On Being a Citizen of the Jewish World

By Shalom Orzach

Thank you Dov Ben-Shimon for your thoughtful and important article; “All of us are not some of us.” I wish to push your argument a little further. You suggest that those who do not live in Israel should not necessarily have the same privileges to influence what goes on there;

You can try to justify this, to explain that this is how politics in Israel work, that we shouldn’t be so naïve, and that American Jews should all make Aliyah if they want to change the system. That would be a (more) valid argument, perhaps, if we were discussing the draft, or taxes, or other major social issues. Some things should be decided by those who live there and pay the burdens of taxes and army service and daily life. But the Kotel is different.

This position obscures the pressing issues and crucial opportunities. Many of those pushing for the continued relegation of the agreements, avoid paying taxes, do not serve in the army and have minimal impact on the greater needs of this country. It so happens that they are citizens of the State that many of them do not even believe in. Yes that is how politics may work in Israel but it is a disgrace. The Kotel must become an opportunity to change this paradigm. I and I believe the majority of Israelis welcome your opinions and crave your involvement. We so need compelling candid and open conversations amongst citizens of the Jewish world, we so need to cease the “us and them” model; it is getting us nowhere useful. The “you are not citizens” assertion is patronizing, and coming from the questionable leaders it comes from, is insulting and needs to be called out.

An additional opportunity to stimulate this concept of Jewish citizenship lies in the latest efforts to draft the ultra-orthodox in the army. The issue in my mind should not be about getting them in green it needs to be about getting them, like their fellow citizens to perform some kind of National Service, equally sharing not so much the burden but the obligation and sense of commitment. There is no shortage of people and institutions that could use help. Again let’s take this a step further. Imagine instituting this idea of contributing at the age of 18 throughout the Jewish world. Think of the incredible conversations in deciding what needs to be done, imagine the products of these joint efforts. To create this unified but not uniform community of citizens of the Jewish world, we need to generate additional joint experiences that will dramatically change the us and them paradigm to one that shines through this captivating relationship.

Shalom Orzach is a senior educator and consultant for the iCenter.