Monday, July 31, 2006

Why I Cannot Meet You In The Lobby of the King David Hotel

Note, this is not a slam on Treppenwitz, nor is it his fault. He just happened to be the trigger for a rant of mine.

Over in DovBear's comments, Treppenwitz writes:

I'm still not sure where I stand on the whole issue of rallies. I mean, go ahead and have them if it helps solidify the community over there. But I have to agree that it does hurt when Jews outside of Israel go to a rally and think that they have done their job.


I'm not saying send your kids to join the army and fight. But what's stopping you from coming to stay in a hotel in order to keep the tourist industry alive. Why can't you and/or your kids come to volunteer in hospitals, and on army bases instead of going to Florida. Why can't you figure out a way to do something more for Israel than go out and socialize with your neighbors on some main street in yourtown USA.

And if one more person say to me "I won't tell you how much we give to Israel every year, but..." and then proceed to tell me to the penny how much they give... I will scream. Keep the money if you think that's where your obligation starts and ends. Ezra wouln't take contributions from Jews in Bavel and I think it is bad that today's diaspora Jews think thier contributions are in place of actively helping Israel with their physical presense.

Ahhhhh. Here we are again. The bombs fly, the refugees seek refuge, the world denounces Israel, and the Israelis denounce Diaspora Jews.

OK. Here goes my whimpering explanation:

I cannot go to Israel instead of going to Florida because I am not going to Florida this year. I did not go to Florida last year. It has been three years since I have last taken a vacation out of state. This is not because I have anything against Florida, or Israel, mind you (actually, both are too hot for my taste this time of year. Christmas in Jerusalem, maybe), it's because I have no money to spare. If I scrape together the money for a trip any time soon, I will probably be going to Hawaii, because that is where my machetenim live, and the fella has not seen them in five years. If you don't want the (modest)check I can write, fine, I will use it here in the Diaspora to further Jewish life. I suspect I can get some good cause to cash it, however, plus one for one of those cute ceramic clocks with the skyline of Jerusalem on it.

And honestly, I do not understand why, aside from the money, my spending time in the King David Hotel, swimming lazily up and down the big pool will be helping in any way other than my bringing dollars, and frankly, helping out in a hospital is gonna be a vanity gig for the American girl. Even if I could afford to take off right now, which I, as I may have mentioned above, cannot.

Why do I go to rallies?

1. It creates in the U.S. press a statement of public support for Israel. If you say Israel doesn't care about the U.S. press, you're lying. I read the JPost.

2. It creates a way to connect with other Jews, and share our feelings. Many of us do other work elsewhere, and yes, that includes both sending money and visiting Israel. But standing together in solidarity is worth something. Or were we wasting our time back in the old days of the Soviet Jewry movement by not taking the protests to Moscow?

3. It keeps us out of the closet and in touch with one another, in scary times. As recent news has shown, not all the jihadis bother to get a ticket to the old country either.

4. It is a chance to find out what is happening, and see what opportunities there are to help. Orgs bring their literature with them.

5. I really like standing in the sun and being screamed at by deranged Berkeley students with white-girl dreadlocks. You should try it sometime.

I am an American Jew, and I am damn proud of that. My great-grandparents went to quite a lot of trouble to create this outcome. I am not an incomplete Jew, nor am I simply part of a support system for Israel. I support Israel. I am at home in Northern California. Could that change? Sure. I want to visit some day. Maybe I'll convince the fella he really wants to live in a hot climate. But those Jews of Bavel, and the Jews of all the other great diaspora communities created a whole Jewish world, in the long time between Jewish states, and I am part of that world. I absolutely refuse to be told that anything I do at home is inherently unworthy.

And yes, this is home. I'm a tumbleweed Jew. I carry all the seeds for a next generation with me wherever I go.

You want to know why aliyah has never seemed all that appealing? Because it's never seemed aimed at me. You want to know how aliyah gets advertised for the 'anglo-saxim'? I remember the column in JPost, just a few years ago. It was addressed to 'Alisa and Josh', parents of 'Noam and Tali', or something very like that, and in the very first paragraph it talked about finding a cleaning lady and a 'good' kindergarten. And every time the bombs fall, I get asked why I don't just take a few weeks' vacation abroad.

You know, I think I WILL just send a check.

A peaceful newish week to us all...


The back of the hill said...

I go to rallies for one primary and very simple reason: Silence equals defeat.

Like you, I have not gone on a vacation in several years.

elf said...

Thanks for standing up for us penniless American Jews.

I am not in Israel because I wasn't accepted to the Birthright trip I applied for. Anyway, my poor mother-in-law would have a heart attack, and she has enough on her plate right now.

Anonymous said...

Hey, everyone has to do their part. I think that if you want to attend rallies you should do so, wave a flag, chant as loud as you can and know that you are doing what you can do right now. I'm going to the rally here in Denver to support Israel and I'm glad to go becuase at this moment its all I can do.

jlmkobi said...

there are two sides to every story and to every frustration some of us feel here in israel.
i (we including my wife and our oldest) made aliya 23 years ago. i went to a zionist youth movement (young judaea) growing up and my wife was a graduate of a jewish day school. neither of us are from rich families (mine was socially-educationally 'well off' but monetarily not).
we made sacrifices to live in israel and because of some luck (hashgacha if you will) we have managed to come through financially ok (no real savings though but no insurmountable debt either).
so i can appreciate that everyone has to struggle at different levels. must agree that there are many american jews who could forgo some creature comfort or another and spend some time here in israel.
i don't know your blog that well but assuming you have (or will have) children here is what i would suggest -
a. part of the education savings should include a year in israel (preferrably two). it could be in any type of program. i think that a post high school program - a yeshiva, the young judaea year course etc. in addition a jr year or a year right after college. the post high school year is both for education - jewishly and about israel. the later year is for figuring out if israel is the place for you.
and i remember that even with my money strapped family - my folks managed to visit each one of us (my sibblings each came on the year course) when we were here.
of course if/when your child decides to make aliya you need to be supportive in every way.
just my two cents

debka_notion said...

Two more years of parentally-funded education? Sure, it's a lovely thought. But some people are already taking out plenty of loans for college- another year or two might not be any more financially reasonable then than a vacation in Israel is now. I'd think that it's important not to push people beyond their practical limits.

jlmkobi said...

you can always come up with reasons... do kids work any more. i did when i was in high school. i know that the amounts i would earn then went a lot further for my israel experiences. if one is talking about 2 years out of the 5 after high school at least one of them should count for the academic degree.
again in my day it was cheaper to spend a year in israel and you generally got a year of credit too.
also the amount of financial aid available from the community is much more now than it was then. (although the programs are more expensive). the masa scholarship program will contribute a major portion of a year in israel to needy (and not so needy) kids.
check out the above article in haaretz about kids who actually did more than even just spending a year here.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

I'd like to make clear--this is not just about money, although the incredible assumptions made about the kind of money American Jews have access to does annoy me.

This is about the assumption that making aliyah is either something I will do soon, or something I'm making excuses not to do, probably to insure a higher standard of living elsewhere. Making aliyah is something I don't plan to do. No excuses. It's also about the assumption that GOING TO ISRAEL ON VACATION is some true act of solidarity, when sending money to help refugees or support MDA that doesn't go to my own pleasure isn't, and attending a political event in the U.S. isn't.

If my kids should make aliyah someday, I will, of course, try to help them out, and I will be very excited, and if I can, go and visit and admire their new life. I hope by the time they're born and grown I will have money for that kind of thing.

Now, the core: I don't understand the emphasis on 'spend some time here'. If I go to Israel--and I want to, some day--how am I HELPING? How would I be helping if I was there right now, in a way that I'm not when cheering through the phone link for the mayor of Haifa? Do Israelis who feel nothing when we demo in San Francisco actually feel incredibly perky and happy when there's a war on, and American Jews are sunning themselves in Eilat?

Truly, don't get it.

Mirty said...

I think the checks to help families in Tzfat and families that have left their homes to run from the missiles are all welcome, whether they come from Jerusalem or "Bavel". Though I'm sure Ezra had his reasons.