Thank you for your fine article, “Jewish Leaders are Failing Our Youth,” and for your enthusiastic work on behalf of all of the Jewish People and specifically, the Jews residing in England. Having made Aliyah from America 35 years ago, allow me to offer another explanation for the eroding Zionist message and spirit which you describe in your article. For the benefit of readers who may not have seen your sincere and poignant essay, let me to recap a few things you wrote:
“It is a sad state of affairs that in the UK we have some university Jewish societies that have a no-Zionist -activity policy. It is shameful that Palestinian Arab demonstrations are able to attract an inordinate number of young activists, yet for many of my fellow young Jews, rather than counter this virulent antisemitism, they fight unremittingly for every social justice cause possible.
“In May 2018, this Jewish guilt hit an all-time low, when some Jewish youth in London decided to stage a Kaddish for dead Gazan rioters, the majority of whom were members of Hamas and other Islamist groups. When was the last time they had a Kaddish for murdered Israelis? And then even after they found out those dead were members of terrorist organizations – some participants defended it aggressively and publicly!
“Make no mistake – this is not unique to the UK, this is worldwide.”
After reporting this distressing state of affairs, you rightly ask, “What is happening with our youth? Why are Jewish youth feeling not just an estrangement towards Zionism, but also an antipathy? How did we let this happen? What is the way forward?”
In my opinion, there is only one way forward. As Israeli army commanders are wont to say, “Kadima!” “Forward!” but “Acharai!" "After me!”
The reason that Zionism has lost its appeal and sense of excitement to the vast majority of Jewish youth in the world is because its leaders have turned it into an empty message. If the Jewish leaders throughout the Diaspora hold up a watered-down and liberalized banner of Zionism, in order to find favor with the social winds of the time, and to cover over their own deep-seated love affair with the comforts of Jewish life in England, America, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and France, and don’t follow the Zionist call to relocate to Zion themselves, why should any young Jewish person follow so vapid a Zionist message?
In your article, you report: “Zionism in our postmodernist world has been turned into a dirty word. On campuses, one can find a plethora of literature that equates Zionism with colonialism, racism and extremism. Why should any young Jew therefore identify with such a word?”
Once again, you rightly point out that the timid Jewish leadership, in its obsession to be politically correct, has promoted a new form of Zionism to cope with this dilemma – an intellectual Zionism which fosters a love for Israel while feeling free to criticize Israel’s policies, and to even explain the terror-filled Palestinian struggle in an apologetic light.
And once again, you rightly respond: “In my view, this is an absurdity that is condemned to fail. The notion that Jewish students will feel more Zionist if you criticize Israel is nonsense… These Jewish leaders are regarded as esteemed members of our community. Is it any wonder therefore that young Jews, who look up to these leaders as role models, think to themselves, why should I be a Zionist? The current strategy – such as it is - is not working. It leads young Jews to feel either that they can have no relationship to Zionism, or only one that is riddled with doubt and guilt.”
Of course, trying to justify Zionism with all kinds of apologetic, convoluted, liberal progressive chatter isn’t going to inspire anyone to pack his or her bag and set off toward the Promised Land like our Zionist pioneers of old. To be an example, Jewish leaders must set an example themselves and not to babble about Zionism, then retire to comfortable estates in the meadowlands outside of London, or make Aliyah to New York.
In your essay, you extol the fearless Zionist pride of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Joseph Trumpeldor, Dov Gruner, Menachem Begin, and hold them up as models to be admired. But these, and other brave and selfless Zionist leaders, bid goodbye to Diaspora life and undertook the journey to the Land of Israel, ready to take up arms and sacrifice their lives for the dream of rebuilding Zion.
Today, with the onslaught of assimilation steadily gnawing away at Jewish communities all over the world, and the very real dangers of anti-Semitism, and the Corona plague, an injection of Jewish pride, as you suggest, is not enough to save the Jews still clinging to the foreign cultures and Gentile lands. If these so-called Jewish leaders can’t lead the way themselves, then they should at least urge Jewish youth to rise up to the Zionist challenge and continue their lives in the Promised Land – their one and only true home.
If the aging Zionist leadership doesn’t have the mettle to lead the way to Zion, then the hour demands that spirited young people like yourself snatch the extinguished torch from their hands and relight it by calling upon your brethren to follow the path of the Zionist heroes whose yearning for Zion brought them to the shores of the Promised Land to resettle its Biblical borders and chase its British occupiers out of the Jewish Homeland.
And so, my dear young Harry, I must disagree with your partially correct summary. You write: “Our job, as Jews whose existence is contingent upon the survival of the Jewish State, is not to undermine our State. It is to love it. And to do whatever is necessary for it in the diaspora, even if we personally do not support its actions.”
No. No. No! The Diaspora must be erased. It is time for all Jews to come home! That was Jabotinsky’s cry, and that must be the cry of the organization you head in Britain, World Herut, the movement he founded.
Otherwise, Herut will become as exile-minded and watered down as the current stale and trembling leadership, distorting the bold banner of Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor, Dov Gruner, and Menachem Began, just as today’s spiritless leaders of Diaspora Jewry have taken the Zion out of Zionism, transforming it into an “ism” like any other, raping its exalted message, and adorning it with a badge of shame in the eyes of Jewish youth, turning it into a hollow, progressive movement for social justice like so many others, demanding equal rights in Israel for Arabs and Jews alike, and the partition of our Israelite Homeland. No wonder so many Jewish youth have turned away.
How very different and filled with invincible Jewish faith Ze’ev Jabotinsky was! He, who wrote to an assimilated Socialist, Jewish writer who enthusiastically pledged his allegiance to the Russian people and Russian culture: “I would like to emphasize the firm, compact, iron-clad determination of my fellow Zionists to remain true to the flag which others have abandoned, and to serve the Jewish cause to the furthest level – with our heads, hands, and teeth, with truth and untruth, with honor and revenge, at any price. You deserted to the ‘rich neighbor’ (the Russian cultural establishment), but we turn our backs upon his beauty and kindnesses. You have worshipped his values and have left our father’s heritage to rot, but we will clench our teeth, and from the depths of our soul, we will cry out to the world that every Hebrew-speaking toddler is dearer to us than anything on Earth.”
Let me conclude with your own last sentence:
“We need you. Will you join us?”
But let me add two small but nation-saving words: “Will you join us - in Zion?”
Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."