If not here, where?

Jewish camps are not to promote assimilation, and certainly not that form of the phenomenon that rejects or is antagonistic to Jewry, Judaism or Israel.

Campers making pita on their outdoor oven with recipes received through their Israel @ Camp Resource Box.  Credit: iCenter for Jewish Education.
Campers making pita on their outdoor oven with recipes received through their Israel @ Camp Resource Box. Credit: iCenter for Jewish Education.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

The clearest definition of Jewish cosmopolitanism is probably that of Rosa Luxemburg as contained in a letter to Mathilde Wurm, from Feb. 16, 1917: “I cannot find a special corner in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”

And once again, Jews of the Diaspora are confronted with the option of remaining part of the Jewish whole or spinning off.

A recent American Jewish Committee poll asked whether Israel should dismantle some, all or none of its West Bank settlements in a peace deal with Palestinians, 4 percent of Israeli Jews said all, 35 percent said some and 54 percent said none. Among American Jews, 15 percent said all, 44 percent said some and 35 percent said none.

On a parallel question, “In the current situation, do you favor or oppose a two-state solution through the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on the West Bank?” Israelis responded: Favor strongly 15 percent; Favor somewhat 29 percent; Oppose somewhat 15 percent; Oppose strongly 33 percent; and No opinion 8 percent. The American Jews polled responded so: Favor strongly 31 percent; Favor somewhat 28 percent; Oppose somewhat 12 percent; Oppose strongly 18 percent; No opinion 10 percent.

Those figures in the middle of the scale represent almost a mirror image. The strongest feelings expressed, however, appears to indicate a core 15 percent or so in the two communities that are very sharply divergent in their opinions.

Of course, over the decades, Israelis have been no less peace-desiring than any other Jew if one cares to review the hundreds of polls. It is just that all the options that are proposed fail, in Israeli mainstream thinking, to address two major elements that Diaspora Jewry really takes into consideration: is Israel’s security properly assured and can the Arabs-called-Palestinians be trusted.

Israel’s official government position seems still rooted in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance in 2009 of a two-state solution, no matter how much Jews or foreign diplomats don’t believe him. It may be his luck, or planning, that the Palestinian Authority is the most extreme political and ideological actor on the scene here and they refuse to accept anything less than 100 percent of their demands including the “return” of refugees. American presidents, European prime ministers and United Nations clerks, as well as hundreds of NGO workers, can gnash their teeth and stamp their feet in disgust at Netanyahu and Israel.

But they all know the Arabs remain responsible for their fate.

What is rather unique on the Diaspora scene, and we’ll skip the silly scenes of Jews reciting Kaddish (instead, at least, the Yizkor) or some general “prayer” for Gazans killed, is the efforts to subvert not only Israel’s diplomatic position but to undermine establishment Jewish frameworks.

One example of the deviousness is a news item reporting that counselors who will be in charge of American Jewish youth during the summer have been trained to highlight “occupation” as a theme instead of “the “land of Israel.” The claim is made that Jewish summer camps, especially the Ramah network,

hid what was really happening in Israel/Palestine from us and other campers. Help us prevent another generation from growing up without the truth!

The main mover behind the re-education drive. IfNotNow, plays around with its messaging as in regard BDS for example:

While we do not take a position on BDS, we recognize that many Jews feel that it is a legitimate form of protest against the Occupation.

Are these camps unnerved by the subterfuge?

According to their official response, their commitment to Israel should not be questioned as

We do not, however, permit the sharing of anti-Israel educational messages at camp.

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, national director of the National Ramah Commission, told JTA that counselors are not allowed to teach anti-Zionist material and they ground their curriculum in a love of Israel.

I would suggest the camps adopting the theme “IfNotHere, Where?” It would be a syllabus stressing the connection between Jews and the Land of Israel, the intrinsic religious and cultural value the land expresses in commandments and customs, the history of the continuation of the Jewish connection to the land despite exile and diaspora existence, the legal rights of Jews to the land as confirmed by international bodies and getting to know the 150 or so Jewish communities who have resettled the Land of Israel and getting to know the more than 600,000 Jews who are maligned and stigmatized as “settlers.”

The campers could occupy their time and minds with a true and genuine Jewish value rather than being submitted to a form of cosmopolitanism that led Rosa Luxemburg, eventually, to the Landwehr Canal in Berlin.

Jewish camps are not to promote assimilation, and certainly not that form of the phenomenon that rejects or antagonistic to Jewry, Judaism or Israel. Self-hatred is not a fun summer game.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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