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The Jewish Report Editorial

The youth should challenge rigid views

Our opinions on what Israel should do don’t matter as much as they did a few decades ago. Israel is a strong, thriving country today.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | May 21, 2014

Is it of any significance that the Habonim youth movement organised a campaign to provoke a community-wide debate about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? It is Israelis living in the heart of the struggle, whose day-to-day lives are affected by it and whose sons and daughters serve in the IDF, who will make the decisions about the “peace process” and “solutions”, not a small South African Jewish community living comfortable lives at the bottom of Africa.

Our opinions on what Israel should do don’t matter as much as they did a few decades ago. Israel is a strong, thriving country today.

Moreover, many South African Jews are increasingly motivated towards putting their energies into South Africa and feel more patriotic towards this country than ever before, now that apartheid is gone. Which is as it should be, if we want to truly belong here.

There is much to do in this place that stirs the soul, so many opportunities to live meaningful lives in this incredible country with its warm-hearted people.

Habonim’s Project 242 matters rather in its attempt to provoke public debate about important issues among young people, whether at school, university or elsewhere. The Jewish Report received letters from some of them who attended the campaign’s panel discussion. We’ve published several on pages 8 and 9 and others on our website.

What stands out in the letters is not their support or rejection of the two-state solution itself, but praise for the project for facilitating a refreshing open conversation.

Several made the point that at school or other places in this community, they feel ostracised for holding a different view to the majority, that a too narrow or rigid point of view prevails.

South African Jewry has long been passionately Zionist and has given liberally of its people and resources for that cause. There was a time in the ‘60s and ‘70s when almost unquestioning support for Israel was the norm. Hundreds of young Jews flew to Israel as volunteers in 1967 to help during the Six Day War, and again in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Some 20 000 South African Jews live in Israel, a huge figure for such a small community.

Attitudes have since become increasingly complicated. The interpretation of Zionism itself is more contentious than before. Tenets are being questioned that have never before been challenged. Israel is not seen entirely as the victim today - a David against a Goliath - as it once was. Palestinian terrorism is condemned, but the view that painful compromises are necessary from both sides, prevails among many.

Sadly, an antagonistic view towards Habonim has taken root among parts of the SA Jewish community. Some people view this Zionist youth movement as a bunch of naïve, lefty kids opposed to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, who will sell out Israel to Palestinian and Arab demands. That’s just an easy way out.

We do ourselves a gross disservice by pretending their views are not relevant, not to be taken too seriously. They represent the views of a significant percentage of Israelis. They also represent a very strong percentage of international views.

It’s a very Jewish thing not to march in lockstep. The poet Rodger Kamenetz said in his book The Jew in the Lotus – an account of a Jewish delegation’s visit to the Dalai Lama, who wanted to know the secret of Jewish spiritual survival – that the Jews are an eternal people because there’s not enough time in the universe to finish their arguments.

Other young people – and older ones – should write to us to argue with or support the Habonim view and offer alternative opinions. The Jewish Report’s pages are open to all. We invite other youth movements to use this forum to put their ideas up for debate. If someone believes he knows the answer, he should be willing to defend his position against others who think differently.

2 Comments

  1. 2 Benjamin Friedman 21 May
    It is correct that only Israelis will have to live with the consequences of the conflict .For Israelis it is not an academic debate but daily reality . Youth are certainly entitled to question and debate , but i would expect Jewish youth to have a knowledge of Jewish history and Habonim show an appalling lack of understanding of Jewish History . They fail to understand the truth reality and history of Palestinian /Arab intransiagence 
    and anti semitism 
  2. 1 Gary Selikow 28 May
    Rigid views? Nothing is more rigid than the views of the Orwellian post-modern left with their group think and mandatory positions including hatred of Israel, condoning of Islamic atrocities around the world and support for totalitarian regimes that buse their own people

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