A leading diplomat in the Israeli government says that “American Jews are losing it bigtime” and threatening the existence of world Jewry, given their “80 percent” assimilation rate and growing indifference to Israel.
Tzipi Hotovely, deputy minister of foreign affairs under Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday in Washington:
I think for me the only way to make sure that Jews care or have meaning is by having strong Israel and strong Jewish identity. I think unfortunately American Jews are losing it bigtime. I see the numbers, I’m in the Foreign Ministry– 80 percent of American Jews assimilate. This is something we all should be concerned in. Without Jewish identity and without connection to Israel, this amazing Jewry will be lost. I really think this is the tragedy of the Jewish world.
Hotovely spoke at the annual conference of the Israeli American Council, a lobby group to the right wing of AIPAC, which is made up largely of Israeli-Americans and is subsidized by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
Hotovely said that American Jews are too critical of Israel. She said the Israeli-Americans in the room know how important it is “that Israel should be strong.”
Unfortunately people from the young generation take Israel for granted, they take Israel as something you can criticize…. It’s one thing to criticize policy, it’s a whole different thing to criticize the only democratic state that there is in the middle east.
Hotovely is a divisive figure, whose appearance at Princeton’s Hillel last night was cancelled because of her rightwing views. She was, instead, to speak last night at the Chabad House, in a symptom of the growing partisan divide over Israel inside the United States.
Someone needs to send Hotovely back to charm school– in her very opening remarks in Washington, at 8:30 am, she was critical of American life:
I must ask you something. Why do you live in America if you wake up early on Sundays? I don’t get it.
Her appearance at the convention center was remarkable for an argument she had over access to prayer at the western wall in occupied Jerusalem with another member of Knesset, Merav Michaeli, who represents the traditional Labor bloc in the Israeli parliament, now called Zionist camp.
Michaeli expressed respect for American Jews’ customs. She said that the majority of American Jews are Reform “and choose to exercise their belief in an egalitarian way.” But they are being “excluded and deprived from the western wall.” Michaeli said that Israel cannot be the “national state of the Jewish people” if it discriminates against American Jews.
Hotovely, who is an observant Orthodox Jew, responded that her party, Likud, represents secular Israelis, and “the secular people in Israel are not interested in the Reform movement…. This is the truth. The secular people don’t need the Reform movement in order to do whatever they feel like in a secular country like Israel.”
When Michaeli protested that Reform men and women cannot pray together at the western wall, called the Kotel in Hebrew, Hotovely said, “Oh come on. When’s the last time you went to the Kotel, can you possibly tell me?”
Hotovely said that the Israeli left is using the Kotel to hurt the Netanyahu government with American Jews, on an issue that is “totally irrelevant to the secular people of Israel,” who don’t go to the western wall.
“Seriously you never go to the Kotel, you are using it as a political tool,” Hotovely challenged Michaeli. She said that she prays at the Kotel a few times a years, before major holidays. “Do you do this? Do you come any time to the Kotel? Do you even care about the Kotel?” she said to Michaeli.
Michaeli said that Hotovely and her boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, are purposely provoking secular Jews over the issue of what it means to be Jewish.
“What she is telling you is that I am less good of a Jew because I pray less in the Kotel than she does. I do not agree,” Michaeli said. “This is not only a religious issue, it is also a national issue, and that is why the kotel matters.”