I love Israel. I can’t imagine living in a world without Israel – not just the idea of Zion, but the reality of the state. My ancestors kept the idea alive until it could be transformed into a political fact. Now that we have it, I don’t want to survive without it. Many people don’t understand these sentiments. Sometimes I don’t either.
We support Israel with our money, political power and convictions. If I love the state, how come I don’t live there? Some proclaim love, but never even visit. How can I be a proud American and Canadian? Israelis don’t understand those of us who continue to proclaim our attachment to Israel and yet remain in the Diaspora. We are an enigma, a conflicted but not hypocritical community.
As Jews, we are programmed to love Israel. It’s our national homeland. Our security. Ours!
Nonetheless, we aren’t naive. We don’t support Israel because we think it’s perfect. We see the problems, the corruption, the failures. We know this (or that) particular government is not pure or ideally suited for leadership. No government is. But with all its warts, it’s our Zion, our love, and we’re committed to its survival – even more, to its flourishing.
So sometimes we exaggerate its graces and our commitment. But we have to be prudent. In a world of assassinations and suicide bombers, of murder and kidnaping, we have to be very careful of what we commit to and how we speak. Our exaggerations might be taken literally, and not always by our enemies.
When we say we can’t live without Israel or Jerusalem at its centre, I don’t think we’re advocating mass suicide (or murder), though some might take the words in that direction. So we must be extraordinarily cautious. We are stating how unconditionally committed we are to Israel and Jerusalem. But let’s not make political points out of misstatements either. Some criticize needlessly or endlessly.
Let’s recognize that we do use hyperbole. We teach it to our children. “If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning; may my tongue stick to my palate, if I fail to remember you, if I don’t place Jerusalem over my foremost joy.” Are we teaching love and commitment in a poetic overstatement, or some abusive form of S and M? Do we want our children to be happy or permanently depressed? Love and exaggeration!
Treading carefully in these critical times is essential. If someone makes a mistake, let them apologize, and then get on with it.
Anything can set the house on fire. We must be careful with what we say to and about each other.
Ve’hamevin yavin: may wisdom and understanding prevail.