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Friday, 11 July 2014

Why young people don't care about Israel


Taanis 30

Today’s Life Yomi is sponsored by Ross Diamond in honour of his wife Sarah LaFreniere on the occasion of their fifth wedding anniversary!  Mazal tov!  May you continue to share a life of joy and fulfilment till 120! 

One of the major attitudinal differences between older and younger Jews concerns the State of Israel.  Ask your average middle-aged and above Jew how they feel about Israel and most will respond ardently and passionately.  Now contrast this basic assumption with the results of the recent Pew study – more American Jews felt that having a sense of humour was important to Jewish identity than having an affinity with the State of Israel!

Why don’t young American Jews have the same dedication and passion for the State of Israel as their parents?

The prophet Isaiah states, “Gladden Jerusalem and rejoice in her, all you who love her; be extremely happy with her, all you who mourned over her.”

From this verse, our Sages taught: Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see its joy.  And one who does not mourn over Jerusalem will not see its joy.

That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think?  If you don’t do Tisha B’Av (the 9th Av, our day of national mourning), you won’t be redeemed when the Messiah comes?!  How do we understand that in light of our Sages’ insistence that – as opposed to the exodus from Egypt – in the final redemption, no one will be left behind, no matter how far they have spiritually drifted?

The answer is that as promised, everyone will be part of the ingathering of the exiles.  The question is ‘what happens next?’  Those who pined for the days of yore, those who longed for the return to Zion, those who mourned the desolation of the Holy Temple, will be overjoyed at the sight and experience of the renewal of Zion.  

Sadly, however, those who did not will wonder what all the fuss is about.  Sure, they’ll understand what’s happening – after all, in the messianic era, everyone will be in tune with G-dliness.  But in order to truly appreciate it, the Talmud is teaching that it takes effort and investment.  How can you appreciate the return to Zion if you never felt you were missing anything to begin with?

And that’s the problem with many of our young people today.  They have grown up in a safe, secure world and don’t know what all the fuss is about.  Their parents grew up in a world overshadowed by the Holocaust and so they appreciate the significance and importance of the State of Israel.  But growing up in a safe world, one thinks, ‘What’s the big deal with Israel?’ 

That doesn’t mean, G-d forbid, that we are seeking to provide our children with insecurity.  Of course not.  But what we do need to do is to imbue them with the historical knowledge and feeling that the State of Israel is thus far a historical blip.  They must understand how integral Israel is to our security – that we are only safe in America because we have Israel.  And therefore Israel is paramount to our identity as Jews.

What’s more, it should be clear to any thinking individual that we’re not there yet.  Israel is surrounded by neighbours seeking to destroy it and we yearn for a return to the days of King Solomon, builder of the Holy Temple, during whose time we lived in peace and security with those around us.

It’s impossible to appreciate any gift without understanding what it takes to get it.  Israel is no different.  Much blood has been spilled on our journey towards the final redemption.   We are clearly on the way.  But if you want to truly rejoice in the return to Zion, you must be prepared to mourn our losses until we get there.   Otherwise you will get there and have no appreciation of the miracles and wonders you are witnessing.

May the Almighty end the bloodshed and speedily grant us true and everlasting peace.