • Mooser
      September 6, 2014, 8:34 pm

      ” I am among the guilty, not willing to move to Israel and fight the fight against the right wing in Jerusalem.”

      Yonah, c’mon, who the hell are you trying to kid? Do you think people are that stupid. If you were in Israel, you wouldn’t just be in the right wing, you would probably be a leader in it.
      You have the moral and ethical independence of a jellyfish. You would just go with the tide.

  9. yonah fredman
    September 6, 2014, 4:55 pm

    Recently read “Shadows on the Hudson” by I.B. Singer. The shadows were Jews in NYC in post world war II dealing with their singeresque lives on the upper west side, still traumatized by the abyss. When one character’s gentile daughter in law wants to raise her child Jewish, the Jewish mother in law avers: “why? better to not be jewish. the world hates us too much.”

    2014 is not 1947, but this web site is too ahistorical, expressing no knowledge or consciousness of any state of mind other than that of 2014 america, totally ignorant of other parts of Jewish post world war II history- both times and places. Without a foot or a toe in Jewish history beyond this place and moment in time, how can the journalism here (regarding Jewish identity) be anything other than superficial?

    • Mooser
      September 6, 2014, 7:14 pm

      Yonah, what the hell does a fictional book, have to do with it?
      If you want to say that Jewish stories are worth Palestinians lives, just come out and say it.
      You are always going round in circles trying not to say stuff.

      So, if the site won’t embrace your self-serving sentimentalist picture of Jews and Judaism, it’s “a-historical”? Sure, okay.

      Funny, I feel like I’ve read a lot of history here. You know, instead of Zionist fiction.

      • Mooser
        September 6, 2014, 7:17 pm

        And gosh, I mean, is there anything “siperficial” about saying “My religion entitles me to a piece of land, and to take it from those living there!”
        That’s not a superficial Jewishness, of no! That’s the deepest kind of Judaism! Men are willing to kill for it! That’s how deep it goes! And we know that men, mankind, never, ever kills over anything “superficial”.

    • just
      September 6, 2014, 7:17 pm

      Almost everybody knows ‘Jewish history’. Most of us have been drenched in it.

      Makes it very difficult to make sense of the present.

      • Mooser
        September 6, 2014, 7:25 pm

        “Makes it very difficult to make sense of the present.”

        Really? Seem pretty straight out to me. Basically, after a couple of bad Centuries (and being victims of some of the worst crimes, too) we were too knocked around not to fall for a con, a fraud by some smooth operators, trading on the troubles of many Jews, and being of service to empires. And here we are. We fell for a con. One of the oldest in the book, too.

    • Kris
      September 6, 2014, 7:23 pm

      This website is ignorant of Jewish history post WW-2? What makes you think that, @yonah fredman?

      Nakba to Operation Protective Edge, it’s all right here on mondoweiss. There have also been plenty of articles and comments detailing the role (negative) of Zionist Neocons on U.S. foreign policy and on U.S. and foreign governments. What do you think mondoweiss has missed?

      Maybe instead of reading novels about the suffering of Jews immediately following the Holocaust, which lasted from 1933 to 1945 and ended 69 years ago, you should open your eyes and heart to the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jews, from 1948 until the present.

    • bilal a
      September 6, 2014, 11:14 pm

      To some, Singer is essential to understanding contemporary cultural identity:

      “Following the Psalmist (Psalm 87:2) who differentiated “the gates of Zion” from “the dwellings of Jacob,” Bashevis consistently distinguishes between the Holy Land as spiritual Zion, the eternal hope of Jewish redemption, and the State of Israel as secular Zionism, the contemporary realization of nationalist aspirations. In all his tales set in shtetl Poland, dreams of the “Holy Land,” as it is always called there, are linked to the coming of the messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, and inform the passions of his most saintly characters. For Bashevis, “the gates of Zion” open inward to individual spiritual regeneration; “the dwellings of Jacob,” by contrast, since they are founded on worldliness, are all alike. The locale of most of his Israel stories is generally Tel Aviv, a city whose outward appearance comes to reflect its origin in, and commitment to, secularity; its shabby air of transience is made a physical correlative of its spiritual hollowness. For Bashevis, the modern political realization of Zionism has negated the messianic promise to re-establish Zion, because it has sundered the spiritual from the material, and has substituted the gentile culture of 200 years of Haskalah, Enlightenment, for the Jewish culture of two thousand years of galut, Exile. Consequently, as Bashevis sees it, it has intensified rather than resolved the modern crisis of Jewish identity:

      Revaluating Jewish Identity: A Centenary Tribute to Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991)

  10. Mooser
    September 6, 2014, 7:18 pm

    “Siperficial”? And I didn’t even notice the red line. I miss the edit function.

    • just
      September 6, 2014, 7:22 pm

      Me too.

    • Kris
      September 6, 2014, 7:25 pm

      Me, too.

      And I also miss being able to SEE what I am highlighting.

      Most of all I miss the “last 100 comments” feature.

    • Kay24
      September 6, 2014, 11:19 pm

      I guess it is hard to get used to new things, including websites. We have been comfortable with the old MDW website, but like a new tv remote, eventually, we will get use to the new format.

      Meanwhile let’s hope the MDW gang is working hard to remedy the few glitches.

    • Pixel
      September 7, 2014, 12:00 am


      Mooser, my man, I love your active and prolific contributions at MW – funny, cynical, serious, passionate, et al, and occasionally a combo of them all.

      Keep ’em coming.

  11. RoHa
    September 6, 2014, 11:42 pm

    This looks like a freely chosen Algerian solution.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      September 7, 2014, 10:56 am

      I wonder. Zionism is doomed – of that there is no doubt – but the question remains how and when it will meet its demise. Will it be along the South African model – whereby the dominant group gradually realised that there is no way their apartheid system could go on, and bowed to the inevitable, allowing a peaceful transition to majority rule? Or will it be along the Algerian model, with huge bloodshed and an almost complete disappearance of the colonists?

      Who knows?

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