I met with a coworker and good friend last night for a drink, and our conversation is part of why I love her and living in this country and knowing the people I know and living as an actively exploratory ideologist.
We started talking about anti-Zionism, post-Zionism and neo-Zionism in the context of modern Israel and of course in relation to the more traditional forms of Zionism. We were just talking about what each one is, and how they relate to each other and ourselves and Israel – and of course, because we work for a Jewish organization, how it relates to Judaism. Then we moved into a discussion (argument, who am I kidding – we’re Israeli!) of whether Israel is a Democracy or a Theocracy. And what that means. Or most likely, where it lies in between the two. And if Israel is going to be a more true Democracy, what does that mean for its identity as a Jewish state? And how does that relate back to the Zionist discussion we were having before? What is Israel without a state identity as a Jewish land? Can it have that Jewish identity without state-enforced religion (or religious laws influencing the lives of non-Jews and those who chose not to practice their Judaism)?
From here we started talking about how the trend is that Jews (especially our generation) are becoming less Jewish – they don’t practice their religion as much, they don’t get involved with their local Jewish communities, they don’t feel connected to the religion or Israel – and they may or may not have any desire to. The question is, what is Judaism to today’s secular youth in the Diaspora? We decided that we need to start a movement, some kind of neo-Judaism, to address this. How do you reach the Jewish people who don’t particularly care about being Jewish? Or who just don’t feel all that connected to it, and aren’t motivated to get off their asses and get involved? How do you connect people with their roots? What is it that they WOULD respond to?
I’m actually a good starting point for this issue, since as an Israeli-American growing up in California, I never felt any connection to the American Jewish community. I felt different from the other kids at Hebrew school, and argued with my mom about why I had to go when she grew up with almost no religion at all on the kibbutz. When people would ask me what I was, I would say Israeli instead of Jewish, because that’s where my identity was. After going to Israel with a youth group when I was 15, I stopped being involved with my local Jewish community alltogether, besides the major holidays (I still was part of the Israeli community I grew up with, but that’s not the same thing at all). I actively avoided all Jewish organizations in college. So – what would have made me get involved? What about friends of mine who were even less “Jewish” than I was – who didn’t even have the connection to Israel? What would get them to feel connected? Is this important? Why?
I do think it’s important, because I think it’s important for everyone to know and understand and appreciate where they come from. My Irish side is equally important for me to appreciate and understand, even though I haven’t spent as much time investing in it (something I do intend to change), for the same reason. Knowing where you come from is an integral part of understanding who you are, I think.
I went off on a bit of a tangent, there… The point is, we had this big long broad discussion/argument/project planning session in a great Jerusalem bar-restaurant over whiskey (her) and red wine (me), and it was great. These are the kinds of things I treasure the most in life.