Why fewer young American Jews share their parents’ view of Israel

Dana Goldstein writes:

“I’m trembling,” my mother says, when I tell her I’m working on an article about how younger and older American Jews are reacting differently to the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations. I understand the frustrations of the Palestinians dealing with ongoing settlements construction and sympathize with their decision to approach the U.N., but my mom supports President Obama’s promise to wield the U.S. veto, sharing his view that a two-state solution can be achieved only through negotiations with Israel.

“This is so emotional,” she says as we cautiously discuss our difference of opinion. “It makes me feel absolutely terrible when you stridently voice criticisms of Israel.”

A lump of guilt and sadness rises in my throat. I’ve written harshly of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and its assault on Gaza in 2009, and on civil rights issues in Israel. But speaking my mind on these topics — a very Jewish thing to do — has never been easy. During my childhood in the New York suburbs, support for Israel was as fundamental a family tradition as voting Democratic or lighting the Shabbos candles on Friday night.

My mom has a masters degree in Jewish history and is the program director of a large synagogue. Her youthful Israel experiences, volunteering on a kibbutz and meeting descendants of great-grandmother’s siblings, were part of my own mythology. Raised within the Conservative movement, I learned at Hebrew school that Israel was the “land of milk and honey” where Holocaust survivors had irrigated the deserts and made flowers bloom.

What I didn’t hear much about was the lives of Palestinians. It was only after I went to college, met Muslim friends, and enrolled in a Middle Eastern history and politics course that I was challenged to reconcile my liberal, humanist worldview with the fact that the Jewish state of which I was so proud was occupying the land of 4.4 million stateless Palestinians, many of them refugees displaced by Israel’s creation.

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