Sarah Posner writes: In an eatery here, 28-year-old Israeli human rights activist Avner Gvaryahu described the first time he came face to face with a Palestinian.
He was 19 and serving in the Israel Defense Forces when his unit invaded the home of a Palestinian family in the dead of night. They were there to perform a “straw widow,” a raid during which soldiers forcibly seize control of a Palestinian civilian home.
“This is the reality of the occupation,” said Gvaryahu, now the Jewish diaspora coordinator for the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, which, using the testimony of veterans such as himself, educates the Israeli public about military tactics and abuses in the occupied territories.
“This is the story of my generation,” said Gvaryahu, who said only a small fraction of Israelis serve in combat units in the West Bank. “No one knows about it. They don’t really understand what we’re asked to do.”
He was on tour for Breaking the Silence’s book “Our Harsh Logic,” the timing of which coincided with the publication of the Pew Research Center’s major survey of Jewish American attitudes. The survey showed an increasing secularization of American Jews, and decreasing affiliation with synagogues and organized religion, a phenomenon that exists within American Christianity as well. It also tracked changes in Jewish American attitudes to Israel.
While 30 percent of respondents professed to be very attached to Israel and 39 percent said they felt “somewhat” attached, 31 percent answered that they felt not very or not at all attached to Israel. Asked whether caring about Israel was an “essential” part of being Jewish, 43 percent answered in the affirmative. And the Pew researchers noted a demographic shift: “Older Jews are more likely than younger Jews to see caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them,” the study noted, with more than half of respondents over 65 believing that caring about Israel was an essential part of their Jewish identity, whereas only 32 percent of respondents under 30 shared that belief. [Continue reading…]