Jewish Hollywood star Seth Rogen thinks it “makes no sense” for the “preservation of Jewish people” to “keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place—especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile.”
In other words, he thinks the state of Israel is bad for the preservation of the Jews.
Had Rogen spewed that musing to a friend on the set of his latest movie, that would be one thing. But he said it on Marc Maron’s highly popular podcast, which has more downloads than the top-rated Tucker Carlson or any news show on CNN.
If you don’t know much about Israel or the Zionist idea, you might hear Rogen and think: “Hmm, that kind of makes sense. Why would so many Jews gather in one volatile and dangerous neighborhood? Isn’t that bad for their preservation?”
Rogen said other brazen things on that now-infamous podcast, but for me, the comment about preservation was the most dangerous. Why? Because he comes across as having the Jews’ best interest at heart.
After all, it’s true that so many Jews have gathered in one place—at latest count, close to 7 million Jews live in Israel. And it’s true that Israel is in a “volatile” region, surrounded by enemies sworn to its destruction.
If you’ve never been taught the story of the Jewish people—the yearning for 19 centuries to return home to Zion; the never-ending persecution Jews suffered as they wandered through the Diaspora; the need for a homeland where Jews would hold their destiny in their own hands—it’s not a great leap to conclude: Who needs Israel?
On the podcast, Rogen lamented that “as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life.” If indeed he believes Israel “makes no sense,” then Rogen is right—he’s been fed plenty of lies.
Here’s a suggestion, then, for Mr. Rogen: Learn your people’s story. A good place to start would be “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor” by Yossi Klein Halevi.
“Israel exists because it never stopped existing, even if only in prayer,” Halevi writes. “Israel was restored by the cumulative power of Jewish longing. But attachment to the land wasn’t confined to longing. Throughout the centuries, Jews from east and west came to live and be buried in the land.”
Not surprisingly, the need to escape anti-Semitic horrors was a huge factor in the eternal Jewish longing to return home.
As Halevi writes: “The impetus for creating a political expression of the longing for return—restoring the Jewish relationship to Zion from time back into space—was dire need. In nineteenth-century Russia, millions of Jews were threatened by regime-instigated pogroms. Many Russian Jews were fleeing their homes and heading west. The newly created Zionist movement was seeking a solution not just for Jews but for ‘the Jews’—a permanent solution to homelessness.”
But since Rogen expressed such an interest in the “preservation” of his people, he ought to note that safety from persecution was far from the only impetus to Zionism.
“However desperate the situation,” Halevi writes, “anti-Semitism and the need for refuge didn’t define the essence of Zionism. Need gave Zionism its urgency, but longing gave Zionism its spiritual substance. Zionism was the meeting point between need and longing.”
Which lies was Rogen fed all these years that made him miss the very soul of the Zionist idea?
I heard through the grapevine that Rogen has been sending private Twitter messages to some of his critics to “explain himself.” If he truly cares about the preservation of his people, I hope that he will also educate himself—and then return on that same podcast to share with millions what he learned.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.