But we’ve noticed something disconcerting at recent political events dealing with the state of affairs in Israel. The vast majority of attendees were senior citizens.
Does that mean older Jews care about Israel, but not younger Jews?
Well, not really. In fact, the organizers of these events say many of their programs draw diverse audiences.
Still, it has become painfully clear that there is a growing Jewish generation gap in this country when it comes to passion for Israel.
Well, Peter Beinart, a former editor at The New Republic and current political writer for The Daily Beast, put his finger on part of the problem when he spoke in Pittsburgh earlier this year:
“For older American Jews, there was this memory of a time when Israel’s existence was seen as fragile. For younger American Jews, we’ve grown up with Israel as a military power that also occupies the West Bank and Gaza — territories that aren’t extended democratic rights — and they’ve grown up with less anti-Semitism. The narrative of Israel as being on the brink of extinction doesn’t resonate as much with young Jews. We need to talk about Israel in a way that is more truthful to the realities they see, even though that’s a difficult conversation.”
We agree with much of that, but not all. It ain’t all about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For many average Israelis, life there is still pretty fragile. More than 23 percent of the Israeli population lives below the poverty line — $7.30 per person per day.
In fact, that very economic reality is what drove the massive street demonstrations this past weekend in Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel.
Making ends meet in Israel is a struggle for too many people, but you won’t find many public discussions — in Pittsburgh or elsewhere — about the Israelis in poverty. The vast majority of these lectures, round tables and public forums are still related to the peace process, the land-for-peace question and settlements, with left-wing and right-wing groups each giving their own slants on the issues.
Young Jews are voting with their feet; too many of them are not coming.
As Beinart said, “we need to talk about Israel in a way that is more truthful to the realities they see,” but that should mean all subjects — peace and war, cost of living, who’s a Jew, integration of minorities, environmental degradation. Everything.
We American Jews don’t do a good enough job of that. We tend to limit what subjects we talk about in our public forums. That must change.
When it does, we’re betting that the median age of the attendees will change, too.