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Are You For Us Or Against Us?

After an emotionally exhausting election campaign in which I found myself—for the first time ever—terrified that the wrong results might prove an existential threat to Israel’s existence, the moment of truth had come. There, on a large screen in a (literally) cheesy kosher Italian restaurant in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, I was about to see the results of the exit poll at the close of voting.

I wasn’t alone. The place was packed with French Jews, members of B’nai B’rith, who had arranged the dinner for me. I was going to say a few words in Hebrew, which my host would translate. But there was no point. All eyes were on the screen as we held our collective breath.

My host, chauffeur and translator, who had left Israel for France as a child, discussed the election with me on the way over. I was a bit surprised that he was as staunchly in favor of the prime minister as I was, and just as fearful that Chaim Herzog and Tzipi Livni might take his place. “They are leftists, like Obama,” he declared. “That’s why Obama wants them in office—to undermine Israel’s security. He knows they won’t give him trouble on Iran, like Bibi does.”

For French Jews, traumatized by Islamic anti-Semitism and terrifying attacks like the recent massacre in the Hypercacher, a kosher market, Israel is increasingly being viewed as an immediate refuge. Some 5,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2014, up from 3,289 in 2013. Everywhere I go in Jerusalem, I hear French. As the screen lit up with the election results, a shout of joy reverberated through the room.
Not everyone in the Jewish world felt that way. Despite the euphoria of a hard-won victory, the aftermath of this bitterly fought campaign has been sobering, highlighting a real, deep and perhaps unbridgeable divide among Jews everywhere. Questions asked during the election have not gone away; they have simply deepened. Do the Arabs want to annihilate Israel, or will they be sincere partners in peace following a two-state solution? Are President Obama’s Mideast policies a threat to Israel’s existence, or will his proposed framework for a negotiated settlement with Iran prove the best deal possible under the circumstances to prevent a terror-supporting Iran from becoming a nuclear power?

I believe that the sides being taken on these vital issues, both before and after the election, are no whim of the moment that might change tomorrow with new information, but are a deep-seated expression of each individual Jew’s core identity and worldview. They are an insight into whether a Jew—French, American or Israeli—defines himself or herself as a practicing Jew and the Land of Israel as God-given, a place to express Jewish identity through adherence to the Torah; or whether one sees oneself as a modern secularist and the State of Israel as a temporary political response to anti-Semitism following the Holocaust, one whose reason for existence might disappear just as quickly. Put this way, these views are admittedly extreme. But as election reactions prove, most Jews incline to one view or the other.

“Most American Jews overwhelmingly support liberal positions and see the idea of two states for two peoples as the only way to avoid a future in which Jews rule over a minority that lacks equal rights. [The election results] will only further the alienation of the majority of American Jewry from Israeli politics and values,” Jewish-American author and sociologist Samuel Heilman told Haaretz. In contrast, the Zionist Organization of America’s Mort Klein told Haaretz, “I’m proud that the Israelis chose reality and security over fantasy and a phony hope in change.”

In Israel, reactions were even more extreme. Gideon Levy of Haaretz wrote, “The first conclusion that arose just minutes after the announcement of the exit polls was particularly discouraging: The nation must be replaced. Not another election for the country’s leadership, but general elections to choose a new Israeli people…” Secular playwright Joshua Sobol derided “mezuzah-kissing” Jews as “fools” and likened Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett to the Nazis. His remarks came in defense of secular Israeli painter and political pundit Yair Garbuz, who caused an uproar at a Tel Aviv rally before election day by asserting that “amulet kissers and pagan worshipers” are controlling the country.
Our newly re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, responded: “I heard someone speak of people who kiss mezuzot with disdain. Since when is it a crime to kiss a mezuzah?”

He added, “We know where we came from and we know what country we came back to. We know what we are fighting to keep. We know about our tradition and about our heritage.”

Those who voted for Netanyahu, rooted for him and rejoiced in his victory would certainly agree. I’m sad to say I don’t feel comfortable asserting that is also true about the other side. That’s an unbridgeable gap with which we Jews will just have to learn to live.

This article was first published in the May-June 2015 issue of Moment Magazine.

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13 comments on “Are You For Us Or Against Us?”

  1. Naomi R.

    Naomi. There is nothing I can add to what you have written. What I have seen both from reading your books and your superb articles is that you make every effort to present the truth even at great cost to yourself. Kol Hakavod and may Hashem give you strength to continue your work. Some of us are paying attention.

  2. marty samuels

    My friends and I are appalled at especially the Jewish liberals who would throw Israel under the truck. Don’they realize they would be next? Don’t they look at history?

  3. New Class Traitor

    Gary Fidel: sure, let’s obsess over 13th-order issues while the place is about to blow up — like arguing over the interior decoration of a house that’s on fire. Because, you know, people who say meaaaaaan words about people are sooooo much more of an issue than those of our enemies who already routinely torture and kill “ahl al-Lut” (as they call homosexuals) while they would, of course, love to enslave or kill all of us.

    There is a name for the attitude that imputes automatic moral superiority and immunity from criticism for those who practice “alternative s3xual lifestyles”. It is called ‘homosexism’ and I have no more time for it than I have for so-called ‘homophobia’.

  4. Renaud

    Those who mourn the Nakba must be expelled of Israel/Palestine.
    A new Herod close to Israel must replace the Fatah and Gaza leaders.
    There is time for democracy and there is time for a one way politics.
    There is no difference between Abbas and Hanyeh: Both want Israel to desappear.
    Religious laws who kept Israeli people in minority must be reformed.
    Only 13 million jews in 3500 years is against nature, against education. Jews were 20% of the Roman empire.
    Religious people and false hassidims have broken God’s promise to his people to be as numerous as the stars in heaven.
    Religion must be reformed

    • Moshe Akivat

      Renaud, you can’t even explain to the rabbis that poisons shouldn’t be kosher. How will you explain them the Talmud is outdated, obsolete? Logic and facts do not work in their case.
      As you say, we perhaps could be the most numerous nation on the planet if they didn’t rule against the Torah, saying that a Jewish mother makes a child Jewish. It’s crazy. Why can’t either parent’s Jewishness be enough?

      And by the way, not only those Muslims should be expelled from Israel, who worship naqba day, but all of them. The Israeli government made the greatest mistake in 1967. The Muslims should have been sent to their loving Muslim brothers to other Muslim countries. Letting them stay led to numerous idiotic UN resolutions at first, terrorism, later to BDS, anti-Israel NGO-s, even to attacking Jews in European and North American universities or in the streets because “Israel mistreats the Molestinians”. All this BS could have been simply avoided.

      And if anybody believes there will be peace between Jews and this mixed Muslim terrorist rabble on the land of Israel he is totally mistaken. Unless he thinks the Muslims will mass-murder the Jews.

  5. Don Saliman

    Noami,

    I live on a left wing Kibbutz, Nahal Oz but was happy for a Likud win but am now unhappy with who the coalition with Bibi chose.

    I don’t like it when our money is controlled by the extream religious people and also the education.

    I am unhappy that Liberman decided not to join and that a convicted felon is in charge of our money.

    I thank you for writing your articles that I agree with about 90% and please keep it up, you are my way of getting my views out to the public that I have very few access to.

  6. Alan Cahn

    Naomi Ragen writings,spirit,and support for Bibi deserves a Yashi Koach..Thank you.
    I appreciate Mr.Fidel’s concerns as an issue,along with the Ethiopians,the Sudanese,the Tel Aviv rental issues,the BDS movements,Histradrut,and many other social issues.
    The core issue however,is survival of the Jewish State vs a vis the Anti-Semitic war mongering “neighbors” along with the UN,EU,Vatican,and a weak American President.
    Psychologically,I truly cannot understand how the Prime Minister can deal with these issues while maintaining this amazingly pluralistic democratic Jewish society that is hopefully trying to observe Torah values.

  7. Claire Berke

    I am with you all the way Naomi. I appreciated so much your writings about the Prime Minister and his problems with the media but thanks to you people came around and understood that they can be safe with him.

    I feel a little better this week about the Iran mess since the congress signed this bill, again thanks to Bibi speaking to them.I was really nervous last week when at a gathering, a man from Stand with Us, spoke about the problems and we were able to pick up papers showing us what was really happening. I was not proud of our Administration. I hope that things will get better and that they will not send bomb to Israel

  8. Jean Mallin

    I am an American Jew and I prayed that Netanyahu would be elected. As Jews, wherever we are, we need his strength.
    Thank you and bless our beloved Israel.
    Jean Mallin

  9. jeanlipchin

    Thank you Naomi for your posts, thank you for all your work! May G-d be with you in everything you do!

    Yet If it is G-d’s will that Israel be no more, how can this be stopped?

    • Norma Silver

      Jean, In Holy Scriptures, it states that Israel will be the place where Messiah will come and reign in Jerusalem! I believe G-d’s Word to be true! It is wonderful that Ha Shem is clear with His will for us. Many blessings to you.

  10. Gary Fidel

    The government that has now been formed raises significant questions regarding rights of women and the rights of the LGBT community. The attack on Women at the Wall for reading the Torah shocked many in the American Jewish community. As did the recent idiotic position taken by the ultra-religious who now hold a powerful position in the government supporting attempts to “reform” LGBT individuals. The truth is that both these positions are viewed by most American Jews as being similar to those held by Islamic followers of Shariah law. By joining himself “at the hip” with those who believe that women and LGBT Jews must accept second class citizenship, the Prime Minister has started down a road that will result in catastrophic loss of support for him and for Israel among American Jews — and this has nothing to do with the Palestinian question. I for one cannot comprehend how you can support this government given that it now consists of members who despise women and those in the LGBT
    community.

  11. Judy

    Thanks for reiterating how it really is: the true facts…

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