I am currently in the midst of planning my first trip to Israel in about three years. This is the longest I have gone without a visit to Israel since I started college. It was a sad realization, with the relief in knowing that I should be touching down at TLV in May.
This trip was prompted by a wedding, one of my cousins in Ramat Gan is getting married and I didn’t want to miss it. While thinking about my trip, I realized that Israel is facing a huge challenge keeping diaspora Jews connected to Israel.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you have seen my contribution levels ebb and flow over the last seven years. There were long stretches where I would write more than five posts per week, but there were also periods when I would write sparsely, such as the recent few months.
Of course, anyone who knows me or my writing knows that it is not for a lack of caring about Israel. I consider Israel the single most important place in the world for the Jewish people, and the modern State of Israel the most important thing to happen to the Jewish people since the Talmud was first written down.
So why a lack of Israel posts from the founder of an Israel blog? There are a few reasons. I have found more profitable writing projects that take more of my time. I have a wonderful relationship with a beautiful, loving woman that I hope to bring with on my next visit to Israel (don’t worry, she’s Jewish), and I want to give her more of my time. I have a good job that takes at least 40 hours per week. I am on the local board for B’nai B’rith and spend time planning events, some about Israel. I own other projects… I could go on and on.
But the biggest reason probably has something to do with the overall problem of the disconnected diaspora. I am over here, Israel is over there. While I am reading about elections and wars, the Likud and Meretz are fighting about Israel’s future thousands of miles away from where I live. New York seemed a long way from home when Superstorm Sandy hit late last year, imagine how far Israel seems from home.
While the flights to get there are easy, the costs and time are not. Just think, the last time I was in Israel, Yisrael Beiteinu was a formidable opponent to both the Likud and Kadima. Labor was on the way down having just lost its longtime leader. Now, parties that didn’t even exist then (Likud Beiteinu and Yesh Atid) are the two biggest in the country and that dying Labour party made a big comeback while the leading opposition party (Kadima) is practically dead.
So, if even an Israel blogger can become a bit disconnected, what can be done to keep people outside of Israel connected? That is a challenge organizations around the Jewish world have been trying to tackle for decades.
The answer is a difficult one. How do we engage people in the politics, culture, and life of a country on the other side of the world? More speakers? More fairs? More nightclubs serving Macabee and Goldstar beer playing Hadag Nachash music? I don’t think the answer is that simple.
I think the answer is making the world Jewish population feel vested in the day-to-day life of Israel. Not just knowing that their Israel bonds and JNF donations helped plant some trees, but actually making them feel like part of Israel.
That is where I run out of ideas. I am not sure how to do it. I just know that even I feel a bit disengaged at the moment, and that is a huge problem for Israel. I am supposed to be the guy that does the engaging!
Just to be clear, this is not me saying that I am done with this blog, that is far from what I am saying. I want to ensure the ongoing success of this site long past my days here, which are not numbered yet.
I am just pointing out a huge challenge that groups like AIPAC should think about beyond lobbying congress. Aish should be engaging us in Israel as much as soliciting our donations for their activities there. Birthright should keep up the efforts to keep us engaged well after our 10 day trip, not cutting back on funding in smaller cities with Jewish populations around 85,000 (that is what happened to us in Denver, and I was being sarcastic when I called it a small community).
What do you think about the future of engagement for the Jewish diaspora? Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.
Image by kobylib / flickr