Even the ones you think would know better, don't know better.
You may recall that a few months ago, noted Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua said some very not nice things about American Jewry. What he said was "Judaism outside Israel has no future. If you do not live in Israel ... your Jewish identity has no meaning at all."
Okay, one could excuse that because Yehoshua is an author and we know how authors can be.
But how to explain the stupid and insulting thing just said by one Zeev Bielski.
Zeev Bielski is the chairman of the Jewish Agency. Meaning he's the guy in charge of spending hundreds of millions of dollars that gets raised for Israel each year in the United States.
Meaning one might think he would have some gratitude for all American Jews give to Israel. Indeed, when he was appointed to his job not that long ago, American Jewish leaders were ecstatic precisely because they believed he was one Israeli official who understood and respected American Jewry.
Well, guess again.
For what our good friend Zeev Bielski had to say recently was that Jews have no future in America and should all move to Israel. "One day the penny will drop for American Jews and they will realize they have no future as Jews in the U.S. due to assimilation and intermarriage."
Asked if American Jews were fighting a losing battle to stay Jewish, he said yes. But he said American Jews still should spend money on Jewish education here because "they're providing me with quality aliyah [immigration to Israel] material."
There is no future for American Jewry, says the man we give hundreds of millions of dollars to each year. And where and when did he say this? While in the United States to attend the largest annual gathering of American Jewish leaders. A gathering that, due to the Hezbollah war, completely revamped its program so as to focus on how American Jews can better support Israel and to celebrate that American Jews, in addition to all the money they already give, had raised an additional $350 million to help with post-Hezbollah war reconstruction efforts.
Talk about chutzpah. What he had to say was ignorant and disgusting. That he said it where and when he said it shows a stunning lack of grace and manners.
And he's one of the good ones, one of the few Israeli leaders who supposedly understands and respects American Jewry.
And yet, he looks at us and sees no future, sees us disappearing.
Yes, at a time when Israel needs American Jewish support more than ever, comes Zeev Bielski to tell us we're doomed, to tell us we better make aliyah before it's too late. Run for your Jewish lives!
Rightly, David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, called Bielski's comments "fear-mongering." He noted that America's vital Jewish community does "negate the Zionist narrative that there is no future in the Diaspora," but says what Bielski said is "counterproductive," more likely to turn off Jews from making aliyah than encouraging them to do so.
Amen. When will Israeli officials learn that they should sell us on moving to Israel because it's a great place for Jews to live rather than trying to scare us into going there because America is such a horrible place for Jews to live.
Considering that Bielski is in charge of the Aliyah effort, things don't seem encouraging in that direction. He should be ashamed of himself.
Oh, by the way, here's what Bielski said back when Yehoshua made his remarks. "Instead of bringing people close to Israel, in a positive way, so that they want to be here, you tear them to pieces."
Back at you, Zeev.
The scary thing is if even someone like Zeev Bielski, whose job it is to connect with Diaspora Jewry, is so ignorant and contemptuous of us, imagine how ignorant are those Israeli leaders who have less contact with us.
Especially since they don't even try.
We know that, thanks to Daniel Ayalon, who is about to go back home after serving as Israel ambassador to the United States the last four years.
Here's what Israel's man in this country had to say in a farewell interview. "We take the Jewish community for granted."
Nice, really nice. He did add, as he's walking out the door, "which is a mistake."
Indeed, it is. But the reality is as he said it is. Israel takes us for granted. Assumes we will always support it, send it dough, do what it asks us.
And the truth is we will. Which is why it is so hurtful, considering how much we do for it, how much we care for it, how much we give to it, that Zeev Bielski says what he says. On the one hand, we are so good to Israel they don't feel the need to even try with us, says Ayalon. On the other hand, we have no future, says Bielski.
This is important stuff because the fact is that young American Jews, the next generation of American Jewish leaders do not feel about Israel like my generation does or my father's generation did.
For my father's generation, born before 1948, Israel is a miracle, beyond words. For my generation, born after 1948 but not that much after, Israel is a dream. But for today's generation, Israel is another country.
Meaning Israel very soon will have to start earning the support of American Jews, won't be able to just take it for granted. Won't be able to keep getting from us even when it insults and demeans us.
What Ayalon had to say, what Bielski had to say shows that even Israel's top guys, even the ones whose job it is to know us best, have no understanding of that and are doing nothing about that.
Scary because Israel needs us, more than ever. As Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz put it, Israel needs us to "champion Israel's cause among opinion shapers and decision makers in the world's sole superpower; to win over politicians and to more widely explain the challenges and concerns Israel has proved strategically incapable of effectively articulating; as well as to directly bolster our tourism industry, provide the philanthropy that ameliorates some of our social inequities and much, much more." Which, he adds, is why it is so foolish for Israeli leaders to attack "the one robust Diaspora Jewry with the desire and the capacity not only to steadfastly stand with Israel but to substantively advance its interests."
Indeed, Horovitz notes that instead of dumping all over American Jewry, Israel would do well to focus on what's going on in its own country.
The exact thought I've been having lately, considering that, at this very moment, we have the president of Israel about to be brought up on rape charges. And the prime minister of Israel being investigated for financial improprieties in getting his home as a bribe. We have one chief rabbi of Israel accused of sexual harassment and the other chief rabbi excusing his son's physical assault of his sister's boyfriend. We have an army chief of staff who, having been told that two Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped in a cross border raid by Hezbollah, got on the phone to his stockbroker telling him to sell before the market went down on news of war. We have a justice minister who had to quit for forcibly sticking his tongue down a woman's throat and we have the new deputy prime minister calling for apartheid in Israel.
What? I thought Israel was supposed to be a light unto the nations, the place G-d gave His Chosen People, the holiest place on earth. It ain't American Jewry that has lost its way.
Then there's the fact that the Israeli school system ranks among the worst in the developed world, according to a new study.
What? I thought we were the people of the book, that education is vital to us and that teaching our children is one of our most sacred missions. It ain't American Jewry that has lost its way.
Then there's the fact that Israel decided against using a safe variety of cluster bombs during the Hezbollah war for cost reasons. Israel chose not to use more reliable Israeli made bombs but rather US made ones, even though the U.S. ones had a high "dud" rate, because they could be paid for out of U.S. defense grants and not have to come out of the Israel's budget. A higher "dud" rate meant the bombs posed more of a threat to civilians. And, in fact, leftover U.S. cluster bombs dropped by Israel in Lebanon have killed 14 people in Lebanon since hostilities ended and wounded dozens more.
What? I thought the first mission of a government is to protect its people and to put their safety above all else, especially in time of war. And I thought that Judaism puts saving human lives above all else, even budget considerations. It ain't American Jewry that has lost its way.
And so, Zeev, yes, American Jewry may have problems and challenges, but we're strong, proud, creative and we're here to stay. Meanwhile, you might want to work on some things in Israel. Focus your efforts on making Israel a place we want to make aliyah to, instead of trying to spook us into feeling America is a place we have to run away from.