American Jews and Israel need marriage counseling but we can never get divorced, Dani Dayan, the Israeli consul general in New York, warned on Tuesday night. We “belong to the same people,” he instructed. “Our marriage is Catholic, there is no divorce.”
Dayan spoke at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center and addressed tensions between U.S. Jews and the Israeli government over religious questions. His warning is an indication of how much Israel depends on the political support of American Jews.
A few weeks ago, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a rabbi– it was a kind of town hall meeting with the Jewish community in Cincinnati, and a rabbi, I think he was a Conservative one, spoke really from the bottom of his heart about how offensive Israeli decisions were regarding the Kotel [prayer at the western wall] and the giyur [conversion rules] and how painful they are for him and how offensive he finds them. And I quite identified with him, I could feel his pain, and I must admit, ashamed.
But then he concluded, saying, “And this was the last straw in our relationship.”
With that I couldn’t– I cannot agree. Our relationship has no last straw. Never ever has a last straw. Because what’s the meaning of a last straw? Because after that last straw, what? We cease to be brothers? We cease to belong to the same people? That is unacceptable. Not acceptable — We shouldn’t allow the notion of a last straw to exist.
I would say it in this way, We may be Jewish but our marriage is Catholic, there is no divorce in our marriage. We may need a lot and apparently we do need a lot of marital counseling, but– no divorce in our marriage. If there are problems, their only meaning is that we have to work even harder to solve them
That should be the first and foremost premise of our relationship.
Later, Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times Global editor, whom Dayan had introduced as a “very good personal” friend, pushed back against the idea, and said that Israeli leaders talk about getting a divorce from Palestinians even as they insist on a unity between Israeli and American Jews. Maybe the two Jewish communities are too different in values to stay together, she said; they are “light years apart.”
Natan Sharansky of the Jewish Agency bridled at Rudoren’s point. He said that Jews have “mutual history” for 3500 years, whether in Israel or America. That is very different from the “very serious practical problem” of how to get along with Palestinians, with whom Israeli Jews “don’t share the 3500 years of history.”
The exchanges are a sign of how dependent Israel is on American Jews for political cover. It is the American Jews who speak of a break: the conservative rabbi in Cincinnati, and Jodi Rudoren in New York. The Israeli leaders are angered. The desire for a divorce among young Jews is even stronger. And by the way, Dayan is a settler on Palestinian territory. Palestinians barely came up in the discussion, though Sharansky did mention a visit to Boston by Israeli politicians last March in which an American Jew said the country had lost her due to its massacres of Palestinians in Gaza. Sharansky was dismissive of that woman’s concerns, saying all Israelis care about their security first.
P.S. Sharansky also bridled at Rudoren’s assertion that he would not really take on Benjamin Netanyahu over religious issues, but has only done lip service against the Netanyahu government’s policies, so as to satisfy “your diaspora donors and other supporters.” Sharansky called that an “accusation.”