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Never Never Land

I can’t talk to my kids about Israel

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'Visit Palestine' poster, c. 1935

Tourist Development Association of Palestine poster, circa 1935.
CREDIT: Boston Public Library

I’ve written a column about Jewish parenting for eight years, first at the Forward and for the last year at Tablet Magazine. In that time, I’ve written 11 pieces about Jewish children’s books, nine about the High Holidays, seven about Passover, six about the Jewish female body, four about summer camp, three about Sukkot, and two each about vaccines, organ donation, and Tu B’Shevat. I am painfully aware that I have never, not once, written about Israel.

That’s because I am deeply ambivalent about Israel. Modern-day Israel, as opposed to historical Israel, is a subject I avoid with my children. Yes, of course I believe the state should exist, but the word “Zionist” makes me skittish. (I understand that I may be the Jewish equivalent of all the twentysomething women I want to smack for saying, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights.”) I shy away from conversations about Israeli politics. I feel no stirring in my heart when I see the Israeli flag. I would no sooner attend an Israel Day parade than a Justin Bieber concert. Neither Abe Foxman nor AIPAC speaks for me. I am a liberal, and I am deeply troubled by the Matzav, Israeli shorthand for tension with the Palestinians, and I do not have answers, and I do not know what to do about it, and I do not know what to tell my children.

So, it was with a huge sense of identification and relief that I read Peter Beinart’s controversial essay in the New York Review of Books last week. As you no doubt know, Beinart, an associate professor of journalism and political science at CUNY and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote that leading Jewish institutions viscerally reject opposition to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and of the country’s Arab citizens, and this has made younger non-Orthodox Jews like me—who are deeply committed to human rights around the world, who reject being told what to think and do without the airing of all points of view, who have issues with military force—turn away from Jewish communal organizations and refrain from even thinking about, let alone identifying with, the state of Israel.

“Having kids definitely played a role” in his writing of this essay, Beinart told Tablet’s Marc Tracy. “I think it made me think about not just my Zionist identity, but what kind of Zionism was available to them. And the more I thought about that, the more I began to worry.” In the piece, he mentioned that he could imagine his children, who attend an Orthodox shul, winding up either among the apathetic college students identified in a recent survey who don’t identify at all with Zionism, or among the right-wingers who boo when the notion of Palestinian suffering is even mentioned at an Israel solidarity rally. “Either prospect fills me with dread,” he writes.

Oh, dude. I can relate.

When I wrote recently about the attempt in Canada to censor a children’s book depicting a Palestinian perspective on the Matzav, I had a teetering stack of middle-grade and young adult novels and non-fiction about the conflict on my desk. Josie, my 8 year old, wandered into my office and asked if she could read one. “Sure,” I gulped. She wound up choosing Samir and Yonatan, a poetic, elliptical novel about a Palestinian boy and a Jewish boy in an Israeli hospital. When she returned the book to me, I asked, “What did you think?”

“I’m not sure I understood it,” she said. “Can you explain it a little bit?”

I stumbled desperately through an explanation of why two peoples feel they have a legitimate claim to the same land.

“But having land is like having a seat on a bus,” Josie replied. “You can’t just push someone out of their seat, and you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.”

My panicked reaction to her words surprised me. I found myself trying to convince her that Israel did have that right. But that’s not what I believe. But I’m not sure what I believe. I want my children to love Israel, but I don’t want them to identify with bullies. I was spinning in my own head like the desperate, overwhelmed woman in the Calgon commercial: J Street, take me away!

But Josie’s bus-bully analogy resonated. Baby-boomer Jews seem wedded to a sepia-toned image of Jews as victims—in the shtetl, in the Holocaust, in Israel’s early wars. But in real life, victims can turn into bullies. Perhaps being the parent to girls, rather than boys, helps me see this—in Mean Girl dynamics, the power shifts back and forth almost every day. We want a bright clear line, but heroes and villains in the real world are much fuzzier.

Until now, I’ve taught my children about Jewish identity through ancient history, through food, through songs and prayers, through the story of American immigration. I’ve left any Israel talk to their teachers. When someone said of the camp Josie will attend this summer, “Oh, that’s a very Zionist camp!” I felt a stab of unexamined, visceral panic. I’ve always known I’d take my kids to visit Israel one day, and I figure they’ll go on a teen tour or do a study program there just as I did. But putting it off till tomorrow, like a Jewish Scarlett O’Hara, isn’t a good long-term strategy.

So, exactly how should liberal parents who want to foster Jewish identity, but who see Zionism as the conversational equivalent of an Alar-coated apple, teach their children about Israel? “You have to expose children to a multiplicity of authors and positions, then they can synthesize their own ideas,” says Alex Sinclair, lead researcher at Makom, the Israel Engagement Network of the Jewish Agency. “When we tell kids what to think, we forbid those kinds of critical, evaluative moves.”

In a 2007 piece in the Jerusalem Report, Sinclair wrote, “Educational thinkers since Socrates have known that one of the soundest ways in which to get people to feel committed to and invested in a given issue is to ask them to take a stand on it: to debate. In good schools, from the earliest grades, children are asked to collate evidence, analyze data and evaluate positions. Indeed, ‘evaluation’ is the highest order of thinking, according to Bloom’s now classic taxonomy of the cognitive domain. Yet, in Israel education, we seem to want to prevent Jewish children (to say nothing of adults) from aspiring to that level.”

Furthermore, Sinclair tells me, teaching American kids about Israel should be a lesson in teaching pluralism. “It’s about seeing Israel as non-monolithic, containing a variety of voices, without saying ‘you have to follow a particular party line,’ ” he says. “There are other debates beside the Israeli-Palestinian ones. There are discussions to be had about living in a diverse culture, about religion’s role in the state. I’d love for American kids to be exposed to young Russian and Ethiopian Jews as well as to Palestinians.”

He makes a funny analogy: “You have little girls, right?” he asks me. “And they love horses, right? There are American organizations that let you sponsor a horse, give money to the horse, you get pictures of the horse, and maybe one day you meet the horse. We need something similar to foster one-on-one connections between American and Israeli kids. And what they should wind up with is ‘If what I think is different from what some political parties think, that’s great.’ You have to allow kids to have that space.”

And all this means we can’t expect blind fealty. Right now, the big American Jewish communal organizations measure the success of their youth outreach initiatives in “Do the kids wind up supporting the Israeli government?” Maybe instead we should encourage kids to be able to engage in informed debate and be able to appreciate Israel’s history while also feeling empowered to urge its government—and ours—to take positions we think are right.

When you’re an American Jewish parent, ambivalence and sorrow about the state of Israel aren’t necessarily bad. Disengagement is. What I need to fight in myself is the tendency to tune out when I’m confused and upset. When I tune out, I can’t learn, and I can’t teach my own kids. Disagreement with Israel doesn’t mean not loving Israel, just as being upset with your own children doesn’t mean you don’t love them. But I need to engage with what frightens me, and my failure to do so is why it’s taken eight years to write this column.

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Kim Phillips says:

Marjorie–I feel your pain…not as a liberal Jewish parent (no kids here) but as a liberal Jew. Unquestioning, unconditional devotion seems to be required but that smacks of the lock-step orthodoxy we do not embrace. Liberal Americans usually feel it is patriotic–nay, required–to question governments. So it’s hard. But maybe it’s OK to tell your kids: I don’t know what I think about it…I need to think some more. They will respect your teaching them to live with ambiguity. Keep the articles coming…

Maybe you need to study up on recent Israeli/Jewish history if you are so ambivaent about the Israel and feel so bad for the Palestinians. Maybe you should figure out who has kept them in camps (UNRWA). Derprived them of nationhood and kept them deprived fo their rights throughout the world (PLO, FATH, arab nations of Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, etc). In order to have peace, you need to have a partner who wants peace and doesn’t call for your destruction in their charter, which all Palestinian organizations do, the PA included. Why you think that Israel has to negotiate her right to exist is beyond me. Why you think everything is the Jew’s fault is beyond me. Otherwse why would you be so ashamed of Israel and not know how to discuss it with your daughter? I found a way to teach it to mine and it starts with pride not excuses. It starts with respect for their heritage and an understanding of how Tanach, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael fits into being a Jew. It’s not hard you just need to stop apologizing for being alive and free and living on land that is yours.

I think after this article I am done with Tablet Magazine. I read this and I find it so interesting how people from America or Canada or any other country other than Israel have so much to say about the Matzav. Try looking at it this way, you talk about your daughter, when she walks out her front door, does she have to worry that a rocket will land at her feet? Do you? We lived there, my children lived in bomb shelters and some of my friends lost their lives just because they walked outside. Oh and that part about the land, maybe the U.S. should give Alaska and Texas back. Every country has fought in a war over land, where are the criticisms about that.

Dear Marjorie:

As a long-time admirer of your columns, I am deeply troubled and not at all ambivalent about your difficulties with Israel. You should tell your children that Israel desperately wants peace with its neighbors. You should tell them how Israel returned all of the Sinai to Egypt after the heroic journey to Jerusalem by Anwar Sadat; you should inform them of the sacrifices Israel made in withdrawing from Gaza; they deserve to know of the unprecedented morality displayed by Israel and its defense forces when finally forced to respond to the 8,000 missiles rained down from Gaza: the phone calls, text messages and leaflets sent by the Israelis to the residents of that land held hostage by terrorists. Why the hesitation? Have you told your children of the perfidious U.N. holding three generations of Arabs hostage in miserable “refugee” camps while almost a million displaced Jews from Arab lands have been successfully resettled in Israel and other countries? Do they know that an equitable partition of the land was presented by the United Nations in 1948 and that Israel accepted it and the Arabs did not?

You say you have “issues” with military force? Do you realize that if Israel would lay down its weapons, today, it would be destroyed, but if the Arabs did the same there would instantly be peace? Does someone with your seychal truly believe that there is no middle ground between college students who “don’t identify at all with Zionism,” and “right-wingers who boo…the notion of Palestinian suffering?” Can you honestly argue that the democratically elected government of Israel, facing numerous hostile borders, thousands of rockets and possibly a nuclear Iran, is a bully?

Do you truly believe that the “big American Jewish communal organizations” measure the success of their youth outreach initiatives by “Do the kids wind up supporting the Israeli government?” Do you know the slightest thing about Taglit Birthright Israel?

You should take the advice of Alex Sinclair and let your children “collate evidence, analyze data, and evaluate positions,” without imposing your prejudices on them. Take them to Israel. Let them see the glorious pluralism on display: the ingathering and integration of diverse peoples from Arab lands, the former Soviet Union, the U.S., Ethiopia, etc. The many, many places in Israel where Israeli Arab citizens are flourishing, the kibbutzim and agricultural accomplishments, the amazing technology industry that has grown under such trying circumstances, the fabulous children’s museums and polyglot playgrounds that everywhere abound.

To me, the saddest part of your entire piece was your comment about your dread of an Israel Day parade and that you “…feel no stirring in my heart when I see the Israeli flag.” I had thought that only the hateful Neturei Karta made the distinction between “Modern-day Israel, as opposed to historical Israel.” If you were in Manhattan, yesterday, you missed a wonderful teaching opportunity. You would have had the chance to show your daughters the sight of tens of thousands of their peers happily celebrating 62 miraculous years of the State of Israel. And, they would have seen a sea of those beautiful blue and white flags you so dread, being proudly carried down 5th Avenue by thousands of people of every age. You have waited far too long to confront your ambivalence. Your children, their upbringing so thoughtfully analyzed and plotted in so many areas, deserve far better.

Here here Len!!!!!!
Charlie Salem a UK Jew not at all ambivalent about telling his children his point of view and letting them find ALL the facts and coming to their own conclusion.
Sorry – i don’t parent my children like a dictator.
You Ms Ingall obviously do!

Linda says:

Len said it beautifully. I love your writing, and have followed your column for years, but was surprised and disheartened by your story.

In 2001, after yet another suicide bomber killed Israei children, I told my then 9-yr-old daughter that when Palestinian children are casualties, it’s inadvertent and viewed as tragic by Israelis, whereas Palestinians deliberately target Israeli civilians and rejoice when a hit is “successful.” Think about it.

I also told her that, though the Palestinians are not 100% at fault nor the Israelis utterly blameless, sometimes you have to pick a side. Yes, we are part of a global community, and I take that seriously, but where is the global community’s outrage over homicide bombings?

I recently attended a lecture given by a Christian Lebanese woman. Having lived through the horror of watching what happened to the Christians in Lebanon at the hands of the Arabs/Palestinians – she has become a huge defender of Israel.

She looked out into a sea of Jewish Women’s faces and implored them to educate their children about Israel. To teach them about Israel’s goodness and morality, and to make clear Israel’s right to defend herself. War is never easy nor always right, so its fair to say Israel makes mistakes. But, as one of the only army’s in the world who notifies its enemies before striking, hoping civilians will clear out, and the only Democracy in an area of the world we can only begin to imagine (America is relatively insulated as are our lives here) – Israel is a country to be exceptionally proud of.

And I’d echo the many comments here about citizenry of different backgrounds and their ability to prosper in Israel something you simply can’t say would occur in the Palestinian territories and in many Arab nations if not most as well.

If Israel doesn’t defend herself against the Palestinians desire to annihilate her there will be no Israel. And if she doesn’t defend her citizens against on-going rocket attacks that kill Israelis regularly and maim them – she is not a State. Israel needs to own and protect its borders.

In your case, it sounds like you need to get educated. Then you can educate your child. But, in the interim, I hope you’ll send her to programs run by organizations like Young Judea, Tzofim, AIPAC, JNF youth programs. They know that teaching our children about Israel and helping to counter the propaganda that has left too much of American Jewry sadly ambivalent and ignorant.

Last, take your child to Israel. Give her and you the gift you deserve. A chance to get grounded again in reality and not media.

Good luck.

Kim Phillips says:

@MB: Maybe it’s the very fact that Marjorie doesn’t live there that she feels ambivalent. Nothing like having a rocket land at your feet to focus your attention. I also have lots of ambivalence and refused to voice any opinion at all until I had set foot in the place. After a month there, I felt more connected than before, but still ambivalent in some ways. Right to exist? YES. Right to defend? YES. Took it in a war? YES. I also saw Arab women being hassled at a security check going into Machaneh Yehudah; at first my liberal American self was annoyed at that, then I remembered there had been a bombing a few years before in that market where 30 or so people were killed. Until I have to live under that kind of tension, I don’t really get to say, 100%, what I’d do.

Linda says:

Rather than getting caught up in liberal/conservative politcs, I’d like to reframe the question around teaching and learning. We all want our children to be critical thinkers, to question the ads they see on TV, the bias in newspapers and in the media, and what’s written on their cereal boxes. Read school websites: they trumpet their commitment to critical thinking. Critical thinking is a thoroughly Jewish trait. Avraham avinu (Abraham our progenitor)models it for us when he gives God a hard time on the Sodom/Gomorrah destruction. Our texts call us B’nai Yisrael, the descendants of the one who wrestled with God. Critical thinking is part of our religious DNA–look at the generations of scholars who argue over what a word or a line of Torah means. Jewish theologians from the medieval period on have debated the nature of God. God, Torah, and Israel–the big three of Jewish philosophy. Why should the subject of the Jewish state be exempt from scrutiny, unlike the other two elements of the triad?

I understand your ambivalence-you don’t want to teach your daughters hatred and bias. But eschewing the issue altogether is a bit cowardly, I think, as you point out (this is coming from someone with no children yet.) Why not start little by little? You don’t have to teach the breadth of modern Israeli history in one go.

Additionally, what I think is missing from your discussion here is that the government of Israel and the state of Israel are two different things. You can most definitely love the State of Israel without loving the government of Israel, just as you can love Kentucky without loving Rand Paul. Why not teach your kids to love the land of Israel, the people of Israel, and the places of Israel, and learn to critically think through the government of Israel?

As someone who was raised 150% Zionist and learned to both love the country of Israel and be critical of government policies, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s only bad if your kids have no critical reasoning skills to distinguish fact from rhetoric, so more than any pro/anti position on Israel, it’s important that they have logic skills.

Malka says:

What do you tell your kids about Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, or Arizona’s new immigration law?
Good countries often do bad things. Good people live in those countries. Try making friends with some liberal Israelis, visit Tel Aviv and Haifa. You’ll see a beautiful country whose people are creative, nuanced, and thoughtful: mothers who go to Mahsom Watch on Friday, Orthodox feminists who are passionate about peace, organic moshavim. We’ve had our share of ick here, too; but things change. Israel is important to the Jewish people, and one day you’ll be able to brag about it again. Aside from the injustices, Israel is the cultural gem of the Jewish people, invaluable. You can honestly tell your kids that many Israelis are truly interested in peace and care about their neighbors’ well-being.

Loyal Opposition says:

I have also been struggling recently about how to present my children with a nuanced understanding of the Matzav. My own uncertainties are one complication, of course, but then there is the issue of what kids are able to understand and when. In day school, my 7-year-old learns to celebrate Israeli history and culture, which is lovely. She also sees maps of Israel that boundaries of the state as including the Occupied Territories — no sign that there is any dispute or problem there, no lines at all,in fact — and this is disingenuous at best. I continue to feel my way on this issue, as I do with talking with her about issues such as why the “hostile natives” (described as such in a play they did for Columbus Day) might have responded as they did. Such conversations may be the best those of us who want to instill a sense of dialogue around these issues can do for our children.

David says:

Kudos to Marjorie for being courageous enough to write about what many people of all faiths feel.

Those of you who are attacking her are, in many ways, blaming the messenger. Not knowing what to say to your kids about Israel (or about dating, or about what to have for breakfast) isn’t a moral shortcoming. It’s a sign that there are moral ambiguities at work here. Being able to navigate and discuss those moral ambiguities without being brandished a traitor is the essence of a free society.

Thank you, Marjorie. My children are both grown, and I am one of those baby boomers who remembers the stunned euphoria when reclaimed the Western Wall, but you expressed my thoughts exactly. I am very active in my Liberal, Conservative synagogue, where discussions around Israel always start with the premise of a two-state solution, and yet those conversations always leave me feeling deeply ambivalent and confused.

Beth says:

Your child’s analogy about the bus is a good one. Let’s extend it.

In most of the world (including North and South America and Australia), people were not only pushed out of their seats on the moving bus, but were thrown out the windows to die.

In Israel, Jews found some, if not many, of the seats empty when they arrived. They did, indeed, force some Palestinians out of their seats. Others left the bus rather than ride with Jews.

As in other countries in the past and present (Tibet; Northern Ireland; Chechnya; Quebec, etc., etc.), Palestinians have been pushed to the back of the bus. Their recourse has been to turn to their bully friends on other buses to obtain weapons, which they have been shooting at the front of the bus for 60 years. The thing is, Jews are not consistently allowed to ride other buses–they only have one bus. Which group is trying to share the bus?

And thank you to Tablet for this and so many other thoughtful, thought-provoking essays.

Caitlin McKee says:

Do you talk to your children about America? Do you talk about the senseless Vietnam War and what America is doing in Iran and Afganistan?
What about the role that America has played in decimating the native American population and isolating them in reservations (or Canada’s reserves)? Or the continued racism within America’s jail policies and its brutal history of slavery and continued apartheid within America’s educational school system?
I feel sorry for your lack of education about Israel’s reality. I feel sorry that you can’t talk to your children about the many accomplishments Israel has made in a short 60 years despite having to spend so much of its budget on defense. I feel sorry that you haven’t spoken to Israeli Arabs as well as Israeli Druze who are working within Israel and who support the country and its democracy.
I would also suggest that you visit and see for yourself.
As a Catholic who has done a lot of interfaith work, I am appalled by Jews who feel they have to “come out” as a “not that kind of Zionist Jew.” It’s such an odd form of distancing from other Jews, a self-righteous, condescending intellectualism. I hope you are able to keep an open mind about people’s comments here and educate yourself and your children.

Katie says:

Thanks for summoning the courage to write this, Marjorie. I also struggle with how to talk to my kids about political conflict, and also feel the queasiness when it’s my own nation or people acting contrary to my sense of morality. You make a great point, that both critical thinking *and* a personal connection to Israel are important for American Jewish children. I’m sure your girls will grow up with both pride in their heritage and an ability to see the nuances in the current Israeli situation, which should make you proud.

Moral absolutes are comforting, to be sure, but they’re not all that useful in light of certain unavoidable realities–for example, the looming demographic crisis that will soon force Israel to choose between its Jewish identity and its democratic traditions. Falling back on the same old certainties has only hardened and prolonged the conflict. At the end of the day, Israel faces two choices: keep thinking and doing things the same way, and consign its own children to an eternity of fear and bloodshed (to say nothing of the Palestinian children); or try to find new ideas and approaches that might actually move the region toward peace.

I can’t say what those ideas might be, any more than Marjorie does–but the open mind and moral nuance with which she tries to discuss the situation with her kids offers some hope for the future. This is the kind of courage we need more of.

Leah says:

“you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.”

True. But what if you were forcibly dragged off the bus, and beaten? What if others were killed? Are you later allowed to reclaim your seat? Would it be fair to say, “well, you left, so now the seat belongs to another”?
Here’s the thing – Jews never willingly left. There have always been Jews living in Israel/Palestine/Judea. It wasn’t the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce that marked the ‘end’ of Jews in Judea. After all, the mishnah was written there! It wasn’t until the Byzantines slaughtered huge numbers of Jews in 300 that the community dwindled a bit. But it picked back up again. But then the Crusaders came and slaughtered huge swaths of people. But it picked up again. Then the Ottoman caliphate, bloated and corrupt, looked the other way as Jews were subject to persecution and oppression. But the British conquered the land, and created a state for the Muslim Arabs — Transjordan. And the rest they pledged to the Jews.
Whether you ‘believe’ in Zionism (i.e. the STATE of Israel) is irrelevant to whether Jews have a right to continue living in their own land – which they never willingly left.
Our rabbis said, “by having compassion on those you should not, you will be cruel to those upon whom you should have compassion.”
Its important to keep moral clarity in these circumstances.

Rob Braun says:

I echo your pain. I too am ambivalent about a blind faith approach to Zionism and Israeli politics. For a people who have suffered under so much persecution in their own long history in so many places, it is a wonder why they can’t be more open to practicing more empathy with the present plight of the Palestinian people. When it comes to having empathy for people or even nations who are being bullied or even persecuted for wanting to live peaceably in their own homeland, I’d think the Jewish people would be world leading experts. I understand that there is a lot of complexity to the political dynamics of the Palestinian/Israeli wrestling match over HaAretz, yet bottom line-shouldn’t they practice what they preach about themselves?

M, as always, I have your back (even though I think technically, we have not yet met in person?). I completely understand and empathize with your ambivalence and have always been far left on everything, including the Jewish state. So it was something of an eye-opener for me to travel to Israel, as I just did (for the first time in 30 years – essentially, then, like the first time). The conditions for the Palestinians are truly appalling, but… the situation is not as clearcut as I’d assumed. Are the Palestinians being mistreated by the Israelis? Undoubtedly. Are they at least as mistreated, possibly even more venally misserved by their own authority? UNDOUBTEDLY. And that is truly the problem – the situation can’t be summed up as Israel vs. Palestine. This is the issue that gets lost in translation, that gets buried in the media – that Hamas, Fatah, and most definitely and indefensibly, Yasser Arafat – have appropriated (i.e., STOLEN) humanitarian funds, and there is a very convenient apparatus in the Arab nations for keeping the Palestinian people desperate and victimized – there’s no better recruitment (money, volunteers) tool on the planet, and it keeps attention off the appalling dictatorships in these countries. I am definitely not anti-Arab, and I don’t whitewash Israel’s actions. But to examine the situation without factoring in the dirty, bloody hands of the non-Jews is facile. The Arabs in Israel I met want to stay Israeli citizens. The Israelis with whom I spoke (and they ranged from Kibbutniks to Likkudniks) all want a two-state solution. But until the Palestinian authorities (notice I don’t say the people, I mean these venal administrators and not their victims) also want a two-state solution, also feel that the aid money that has poured in must go to infrastructure and not violence (or Suha Arafat’s Swiss bank account), peace is going to be elusive. It’s tragic. But it’s not “Bad Israels vs. Victimized Palestinians”. Not just that. And this conversation is a great way to teach kids about politics, about the responsibility of voting. An eight year-old (particularly a bright one) can absorb the nuances of the situation.

I deeply appreciated both the content of your article, and the courage it took for you to publish your thoughts. Judging from the comments it elicited, it is understandable why those who struggle with their ambivalence are afraid of doing so publicly. Even though reasonable people can disagree, the temperature seems to rise almost instantly around this topic, putting off more sensitive souls.
I share your ambivalence and oddly weak attachment to Israel, despite having every reason to feel otherwise. I’ve often wondered why I don’t feel more strongly, but haven’t arrived at any answers.
As for your daughter’s bus analogy, I can see where it both holds truth and also doesn’t quite hit truth. The reason that I am alive, is because one of my parents made their way to Palestine during WWII, when every other option was closed to them by every other port in the world. My sense is that people weren’t asking for a seat on the bus so much as grabbing it in desperation because the alternative was to lay down and die.
Thanks for listening, and keep up your writing!

IheartMarjorie says:

Wow, I read this article and came with a much different takeaway than many of the people who have commented thus far. Lay off, already – are you accusing the author of not being Jewish enough because she has questions and confusion about Zionism?

I support Marjorie Ingall for sharing what is obviously a very personal point of view knowing her opinion is controversial.

Jeff Carpenter says:

There’s not much holy about the Holy Land; for the sake of peace, turn it into a bird sanctuary.

Thank you Marjorie for this piece. I’m no longer a parent of young children (though my grandsons are soon to be of the age of questions) and I struggle with how to these questions myself. Keep writing! Keep struggling!

Elisheva says:

Marjorie, one way to address this ambivalence is to expose your kids to the many people you know who are, like you, left wing lovers of the state of Israel — people they know but also people who speak in the voices of the State of Israel itself. Read Yossi Sarid’s open letter at the dining room table –and say why you agree with parts of it or disagree with other parts. Listen to Israeli pop music, which addresses emotional and political stances as varied as the spectrum of its listeners (and get your day school music teacher to use those songs in school!). Donate to organizations that help Israel grow into the the aspects of itself you love most, and tell your kids about those causes. Now that Josie is 8 and the black-and-white years are receding, be comfortable expressing love alongside of ambivalence — even love alongside disapproval, sometimes — about Israel, just as you can tell your children, “I love you because you’re my child, even though I’m really mad at your awful behavior just this minute” — or, I’m guessing, “I’m really grateful to live in a free democratic country and to have a president who’s a thoughtful principled person, even though the policy he’s taking on this particular issue drives me nuts.” If we tell our kids to love Israel because it’s perfect, they will fall out of love when they mature; but if we teach them to love Israel maturely, with all it’s imperfections, they can build lifelong relationship with Israel that will make us joyful instead of making us cringe.

Julie says:

Thoughtful piece. One of the tasks of parenting is to give our kids guidance, to help them sort through issues — without cutting off their freedom to think for themselves. But how do we guide them when we ourselves are confused? I think we have to recognize confusion as a valid state and present it to them honestly.

Lisa says:

Honest writing on a very complex issue.

Michele says:

This is a fine piece. As always, Marjorie manages to demonstrate that even something this big is not black and white. I support Israel and its right to defend itself, and the impossible situation that the country is in, and it is painfully clear which side I am on and would choose time and time again, but that said, it doesn’t mean that I support every decision, every policy, every settlement … I applaud Marjorie for being able to come forward – especially in this forum – and say, I don’t know what to tell my kids. That is not being a dictator. That is being honest – and frankly I think that makes for one good parent. This conflict is unique and important in many ways, but this does not one has to blindly choose a side and never admit when that side makes a blunder, nor does it mean that one has to attack another who may see the cracks.

It was such a relief to read this, Marjorie. For a long time I’ve felt ashamed of many of Israel’s actions but I am often hesitant to voice my opinion because in the past I’ve been called an anti-Semite and a “self hating Jew” whenever I dare say anything that isn’t 100% supportive of the Israeli government. I am hardly a self-hating Jew, but rather a product of my Jewish education and upbringing which has taught me to “love thy neighbor as thyself” and to consider the viewpoints of those who may not agree with me. But it seems that many Jews don’t practice what Judaism preaches, because as soon as I express the slightest doubt or criticism of Israel, rationality seems to fly out the window and I’m met with hostile comments such as those posted about your column, i.e. “…after this article I’m done with Tablet magazine.” Why is it that the moment the topic of Israel comes up, free thought and free speech no longer exist?

Just as I love America but didn’t agree with the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration, can’t one love Israel but not agree with all of the actions of its government?

Please know that there are many of us who are conflicted about Israel and that I for one appreciate both your and Tablet’s courage in sharing your thoughts.

Asher says:

You live in a dream world. If we could only join hands & sing kumbaya!

Patricia says:

I’m impressed with the range of opinion and the way the subject is being discussed (rather than, as is more often the case, degenerating into ad hominen attacks). I’d like to throw my two cents in for how to approach this subject–but really it works for any subject.
The subject of Israel came up because Josie read a book. So why not begin there? Why not start by asking questions about who wrote it and why and about what points the author was trying to make and why? What other approaches could the author have taken and why did she pick this one?
Josie’s not too young to develop a critical approach to whatever she reads/sees. (Why is that group of people being valorized and not this group? Why are these values the ones that are assumed? Who benefits? Who isn’t being included? What’s the context?)
(Personal note: We homeschooled our children and took this approach to every subject. It worked pretty darn well.)

Art Vandelay says:

As a liberal American Jew, I’m troubled by how you’ve framed this argument. I, too, believe deeply in human rights. Why are Israeli Jews not entitled to human rights? Is the treatment of Palestinians perfect? No way, and I will continue to argue for something better. But these were all prompted by the Palestinians’ insistence that they must kill innocent 8-year-old Jews like your daughter. Yes, at times, the Israeli response has been regrettable (not to mention ineffective). For the most part, however, the response has been difficult but reasonable under the circumstances. And it’s worked; measures like the security wall and checkpoints along the Green Line have significantly cut down the threat from terrorists.

My point is that the intention has always been admirable: Israel, like any sovereign, democratic nation, must protect its citizens. That does not give Israel (or any country) the freedom to ignore human rights. But without question, Israel treats Palestinians far better than Palestinians treat Israelis.

If Canada insisted that America was an illegitimate country, and started bombing your daughter’s school to prove its point, would you tell your daughter that she (or her country’s government) is to blame? I certainly don’t agree with every military decision made by the U.S. government in the distant and recent past. But that doesn’t justify innocent people being killed.

Art Vandelay says:

Furthermore, you could tell your daughter about the U.S. treatment (past and present) of American Indians. Difference being that we “Americans” have no historical claim to the land: We didn’t live here before the American Indian nations even existed.

Tziporah says:

I am of two minds on this article. While I share some of the author’s ambivalence I have not had trouble speaking honestly to my children about it. First of all, my belief in Israel’s right to exist is bounded by apologies or qualifications. I also have read enough of the situation to realize the deep complexities that arise in politics when two peoples come together. I can see clearly the issues involved when religion and politics become so linked. At the same time Israel is the place where Jews go when they have no where else to turn. I take extreme pride in the Jews from Ethiopia, Yemen, other Arab countries being welcomed to Israel (although this has also had negative aspects). I respect Israel’s moral commitments when they could easily just bomb the enemy to death. I do not like some of the things Israel does but I respect Israel. At the end of the day, however, I’m not the one who lives there and only those who do can truly understand all the intricacies involved in this issue. No matter how much I read and visit there are still things I cannot understand.

The difficulty comes when trying to share this with my own 8 and 10 year old sons. They are bright and open to lots of viewpoints. They read books on Jewish life and yet they are troubled by the victim mentality in many stories. Israel gives them a sense of pride, of not just sitting around and being a victim yet again. I will not take that away from them. I will provide them with opposing viewpoints. But I will also teach them to love Israel for all the good that is there too. While I may be unsure of exactly how to do this my goal is to raise children who are comfortable and safe in their world and who can take pride in being Jews. I want them to feel safe challenging conventions but I also want them to realize that issues like these are never simple black n white. There isn’t one bad side and one good side in this issue. There are many, many shades of gray.

esthermiriam says:

Yes, feminists believe in gender equality and Zionists believe the Jewish people have a state in Israel that deserves to live in peace and security next to a viable Palestinean state. Cousins sharing, so to speak.

If the Beinart essay is really the first clue you’ve found that there are others who might share your concerns, maybe the first step is some adult education. If visiting, as Malka suggests, is not in sight, why not, e.g., read around on the New Israel Fund website, to know more about the wide range of people and groups who work to make Israel both Jewish and democratic? or, if you are more politically inclined, take a look at the J Street site, and then that of
Peace Now, of course, and since it seems you have some sort of religious affiliation, maybe Masorti or the Reform movement in Israel would be of interest…. etc. and so forth.

Then you may be able to begin to tell your children that in Israel as in their own country there are problems and conflicts that good people have to work to resolve. And wonderful places and people… It’s not your task to resolve the peace process, just to believe in and hope for its success.

ploni almoni says:

vapid ignoramus — you should have stuck to fashion.

How do we talk to kids about America? We have never completely reckoned with the aftermath of slavery. Discrimination still prevails. We give Native Americans concentration camps called reservations as quid pro quo for nearly eradicating them and stealing their land. And we provoked war with Mexico in order to make off with the Southwest.

Yet these issues don’t command any kind of appalled fascination.

It may be mistaken exceptionalism to say that Israel is virtuous in some special way. It is equally mistaken exceptionalism to say that it is iniquitous in some special way.

lamicofritz says:

Thank you Marjorie Ingall, this was a very touching and courageous piece. It obviously stirred a lot of discussion and a surprisingly fair discussion too!! Being a father of two little boys I appreciate your articles a lot and this one is no exception. It is a very complicated lesson to learn, that things dear to one’s heart ( like Israel) can at the same time cause embarassment and even shame. For both parents and kids living together there’s plenty of possibilities to learn just that. Rarely is the consequence abandon or disengagement. Why treat Israel differently or be quiet about the dilemma?

Lizzie says:

It’s a complicated issue, and I’m impressed that you’re willing to talk about your ambivalence about it. Admitting you don’t know what to say is a virtue, not a flaw.

I think you can tell your kids about the complexities and be honest that you don’t know what you think about it, the same way you talk about the complexities of America, or the mean girl at school, and encourage your girls to keep reading critically.

It might help to think of Israel as a family member– someone you love because they’re your family, regardless of how adorable or exasperating they are. You know them well enough to be extremely aware of their strengths and weaknesses and, regardless of all of these, you’re sticking with them for the long haul, because they’re your family. A lot has been accomplished here in Israel in a very short amount of time and there’s still plenty of work to be done. But, the fact that the task is daunting shouldn’t be a reason to shy away. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day… The key is to opt in, to find your own personal way to be a part of the project. I think we’re very, very blessed to be living in this era in Jewish history. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us.

Josh says:

I rarely read Tablet thoroughly so I’m sort of surprised at some of the negative comments here. This piece is important to having an honest discussion of what makes modern American Jews tick and I really agree with the sentiments expressed.

Eve says:

We ALL would be better off if we could engage more fully with what frightens us. But it’s easier said than done, so thanks for sticking your neck out, Marjorie. You’re in good company on this matter, despite angry comments here.

To be perfectly honest, this kind of hand-wringing nauseates me.

You’ve clearly bought into the kind of anti-Zionist narrative that posits the Israel-Palestinian conflict as one between Evil Militarist Jews and their innocent, bunny-like Palestinian victims.

Liz G. says:

I always appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you confront the complex issues of being a Jewish parent. This column has given me a lot to think about, especially as I discuss the state of Israel with my kids.

ASC says:

Marjorie complains that the major Jewish organizations demand “blind fealty” to the Israeli government. To the degree that’s true, she and parents like her have to learn to say, “to hell with them,” and engage with Israel on their own terms. I don”t have to tell this to a parenting columnist: There comes a point where you have to take responsibility for yourself (and your own kids) and stop blaming your elders. The inspiring, messy, complex, genuine, uplifting, and disheartening Israel is there for the taking — and teaching. You don’t need permission from anybody, and you don’t have to apologize to anybody.

Asher says:

kumbaya kumbaya

David Star says:

Where does one begin? Is the fact that she fails to tell her daughter that we Jews never left? That since the first offical census by the Ottoman regime somewhere in the 1860’s the majority population of Jerusalem has always been Jewish? That Arabs continue to lie about the presence of Jews even in Biblical times and therefore claim that we have no right to pray at any of our holy shrines? That they systematically desecrated every synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem when it was in the hands of the two bit king of Jordan?
Has Marjorie told her 8 year old of the Rambam Hospital Opthamologist who, promised the mother of an Arab boy, that after he finished surgery on his eyes, he would have excellent vision. The woman replied that she hoped his promise would come true so that he could aim well in order to kill Jews. He then said she better find another surgeon as he had no wish to aid a prospective murderer. He was then punished by the Israel Medical society for unprofessional conduct.
On August 9,2001 My daughter along with her 5 daughters were shopping for shoes for the new school year. After they made their purchases the kids wanted pizza for lunch. My daughter said that she would prefer going to a vegetarian restaurant about one block away. 20 minutes later, at 2PM the Subaro pizzeria, at the corner of Jaffa Road and King George Street exploded killing 15 and wounding another 30. Among the wounded was the daughter of a neighbor of mine. THe last I have heard since the neighbors moved a few years ago, she remains in a coma and her baby daughter is growing up without her mother being able to teach her about the beauty of our “cousins”. Hamas proudly proclaimed that they had carried out this attack amid rejoicing in every Arab community throughout Israel and the territories.
Has Marjorie told her daughters about the education of girls in the “West Bank” under Jordanian rule? There was absolutely no opportunities for higher education in general and for women in particular. Only after 1967 did the first nursing school and university open under Jewish auspices.
I could go on talking about the Arab doctors and nurses who treat my wife and I alongside their Jewish colleagues in the hospitals and clinics we visit, not to mention the Arab patients who shared our wards.
I think it might be instructive for Marjorie to bring her kids here to see what really happens.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin,a noted liberal from the upper “West Side” who came on aliyah in the early 80’s said he began to reexamine his beliefs the first time his car was hit by stones. Then reality set in.
There is no Arab Peace Party. The salami tactics spoken of by Arafat is the only tactic in the Arab mind. When my IDF grandsons (8 thus far) shout “Never Again” they mean exactly that. And because they stand fast, the “Jewish Liberals” of the US and Europe will have a place to run to when the worldwide tide of Jew hatred will rise once again.

e. tamar says:

thanks for this. hugely important. the backlash makes me even sadder about the whole difficult issue, which frankly i thought was impossible. wow.
you’re sharp, thoughtful, articulate, and truly brave, as ever. i’m so glad, as a new parent, that i can look up to you on this and so many other issues.

You’re just confused. You can’t imagine that anyone would want to spend the past 110 years wanting you and your people dead. Once you wrap your mind around that idea, you’ll stop being confused. As far as two people wanting the same piece of land, I suggest you go live on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma if you feel so strongly about the dispossessed.


susan says:

Please don’t talk to your kids about Israel. Hopefully they will find out the truth from other more knowledgeable, less neurotic people or perhaps go to Israel on a Birthright trip and see it for themselves.

Your article contains many logical errors that have been pointed out above. Read the book, “Coming together, coming apart”. Israel tries extremely hard to not abuse Palestinians. Your own dilemmas – the old self-hating Jew paradigm can probably only be healed on the psychiatrist’s coach. I have never heard an ethnic Chinese say anything about China’s mistreatment of Tibetans. Some Jews feel the need to establish their street cred with liberals by bashing Israel.

There are many very young Jews who are not orthodox but who feel very unconflictedly loyal to Israel. I know several who spent a year in Israel before starting college. My kids have always defended Israel in debates in school and I’ve given them the material to win those debates.

As someone said above, equal numbers of Jews were thrown out of Muslim countries after 1948. It’s very similar to the India – Pakistan situation except that the Muslim nations have not taken in the Palestinian refugees as Israel has taken in Jews.

Patrick Di Justo says:

You bad woman! You are condemned for letting your children learn all points of view! You are condemned for NOT letting your children learn all points of view! You are condemned for being a dictator to your children! You are condemned for NOT being a dictator to your children! You are condemned for being both Poles and the Equator, with no Temperate Zones in between!

This proves to me that you are doing something right.

Ms. Ingall, do not listen to these comments. You are obviously NOT a self-hating Jew, and those who sling those terms around probably belong on some sort of analyst’s couch themselves (who doesn’t, anyway?).

This debate is incredibly important. And this is not just about the IDF abusing and humiliating Palestinians, but the settlement enterprise, which you do not have to look hard to find clear footage of some very unrighteous Jews uprooting olive trees, throwing rocks at Palestinians, and actually beating up Palestinians on their own land(search youtube for Israeli settlers and see what comes up).

The majority of young, educated, and secular American Jews are deeply troubled by the actions of a government which seems increasingly nationalist and anti-democratic government. There is a reason that the only people throwing out terms like ‘self-hating Jew’ are of a generation that is embedded in archaic thinking and a false sense of imminent doom. The fact is, is that Israel holds all the chips.

I went on a Birthright trip and while yes, seeing the land was hugely important for me, I couldn’t help but feel like I was pressured into accepting a with big chunks left out; that is, the Palestinian narrative, which is crucial to any person trying to get a grip on the situation.

I normally keep these comments to myself, but can’t stand the kind of ignorance stated in some of these other comments. To Susan – unconditional loyalty/nationalism is extremely dangerous. Look at examples here in the U.S. of what nationalism causes: xenophobia and racism.

I love Israel and feel very strongly about my own Judaism. I am dismayed at the political landscape, but do believe, one day, after a peace agreement is reached (please save us Barak Obama), Israel can and will be a “light among nations.” Until then, it will be an international pariah state engaging in apartheid in the West Bank and an inhumane blockade on Gaza.

Myself nor Ms. Ingall are in any way, shape, or form “self-hating Jews.” That’s just a bunch of drek.

Thank you for coming out and writing this, dear author. You have only my best wishes. Keep fighting to good fight.


Dear Ms. Ingall:

Your honesty is exemplary. Why not join Jewish groups that share your views and educate your children with their literature and send your children to their events?

I am certain that the New Israel Fund, Americans for Peace Now, J Street and many other Jewish groups would be delighted to welcome you.

There are also Israeli Jewish groups such as B’Tselem which would welcome your membership and donations.

You are not alone.

Robin Margolis

Jennifer W says:

Marjorie, but for you I would not read anything from Tablet and I would not have any insight into the difficulties of raising Jewish children (being not Jewish, and not even any longer in the US). I am grateful for the insight and for your thoughtful writing. I hope you will continue to write about whatever crosses your mind – lighthearted or controversial – for many years and I will continue to read it!

Jeremy says:

Oh, the bravery!
Can we please cease and desist with the by now ridiculous notion that it takes unbelievable amounts of “bravery” or “courage” to express an ambivalent, or even an antagonistic, opinion on Israel. As if the author is going to find herself blackballed from her Upper East Side dinner parties. Please. It takes far more courage as an American Jew to be outspokenly pro-life, but I don’t read about Jewish conservatives flattering themselves for the bravery of their contrarian opinions. There are literally tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of Jews like Marjorie, with long-established organizations advocating what I would guess to be her politics on Israel if her ambivalence ever goes away — as sad as it is for me to say that.

As for the substance of the piece, the fact that you find it difficult to talk to your kids about Israel — no matter your viewpoint — is a perfect example of the morally relativistic rot that is increasingly passing for enlightened “liberal” discourse. You actually find it hard to state an educated opinion on a topic that is constantly discussed, written about, and a core concern of the American Jewish community….and you write for an online magazine on Jewish life. But since it’s so difficult for you, maybe start with the basic idea that Israel exists as the only country where 6 million Jews can defend themselves as Jews surrounded by 56 Islamic majority countries not a one of whom doesn’t wish its existence away, while at the same time and in those conditions also serving as as the only free, democratic, liberal (gay parades in J’lem that would get you killed in Gaza or Saudi Arabia!), representative, functioning State in a sea of illiberal, dysfunctional, failed or failing countries. Of course, like Mr. Beinart says, they did just give like 18 of 120 seats in the Knesset to a party headed by (secular like you!) Avigdor Lieberman, so I guess it’s pretty much like apartheid South Africa all of a sudden over there!

And, finally, don’t flatter yourself — neither Abe Foxman nor AIPAC claims to speak for you, since I doubt you are a dues paying member of either organization.

michael says:

This is so sad… as Jews, it seems the most important thing we can do is our homework on the issues, not just rephrase the first paragraphs of stories in the NYTimes, or listen to Reform Rabbis unthinkingly provide Eric Yoffe’s platform. It is so difficult to have an intelligent discussion without starting with facts, instead of leading with opinions. For the sake of we Jews, at least use as a starting point the last offer on the table to the Palestinians before talking about the land. Stand in Israel and look at what is being discussed on the West Bank. Most of all, please, please act responsibly in taking a position: read facts, not opinions, and form your own thoughts instead of parroting what you have read. “Ambivalence and sorrow…” is poetic writing that gets attention, and can certainly be genuine, but there is simply not enough data in this article to support that opinion. I am extremely sad for you, and ask that you research responsibly. How many Jewish households do more research on what movies are playing or fantasy football than the facts on the ground in the Middle East? Oy.

Avi Havivi says:

Marjorie: I am a parent, and I love Israel, and I disagree with much of Israel’s current approach to the conflict with the Palestinians, and I am a liberal, and I care about Israel’s approach to civil rights and human rights. I visit Israel whenever I can, and have taken my children there multiple times. DON’T SHY AWAY AND DISENGAGE. With all of Israel’s messiness and flaws, don’t forget to look at the big picture beyond the struggles of the moment: Zionism, and the State of Israel, are a great and important experiment in Jewish nationalism. There are problems–but show me a human enterprise without problems! So, express your love and talk about the problems honestly, in an age-appropriate way. When my kids were little, I sang (Zionist!) Israeli songs to them and told them about the plucky chalutzim and brave soldiers, as well as about Palestinians. When they were teens, I arranged for them to go on a tour of the separation barrier and East Jerusalem with a “left-wing” organization, and I made sure they were aware what “liberal” Zionist organizations I support. Now in college, my children have heard their parents discuss current events, and the Beinart article, and our own conflicting feelings, which is not the same thing as confusion. I am not confused: I admire the Zionist experiment, I love the State of Israel, I like some Israelis, I reject racism and self-righteous chauvinism, I believe terrorism should be fought vigorously, and I support the causes and organizations that speak for my point of view. I make no apologies for any of my commitments. Israel needs worldwide Jewry to be engaged in these issues. ISRAEL AND ISRAELIS CAN’T AFFORD FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO HANG BACK ON THE SIDELINES!

thank you for helping me understand why most of my family burned in ovens while american jews like yourself stoodby doing nothing.
all of you, who write and talk about “two sides to every story” are simply cowards – it’s just so much easier to bash and blame the jews than anyone else. to tell the thruth (or to even have the common decency and LEARN the thruth instead of spilling invented narratives) demands taking risks. just like generations of europeans, inquisition, kosacks, nazis and the left today – the jews are easy target. we don’t need you.

It seems Mrs. Ingall’s starting and ending point in politics depends on liberal sympathies: in a conflict, which side is poorer with less power? Oh yes, I’ll go with that group.

History need not apply. Mrs. Ingall clearly does not have a command of the issues. Her article is an emotional response to Mr. Beinart’s article, which is not heavy on the political reality in Israel either.

For most people from my side of the political spectrum, it isnt that you are of a liberal ideology. It isnt that you are a jew criticizing Israel. It isnt that you haven’t come down to see our side of the argument.

Its that you do not seem to care much about the actual argument, the actual conflict and all of its facts. Informing someone like Mrs. Ingall or Mr. Beinart about Ehud Olmert’s peace offer, or Abbas’ response is pointless. These are not the type of facts you are interested, and they have no impact on your conclusions.

Peter W. says:

Ms. Ingall demonstrates a deep, abiding, and unapologetic ignorance about the facts concerning Israel. Though she probably doesn’t want her fantasy views to be disturbed, she can start her education by visiting the Jewish Virtual Library online and reading “Myths & Facts Online a Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict” in its entirety.

Happy and Proud says:

The problem is that neither the author nor Peter Beinart has any knowledge or understanding of Jewish history. Her concern for the “suffering of the Palestinian people” (there is no such people, and any suffering is a result of the Arabs’ own actions) at the expense of Jewish lives shows her disidentification with Judaism. The suggestion that she read the Jewish Virtual Library “Myths and Facts” section is excellent – the JVL is treasure trove of factual, non-biased information about Judaism and Jewish history.

I’d like to hear what the author has to say after doing some studying and research from a source other than the NY Times or the Huffington Post.

Happy and Proud says:

Ms. Ingalls, have you ever actually been to Israel? You might try going there yourself (and taking your family) rather than gathering second-hand opinions from anti-Jewish sources dependent on Saudi cash.

Beth says:

I agree with the many people who have said that Marjorie is neither well-informed nor courageous. I also agree with those who say that Israel is many-sided, complex, and filled with people who span the political spectrum.

But, I don’t understand why people respond to left-wing Jewish concerns by reciting the history of Palestinian intransigence. It is not only possible for Israel to be a country that respects human rights, environmental responsibility, civil liberties, and dissent, and yet to still protect itself against the Palestinians–it is a necessity.

All the concerns I’ve been hearing lately about traitors and outside interference whenever anyone in Israel criticizes the government sound to me like the words the Iranian government used to suppress its recent opposition.

Do we want Israel to be like Iran, it’s greatest enemy?

Patrick Di Justo says:

happy and proud,

FYI, she dropped the ‘s’ when she left the Little House on the Prairie and went solo.

rosmar says:

Thank you for this, Marjorie.

Analogies like “I have never heard an ethnic Chinese say anything about China’s mistreatment of Tibetans.” show that the person who wrote that considers ethnic Chinese people to be an unthinking monolith. Actually there are ethnic Chinese who support Tibet. For example:

In addition, you will find dissenters in every part of the world, even in those where the government is incredibly harsh toward them. Dissent is healthy.

Steve Dickstein says:

“But I need to engage with what frightens me, and my failure to do so is why it’s taken eight years to write this column.” If only you had asked me, Marjorie; I would’ve told you to wait another eight years…

This article, like Beinart’s, and the writings of the young “progressive” bloggers on Israel, just confirms my conviction that when affluent, educated American Jews, who have nothing physically or financially at risk in the conflict, start talking about their anguish over “the matzav,” they are really just using Israel as an excuse to project their own neuroses and ambilvalence about their own lives and conflicted relationship to Judaism, politics, their social status, etc. BTW, this self-absorption applies equally to “militant” American Zionists who are happy to fight to the last Israeli. I infinitely prefer the political writings of Israeli leftists like David Grossman, who lost his son serving his nation, or old veterans like Yossi Sarid, who are excoriating in their criticism of Israel but continue to live and engage and struggle to improve their nation, than read another self-pitying, self-absorbed confessional like Majorie has written.

Excellent article.

– r.

kiki schaffer says:

I celebrate Marjorie’s honesty in sharing her deep dilemma with all of us. Solutions to the thorniest problems only arise when we listen from the heart to all perspectives (including our own).

dave says:

Marjorie, you seem like a nice and conscientious person. Unfortunately, you are conflating two separate issues. One, Israeli society is indeed becoming more religious and (dare I say) fundamentalist with each passing day. For Western, secular, liberal Jews who want Israel to be more like them, that’s a problem.
HOWEVER, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a completely different issue. It’s the ultimate in patronizing and misguided hubris to assume that if only there were more liberal, Western, humanistic Israelis then they could simply deliver peace to the Palestinians.
Where were you during the experiment and failure of Oslo, or does your interest in the conflict only start after 2000? Oslo should have been a lesson to every moderate Jew interested in a ‘just solution’ to the conflict. You need to take a close look at what happened during Oslo. Moderate Israelis have taken a look. That is why while they still loathe Jewish fundamentalism and extremism, they have also completely abandoned the feel-good Oslo era ideology. This is not because they’re not as advanced as you, it’s because they saw what happened when Israel tried to solve the IP conflict by giving the Palestinians a state.
When ideology meets the real world, ideology often falls short. I’m sure you were in favor of the US civil rights movement, but do you feel that forced bussing of your kids into bad neighborhoods is the magic bullet that will end the racial disparity in America? Do you believe that a strict quota system in employment and university admissions is the way to solve racial inequality in America?
Probably not. Those were good intentions from an idealistic era taken too far, and today it would seem naive to espouse such beliefs. And yet, that is exactly what people do when they presume it’s all up to Israel to act nicer, to give the Palestinians more of what they want in order to bring closure to the conflict.

I’m a moderate myself. I had high hopes for Oslo. But I watched how it went down and I learned some hard lessons. To presume that simply by pouring more progressive goodwill into the I/P conflict, by showing the Palestinians more love, that we can magically solve the conflict is quite frankly as naive as presuming that if we go into Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein and hold elections, we can create democracy in the Middle East.
It’s much, much more complicated than that. Moderate Israelis once thought if they tried Oslo, that even if it failed, the world would at least see that Israel is willing to try to make peace and is not simply a land of Jewish bullies. Sadly, they were mistaken. Israel tried Oslo. It failed spectacularly primarily because the Palestinians simply aren’t yet capable of or willing to make a true two state peace. And yet, the world didn’t appreciate Israel’s efforts. They instead became more critical of Israel than they were when Shamir was PM and mentioning the word ‘Palestine’ was illegal.

Sadly, the result of all this is that fair weather Zionists like yourself will disengage from Israel, further ensuring that it will come down to a battle of hardline ideologies. I can understand why people would be repulsed by Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, and Shas. Israel deserves much better leadership. And the demographic trends these elections mirror don’t bode well for Israel’s future. Secular, moderate American Jews feel more comfortable with the rhetoric of moderate, centrist Israelis, nd yet, even if moderate, centrist Israelis were in charge, the IP conflict would be no closer to being solved.
For those in it for the long haul, it will indeed be a challenge to both contend with an (at present) unsolvable conflict between two peoples and at the same time try to keep Israel on course as a moderate society.
Frankly, I don’t know what makes people like Peter Beinart come out with these critiques at times like this. If he’s frustrated with Netanyahu and Lieberman, I can understand. But putting the onus of blame for the I/P conflict on Israel as he does baffles me.
If you’re going to wrestle with whether or not you still like Israel and you’re going to use Beinart’s argument as a benchmark, at least read Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog at The Atlantic for perspective. He seems to be doing the best job of pointing out Israel’s shortcomings while maintaining the idea that “it’s not all Israel’s fault”.
If you abandon Israel over ‘the Apartheid Wall’ or some tacky building in East Jerusalem, or the Gaza blockade, or other such shallow reasons that would be a pity.

A.S. says:

What are the odds that Marjorie’s grandchildren will be Jewish?

Here’s the giveway in this “anguished” piece: “I would no sooner attend an Israel Day parade than a Justin Bieber concert.” What we have here is not a genuine moral grappling with anything, but acute social embarrassment at being associated with those “bullying” Jews in Israel who have had to fight for their lives for a century now. They’re so gauche! So unfashionable! So unacceptable at right-thinking dinner parties where nobody ever voted the “wrong” way, where the “Christian right” is a much scarier force than the lethal jihadis (who are only a figment of Bush/Cheney’s crazed inagination), where nobody knows anybody who even knows anybody at third hand who might have served in the military, American or Israeli. These people just know that Israeli is in the wrong. Of course the out-of-the-mouth-of-babes moment in this piece comes when little Josie Ingalls, completely unprompted of course, comes up with a public transportation variation of the decades-old Arab propaganda metaphor about those pushy Jews barging into their house. The disgrace, I submit, is entirely the writer’s.

Samir and Yonatan, in an ISRAELI hospital – that says it all, I live there and I know, I’ve seen it in every hosptal,TelAviv,Jerusalem, wherever. No writer, even the most imaginative, would write about a little Arab boy and a little Jewish boy in a PALESTINAN hospial ward, it just couldn’t happen. If you can explain that to Josie, that might help her [and you] to understand the unfortunate situation we are in.

plony almoni says:

thank so many of you for waking up and letting this shallow fashion writer have it hard. she denigrates a liberal democracy (with gays openly in the military) where half the world’s jews live. the only country in the world that would take her shabby ass if and when the sh!t hits the fan, as has happened countless times to our people for the past 2500 years. if she happened to be in bloody Europe 70 years ago, how she would have prayed for the existence of an Israel to open its gates to her.

Dick says:

You claim to be a “liberal.” Is it “liberal” to disregard suicide bombers cowardly blowing up Israeli civilians? Is it “liberal” to disregard thousands of rockets aimed indiscriminately at Israeli homes? Is it “liberal” to disregard those Palestinians who pray for the destruction of Israel and for pushing all Jewish Israelis into the sea? Is it “liberal” to disregard the hopes for a Jewish homeland after 2000 years of diaspora? Is it “liberal” to disregard that Israel, warts and all, is the only democracy in the Middle East? Is it “liberal” to disregard the whole of pre-State of Israel history from Herzl to 1948 and to disregard the myriad attempts of Israel’s “neighbors” to destroy it since 1948? And the beat goes on – – –

What is it that gives you the right to sanctimoniously pat yourself on the back for being a self-styled “liberal”? I feel sorry for you for your thinking that you are a Jewish “liberal” that can so easily disregard these fundamental concepts. Until I read your column, I hadn’t thought being a Jewish “liberal” required embracing a complete disregard of history and facts.

A few factual statements: My father served in the American military. As the piece says, I have been to Israel multiple times. I am not a fashion writer, no matter how many times one repeats the assertion. However, I am female, which is perhaps where the confusion comes in. (Also, wouldn’t my “shabby ass” be a lot snazzier if I *were* a “shallow fashion writer”? I’m confused. Must be the vagina.) I like the parallel some readers made yesterday, about how one can be an American patriot and still be ashamed of aspects of American history. I think that’s the tack I’ll take in teaching my own kids, as well as explaining that there is a wide range of political opinion both in Israel and in America. I’ll also explain that it’s important to be respectful of different points of view, and that I did not raise them to be bullies and name-callers, a lesson some commenters apparently did not learn from their own mamas.

What troubles me the most is the sinat chinam (baseless hatred) that is motivating some truly ugly and hate-filled comments. This is exactly what led, according to Rabbinic Tradition, to the destruction of the Second Temple. Can we not disagree without tearing down another person who has a different perspective?

I am a big fan of Majorie Ingall. I enjoy her writing and her outlook on many issues. I disagree with a great deal in this piece, but I respect her for articulating her ambivalence because, like-it-or-not, it is an ambivalence I suspect is shared by many.

I love Israel. I have been many time and would love to make aliyah. My young children love the romanticized Israel because that is the Israel they can understand. (Much in the way we share an age-appropriate version of Torah in order to bind them to our sacred text.) As they grow older, each in turn, they will learn about her troubled past and our continued hope for a peaceful future. No country is perfect. Allegiance is not about unilateral agreement; it IS about unwavering support. I have often disagreed with Israeli policy. But that has not diminished my love for our Homeland.

Instead of attacking a fellow Jew for candidly expressing her belief/hesitancy/discomfort, perhaps our time would be better spent seeking ways to co-exist, despite our different opinions, and support Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state.

Michele Lifshen says:

This article resonates with me as a stubborn, questioning Jew; a conscientious, vigilant parent; and a peace-seeking world-citizen. Marjorie is always refreshingly honest in her essays and in this case, her willingness to openly explore alternative perspectives about Israel and all of our complex feelings about it strikes all the right notes. Perhaps we can all benefit from being more empathetic and less judgmental.

etcetera says:

Thanks, Marjorie, for discussing this tough issue. Out here on the West Coast (in my case in a city without a big self-identifying Jewish community like that of New York or LA) it seems to me that the hard line on pro-Zionism keeps some American liberal, fairly secular Jews out of the synagogue and out of Jewish organizations.

If people can’t elucidate their feelings about the political state of Israel without being viciously attacked by frothing-at-the-mouth blog commenters, they just may slink away from the Jewish “community” altogether. I don’t want my kids soaking up that kind of attitude, or thinking they have to be equally closed-minded in order to celebrate their Jewish heritage. It may be the diaspora that keeps Judaism alive and well for centuries to come, because we are more concerned with values, ethics, and the spiritual essence of traditional practices than the real estate on which they occur.

Ellen says:

Bravo, Marjorie. For being your usual honest self, and for bringing up vital and real-life life issues to the fore, ones that—despite what the haters here would like to think—are on many people’s minds these days.

Pspan says:

A thoughtful, honest and important essay.

You’ve got to be wilfully blind not to see Israel’s totally outta control, losing it, going off the cliff and committing (assisted) suicide. Speaking as an Israeli, we know we’re passing up the 2-state solution by not going for it. We know many of our politicians are corrupt (including those already in prison, but not forgetting those under investigation or already in court – the ex-president, the ex-prime minister, the ex-finance minister, current foreign minister, ex-minister of the interior… the list goes on). But of course those who identify emotionally (see above) feel criticism of Israel’s criticism of they themselves, so they’re not very interested in learning the truth and seeing that the colonialist principles of maximum land/minimum population are only making enemies and creating fear. Or of trying to solve the problems. Again, bravo Marjorie. Stick with conscience and honesty, and hope that it ain’t too late for a great little country that’s gone horribly wrong.

Richard says:

Wow, you must have hit on SOMETHING to engender a response so quick and so vicious. Zionism has never made any sense whatsoever to us goyim, no matter how sympathetic we were to the plight of Holocaust-era Jews, but at least the comments here shed some light on how the party line has been so strictly maintained for sixty years.

You’re obviously a smart, feeling woman, with children who know they can trust you. You’re doing what you think is right, and that is what’s important. This zealous Zionism is a generational “thing,” as Beinart rightly pointed out, and whether we live to see it work itself out or not, work itself out it WILL. It saddens me to think of the consequences of this kind of unreasoning steadfastness; if you want to your kids to see a Jewish state in the Holy Land, I’d take them soon if I were you…

Hagit says:

Wow–a lot of hate in these comments. Marjorie, this is a great piece and I totally understand where you’re coming from. Josie seems more intelligent than most world leaders these days.

I think everyone grapples with “the Israel question” when they actually take the time to think about it. Sadly, even thinking about Israel is discouraged in America. We are told to blindly support it, for us Jews but also for most non-Jews. Why? I am not sure. But it’s the truth.

As I’ve gotten older, my childhood visions of the founding of Israel as a moral victory have completely faded. I now see its creation as no better or worse than the creation of, say, America with its Puritan colonists. Kill and displace the natives, take over the land, complain when the natives retaliate. I think it’s an important step, realizing that Israel is not above the morals to which we hold the rest of the world. The question now becomes “What to do with the millions of people, Jews and Arabs alike, who are already there?” instead of “How can we get rid of the Arabs so that we can take over this entire land in the name of G-d?”.

There is nothing wrong with having opinions about Israeli policy. None of us have a crystal ball on how things will turn out and perhaps the liberals are right that this time it really is different. I for one do not believe it to be so. I think of Churchill in the 30s, sitting in the political wilderness decrying the rise of Nazi Germany while so many well intentioned people talked about understanding Germany’s legitimate grievances about the Rhineland and about ethnic Germans in Sudetenland. It turned out then that the utopian why can’t we all just get along sentiments were horribly wrong…we really were locked in a life or death struggle. So it seems to me today. There is a strand of Islam that would turn the clock back to a time when women have no rights, when desert justice can be performed in public squares to the cries of the mob, and where people can be murdered just for writing about the “prophet”. I see Israel as a heroic nation standing guard for the West and its values and one of those values is a willingness to do what is necessary to protect itself and the ideals of freedom, with force if necessary, from those who would take it away.

The Other Alan says:

Don’t sweat it Ms. Ingall. You can best support the longterm viability of Israel by working to dismantle the Zionist ideology of Jewish domination and Palestinian dispossession.

As the prophet Micah noted:

2:1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand.
2:2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
2:3 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.

Kudos to you for a thoughtful, provocative piece. The vitriol in the comments here attests to the internal conflict so many Jews – particularly American Jews – have about Israel and whether they should be blind supporters of whatever Israel does or judge each situation for itself.
I visited Israel for the first time as an adult in 1997 as part of a Jewish outdoors group bike trip. Also then a full-time newspaper reporter, I met up with some fellow journalists there and went with them to East Jerusalem to see a Palestinian film festival. I loved Israel before I ever went there and felt even more in love with the country afterward. My love for the country had to do with its status as a Jewish homeland — as the one place where I would not feel like a minority. I do not have blinders on about Israel any more than I would have for my own country. Some things I support. Some things I do not.

I, too, am a parent. What will I teach my son about Israel? I will teach him what I know from my own visit — about the history there, about the striking geographical formations in the Negev, about the wonder of walking down Jaffa Street and realizing that nearly everyone else is Jewish, too, and also about the non-Jews who live, there, too, and their struggles to achieve parity in their homeland. I will teach him that rarely in our world is anything black and white. So many issues have gray – and the politics in Israel is certainly one of those.

Again, I commend you for your piece. It is always tough as a writer to receive hateful comments. My take on that part of being a writer: It’s a part of the package. And we provoke others, whether they like what we write or not, it is a good thing.

Adam says:

Not for nothing, but the information reported on the incident that Beinart reacted to “as a parent” has been discredited. But he says you can’t say anything, as if as soon as accusation has been made it morally requires you to accept that it is true.

There has to be a middle ground between knee-jerk apologism and knee-jerk acceptance there that Beinart is missing.

Deborah says:

You go girl! Keep wrestling and struggling with your values and how they are (not) being played out by our so-called leaders. I wish all the haters who wrote nasty things to you would take the time to learn more than the standard set of talking points from an Israel advocacy handbook.

“America with its Puritan colonists. Kill and displace the natives, take over the land”

another prime example of leftists applying the narrative they like to a situation they have little understanding of. people here are not mad because you dare to speak the unspeakable truths about Israel, or dare to criticize a perfect nation. its that you are a factless knuckledhead content with being a factless knucklehead.

In 1948 (when Israel declared its independence, Hagit) there where about 700K arabs living in the entire land- what is today Israel and the Palestinian territories. Today there is well over 1 million living just inside Israel, let alone the millions living in the territories. The numbers dont backup your colonialist narrative for Israel, yet there you go, another liberal throwing out there without a care in the world.

Karen says:

Marjorie,please contact the New Israel Fund and learn about Israel through our prism of social justice and equality. It may help you in your journey and personal conversation.

Marjorie: You knew from the reaction that Beinart received that there would be some angry comments – so don’t assume this false naivety that you are shocked, shocked that a dozen or so readers post irrational responses. You are not a martyr: no one is censoring you, in fact an up and coming major jewish website (tablet!!) is giving you a platform and encouraging comments. Stop cynically taking umbrage and congratulating yourself on your courage because out of thousands (?) of readers, maybe there are 30 disagreements and about 10 off the wall comments. This is the internet after all, where unfiltered anonymous comments run amok. If you want to see real hatred and vitriol, just try posting a pro-Israel article or comment on huffingtonpost, talkingpointsmemo, mondoweiss or any of dozens and dozens of “progressive” blogs. And what it the relevance that your father served in the US army? Mine did too, but I don’t assume “credit” for his service.

Andy says:

The bus analogy (as posited) is faulty. A better one might be this. I was on a bus, a long time ago. I got thrown off. For years I ran along side and tried to get back on the bus. I managed to get on the bus over a century ago (the population of Jerusalem has been majority Jewish since the late 1800s) but wasn’t allowed to sit, even though there were open seats. I tried to reason with everyone to get permission to sit down but was rebuffed. Finally I declared that I would sit down and would share my seat. (The Jews accepted partition in 1948! The Arabs did not!) The people on the bus said no way, and fought me, and tried to throw me off the bus again. I managed to hold on to my seat, but those whom I’d displaced to other seats (their neighbors didn’t give them much or welcome them) periodically attacked me again and tried to throw me off. I consistently said that they were welcome to share if they’d agree to co-exist, but they refused and kept poking and attacking me. And every time I push back, or treat them with suspicion, everyone calls me a bully. Sigh.

Joseph says:

Absolutely disgusting, and personifies the weak mindset of the liberal American Jew. Lost people, lost souls. Fortunately, the nation of Israel is strong without you. Go… live your miserable, meaningless life. To Paraphrase Samuel Adams: If ye love “peace” better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel; we ask neither your company nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were ever our countrymen.

barry says:

Andy (5/26@12:05 am):

Thank you for saving me the time to underscore the flaws in the oh-so-precious bus analogy.

Happy and Proud says:

There is nothing ‘nasty’ or mean about pointing out the fact that the author has little knowledge of Jewish history or religion. How can she possibly have an informed opinion about something she knows little about? Moreover, her values are inconsistent. She claims to be “passionate” about human rights, yet fails to consider Israelis’ right to life when discussing her moral equivocations.

How about it, Marjorie? Will you read something about Jewish history and then tell us how it alters your thinking. The Jewish Virtual Library is great; also books by Joan Peters, The Case for Israel (and The Case Against Israel’s Enemies), Myths and Facts by Mitchell Bard, and many others. Read the CAMERA website and for facts the New York Times doesn’t report. Start researching and thinking for yourself and stop letting NPR think for you.

Also, what does your rabbi say about your confusion? Have you consulted him/her? Do you even have a rabbi?

Will you respond and let your concerned readers (and we truly are concerned about you; every Jew deserves to know their history) know that you are learning the facts and forming your own conclusions? Otherwise, I fear you will remain trapped in ignorance.

10024 says:

Ms. Ingall, Does the substance of your Jewish identity have any content other than liberalism, or inconsistent with it? – 10024

EoL says:

So a living in a homeland is analogous to having a seat on a bus?
How un-American!
It means that the author has no more rights to live in the US than any other person on Earth. That she can be deported anytime from the US, because there is no link between her and a bus-seat.

And, since a bus-seat is, at most, the bus company’s property, when little Josie comes back home from school and finds her room/bus-seat occupied by another kid, she’s not entitled to regain possession of it and not even complain of being dispossessed: it’s not hers (or her parents’) to begin with!

Ira Slomowitz says:

It seems to me that the author of this article has never really visited Israel. I am sure she has gone on trips and been led around the country, but I am just as sure that she has never really visited it. If she would visit my town of Kfar Saba, she would see Jewish and Arab men and women walking the streets, eating and drinking in the same cafes and fallafel stands, going to movies together. In short, they do together what they can not do together in any other country in the middle-east. More than that, Arab women, clad in headscarves or slinky shirts, as is their choice here, sit in cafes without male relatives present – something they cannot do in any Arab country.
She doesn’t like certain policies of the government? Well, its not her business as she neither lives here nor votes here, neither sends her sons and daughters to the army nor pays taxes. As a matter of fact, she has never sat down at a cafe with Arab men and women and not even noticed.
Its time to lose the moral superiority and come to understand that Israel is a real country with real problems and real people – not a fairyland and not a utopia.

Jonathan says:

This looks like a great place to eat in Gaza.

Reality can be a bitch when it contradicts our misconceptions.

What a sad, uncommitted life you lead. I’m sure that the next time someone knocks on your door and tells you that they want to come in and murder you and your children, you will pause and wonder if you shouldn’t deny them the “right” to do so… You certainly don’t want to be accused of discrimination.
Please go back to watching the Disney channel where happiness reigns over all; and you can forget that the world is a real place, and that your children will be the victims of your ambivalence.

So let me get this straight, you teach your daughter to love the historical Israel. That same historical Israel that was DISPOSSESSED by the Roman Empire in 70 AD. Yet somehow in your twisted and erratic liberal mind, the Jews never had the same right to return to their land that the Palestinians have to return to theirs?!!

Nevermind the fact that the Jews were butchered, tortured, and sold into slavery in Roman times. Or that the Palestinians both willingly left the boundaries of the Jewish state in 1948 at the behest of their Arab leadership, or the fact that for 62 years the Jews are the ones making tangible sacrifices for peace.

Can’t let actual facts and history get in the way of a nice liberal screed which endears you to the Black Panthers, International ANSWR, and the readership of the Nation on the Upper East Side!

I eagerly anticipate your further articles on how as a liberal you can support Hamas throwing their political opponents off of tall buildings in Gaza; how the Iranians stone adulterous women to death (and hang enemies of the state); how Fatah has burned synagogues in the West Bank; how the Saudis beat men and women for holding hands in public; how Palestinians send their children to battle camps learning how to blow up civilian buses. Somehow I think I will be waiting for quite some time- what a hypocrite you are!

rosmar says:

“More than that, Arab women, clad in headscarves or slinky shirts, as is their choice here, sit in cafes without male relatives present – something they cannot do in any Arab country.”

That is incorrect. In Lebanon, for example, women wear bikinis to the beach, alone, if they’d like.

Elizabeth says:

If you don’t think Marjorie was brave to write this, you didn’t read the comments.

In fact the comments illustrate her point: that if you question Israel you can expect your intelligence, nationalism, and faith to be publicly attacked in a most personal and vitriolic way.

Patriots dissent. Nationalists quash dissent with fear-mongering and personal attacks. Patriots may not be right, but they care enough to subject themselves to the nationalist attacks.

Guess which one I think Marjorie is?

“This article resonates with me as a stubborn, questioning Jew; a conscientious, vigilant parent; and a peace-seeking world-citizen. Perhaps we can all benefit from being more empathetic and less judgmental.”

Please say that exact same sentence if ever captured by Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbullah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Jamaa’al Islamiyah, Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or the Taliban. I am sure they would be quite amused at your “world citizenship” as they murder your child right in front of your eyes and then saw off your head with a dull knife as is their practice.

You and Ingalls and the rest of the liberals in New York City have the luxury of going to your latte cafes and dinner parties- while other Jews are out risking their lives and giving their lives in defense of their country. It would help if every once in a while you liberals remembered that fact.

Emily Gertz says:

Marjorie, Marjorie, Marjorie: Holding up standards of human rights and democracy over blind fealty to a government? Questioning the classic Jew neurosis that they’re all out to get us? Putting reason to the fore instead of yelling about how right you are? Speaking up about a difference of opinion within our generation of American Jews? Wanting to teach your daughters that survival without values might not really be survival at all?

I mean, honestly, what were you thinking?

Leigh Dolin says:

Congratulations on a brave article. If we really love Israel, we need to criticize it. Those who vehemently attack anyone who dares question the policies and actions of the Israeli government remind me of those who questioned the patriotism of those who protested against the Vietnam war. You only briefly mentioned J Street and I am curious about why you didn’t talk more about that organization. J Street was established to counteract the right wing hard line American Jewish establishment organizations such as AIPAC, which no longer speak for the majority of American Jews. J Street is “pro-Israel and pro-peace” as are you and I. American Jews need to support the efforts of our government to put pressure on Israel to improve its treatment of its Arab citizens and to move toward a 2 state solution. The situation is unfortunately more complicated than Josie’s bus analogy but an “argument for the sake of God”, is necessary–one where we respectfully listen to different points of view and struggle together to find answers.

Sara S-P says:

Marjorie, kol hakavod. You elevate some really powerful issues and concerns here that resonate with more parents than will likely ever get to read this (so I’ll spread it as widely as I can)!

I want to suggest that we invite all of the organizations/agencies who do work to support the state of Israel, representing the entire continuum of political and religious orientation, to collect resources for children and share them online at one central address. One stop shopping for learning about the different perspectives, challenges, and amazing stories of the land and state of Israel. Then, when our children pose the difficult questions, we can find a selection of resources to help us answer those and inspire others.

Quick response to DRW (whoever he or she is, in case he or she is still reading):
“what it [sic] the relevance that your father served in the US army”?
My only response in the comments has been to correct individual bits of misinformation from your fellow commenters: that I don’t know anyone who has ever been in the American or Israeli military, that I’ve never been to Israel, and that I’m a fashion writer. (I forgot to say anything about my Upper East Side dinner parties, because I was laughing too hard and also I was out buying caviar.) Sadly, can’t really deny the “knucklehead” or “ignoramus” assertions…because here I am, responding! What kind of dimwit does that?

Also, before I forget: I posted a comment in The Scroll, Tablet’s blog, asking people to email me privately with questions and concerns about this piece, so I can address some of the issues in next week’s column. I’ll reiterate that here. I’m especially interested in suggestions for talking about Israel with kids. (And I love Sara S-P’s idea of posting a wide variety of resources, from all over the political spectrum, to help parents address challenging questions.)
If you can refrain from nastiness and name-calling, all the better.
Thanks, all.

your 8 year old is wise beyond her years marjorie. thank you for an amazing article.

I agree with everyone here who suggests that respect is required to actually dialogue on this subject. It is difficult for people to be unemotional however, when discussing issues like this. I have gone back and forth on this subject many times, oscillating between the belief that there must be some way to solve the problem with a modicum of dignity for both sides and the despair that any solution that is imposed today will not create a long term solution because the goals and objectives of both peoples are mutually exclusive. Ultimately, even Gandhi was not able to reconcile Hindu’s and Muslims and it required a population transfer to create some semblance of order (and frankly even THAT did not work). Ultimately, in Dar Islam you have a philosophical framework that cannot reconcile itself to being just one of many “equal” cultures. It views itself still in the way that the Crusaders did. That is the underlying problem here and it is a problem for all of the West, not just Israel.

Just as a point of clarification, I did not in fact say that Marjorie Ingalls, who I do not know, does not know anybody who served in the U.S. or Israeli military. I was making a satirical generalization about dinner parties “where nobody knows anybody who even knows anybody at third hand who might have served in the military, American or Israeli.” To the extent that this could be taken to be a personal insinuation about Ms. Ingalls, I apologize.

I’m posting my remark from this morning again, because it seems to have been taken down: I still have the uneasy feeling that what Ms. Ingalls expressed in her column was more social embarrassment about being associated with unfashionable Israel than a real “cri de coeur.” And I have trouble believing she didn’t expect to provoke the “hostility” she now complains about, because of her sneering dismissal of any emotional identification with Israel. The point of comparing Israel Independence Day parades with Justin Bieber concerts can only be that both are callow, immature performances; and further that loving Israel is childish, and the true sophisticate would never have, or at least never admit to, such crude feelings. (Such an imputation is never made about Palestinian nationalism; that is apparently authentic rather than childish, and judging by what she wrote Ms. Ingalls seems to feel that she must teach its tenets to her children, which she has apparently done so successfully that her eight-year-old daughter can faithfully reproduce the Arab propaganda line about Jews barging their way into a place that doesn’t belong to them any longer, if it ever did.)

This is not a so-called left-right issue. Acute left-wing Israeli critics of Israeli politics, people like Amos Oz who, with respect, has had to face a lot worse than nasty Internet comments over the years, “feel a stirring in their hearts when they see the Israeli flag.” My personal story is that I participated in a New Jewish Agenda protest outside the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia at the outbreak of the intifada in 1987 and I went to many peace movement rallies when I lived in Israel (and took out the dreaded Israeli citizenship) in the 1990s. I screamed in dismay when I finished my first stint of guard duty in the Israeli army one Saturday night in November 1995 and I heard that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated by a right-wing Jewish extremist. And I have always felt a stirring in my heart when I see the Israeli flag, a love I always felt was best fulfilled by working for peace. And though my political opinions have shifted over the years as I came to see that the Palestinian leadership has never wanted a separate state of their own living in peace with Israel, and would not accept one if offered, nevertheless, I always did and always will stand with Israel, and I would sooner be scorned as an out-of-date Zionist than be lauded as a sophisticated, deracinated “citizen of the world.” No matter how “skittish” that makes anybody feel.

Aaron says:

Congratulations Marjorie, on your personal breakthrough, and an exquisite piece of writing to share it with us.

In the end, it really does come down to fundamentals; the simple difference between what we know is right and wrong, and finding it in ourselves to fight the good fight.

Phillip Cohen says:

When I walked out the Citadel of David and spied the “Wall” I knew why this athiest and Jew went to Israel. It was for me to mediate for all of those ancestors of mine who were never able to make that journey. I placed a small piece of paper with some scribbles on it in the wall cracks, sobbed like a small child and went on with the rest of the mission to which I was a participant.
I am a lower case z – zionist. I love Israel. I want for it to be the best that it can and it can only do this by being “better.” I cringe when I read that a woman was attacked for riding the bus with men or attacked and arrested for wearing a kipah and/or tzit tzit. It is disbeliving that Jews attack Jews with rocks for going to the wall. I hurt when I read that wifes and children of deceased husbands/fathers are deported because they lost their right to be there. Same for all the children of foreign workers who get deported. This is sad. It is painful to read how my brothers and sisters burn fields or upend olive trees of Palistinians or bulldoze their homes.
Israel, a Jewish homeland that is home to ALL of its citizens.
I am a zionist but I will not leave my liberal credentials at the door.

I’m afraid you simply don’t get it. Nor do a lot of American Jews, unfortunately.

I truly feel for you that the pride you ought to feel in Israel’s considerable achievements is colored by your Left wing views and the fact that you appear to have bought the Palestinian (historically incorrect) narrative wholesale, but that is certainly your right.

Here are a few things you perhaps haven’t considered:

1) Why is it Israel’s sole responsibility to ‘fix’ a refugee problem that was only caused by the Arab’s genocidal attack on them in 1948? Wasn’t settling almost a million Jewish refugees ethnically cleansed by the Arab world after 1948 enough?

2) Like many Jews of your persuasion, you likely have an extreme dislike for people you term ‘settlers’ who live in established Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and want them removed from their homes ‘for peace’ because the Palestinians refuse to tolerate a single Jew living amongst them.

How does your Leftist world view square supporting this kind of segregation and apartheid towards Jews? And what makes you think that people who cannot even tolerate the presence of a Jew living next to them are interested in peace?

3) If you care so much about the Palestinians, why would you save your dislike for the one country in the Middle East who has ever given them so much as a square dunam of land to call their own? And while we’re on that subject, just how well has giving them land and concessions worked out for Israel? Based on the Palestinian’s track record, would you risk your life or your children’s by giving them even more?

4) I assume you’re a patriotic American. Why would you have such disdain for such an important and valuable ally of our country?

5)If you or your children were in trouble, would you expect the State of Israel to rescue you or intervene on your behalf? And what effect would not having a strong Israel have on your own personal safety and well being, given that times change?

If other Jews are faced with persecution or death, do you really disapprove of them having a haven to go to?

Think about it.


So Israeli kids are like horses, Zionism is like a poisoned (carcinogenic!) apple, and American Jews should try to dictate to Israelis policies which will affect only Israelis? Some evenhandedness you have. I’m willing to bet even Amoz Oz (much less any Right wing resources) will not be allowed in your ‘material from all perspectives’.

And of Beinart the less said the better. Didn’t he write a book after the 2004 elections urging to purge all anti-war people from the Democratic party? Maybe Martin Berman-Gorvine got it right above – you’re two of a kind, worried about social climbing rather than basic justice or solidarity.

Give me says:

Jeez, Marjorie. Typical spoilt consumer generation Amrerican – you take a very difficult complex political question, have the arrogance to internalise it, make it about you, your children and your own personal relationhsip to your Judaism and wallow in your existential suffering, as if anyone should or does give a damn about just how “brave” you are.This may be hard for you to understand, but the situation in Israel and Palestine, is so not about you.

Do you really think you are in any way helping your child by reducing the difficulties at hand to the level of the latest “self-help” book of platitudes about “buses” and “victims can be bullies too” (whatever next, “a frown is just an upside down smile”?). It is one thing to think of the language through which to explain things to children, it is another to believe in your own infantalising of the situation.

You want to do something constructive, then do it. But that means thinking about the problem in a mature way, one that, whilst it makes yourself key to such thought and action it means reliquishing your self-serving position of being at the centre of everyone’s world. If you care as much as you say about the Palestinians, they are owed at least that much by you.

Give me says:

And for clarification. I am of the left, believe in a two state solution, loathe the settlments (and so am at one with most Israelis). loathe Likud and Natanyahu, loathe Hamas and their fellow-travellers, and, to be frank, have little time for your sentimental, inward looking “me, me, me” selfish nonsense that you think passes for serious comment.

walt kovacs says:

i take it that not one of the books on that table was the bible.

without the torah, jews have absolutely no right to the land. none.

and you and your daughter would be correct…they would be bullies.

with the torah, jews never lost their seat on the so called bus.

it is our land…end of story.

Bert says:

One thing that is viscerally clear is that it is impossible for a lot of people to talk about Israel/Palestine without foaming at the mouth. Sadly, that is the only bit of truth I can cling on to when I hear people talk about it.

H. Felton says:

All one needs to know about Ms. Ingall is that she reads the New York Review of Books, which has been an Israel-bashing rag since its inception back in the 60s.

As a parent of young children and someone who’s spent a lot of time in Israel, I found a lot of points of connection with this article. With American Jews and Israel you’re either in or out, for us or against us. And who more than Jews should know that like it or lump it, life is never that simple. Ingall’s conclusion, that love means never having to say I don’t want to talk about it but I’ll argue about it, seems to me to be spot on. I don’t understand how not to feel ambivalent about the actions of the Israeli government, how not to feel saddened by the religious extremism of the state, or how not to be confused about how to talk about all this with myself, never mind my kids. But talk we must to be engaged and to be honest. Now we should all go re-read Amos Oz’s brilliant A Tale of Love and Darkness.

Dov Friedman says:

You wrote:

“We need something similar to foster one-on-one connections between American and Israeli kids.”


We need something similar to foster one-on-one connections between American kids, each with both Israeli and Palestinian kids.

nrglaw says:

How many of the commenters here are children of survivors? How many have studied the history of Jewish persecution for 19 centuries? Very few, it seems.

If there had been an Israel in 1939, its very likely I would have grown up to meet my grandparents. But there was no safe haven for them. So they lie now in Auschwitz, a physical part of that place.

The trouble with many American Jews is that things have gone too well for them here. They have lost touch with their own history. So much so, that they state that they are “ambivalent” about their own safe haven.

Why is this? To quote Mel Brooks, “Who knows? Jews are crazy.”


Robin says:

Marjorie, I really respect the honesty and integrity that you show in this piece. And I am glad to hear you resolve to engage more with the issue.

I am not Palestinian, Arab, or Jewish. I am not religious. My approach to this issue was originally as a person of the left, concerned with American foreign policy in several different theaters. I don’t know if this is the most important issue in the world today (I certainly think it is an important one). But I do know that I have never been more certain of where I stand, or of what is right (and wrong), than on this issue.

And what is right? Human rights, and equal rights. For everyone.

While I found your thoughts and inclinations to be humane and admirable, I hope you can take another step in looking at the meaning of an Israel which is defined by its supporters (and its own laws) as a “Jewish State”. Can a state which spells out its essence in those terms ever offer full human rights, and fully equal rights, to its citizens and subjects? Could an official “White State” do so in North America? Or a “Protestant State”? (The terms of comparison are important here, since “Jewish” cannot refer to citizenship/nationality in the sense of “American”, “British”, or “French” or even “Israeli”. The meaning is racial and/or religious, as it is in Israel’s own criteria.)

And if the state defines itself as essentially Jewish, won’t it then be required, as self-preservation, to keep Palestinians out or kick them out if they become too numerous? Or use other means to keep them from power?

Because as it happens, that is the situation in the territory of Israel/Palestine. Palestinians (something like 85% of them) were kicked out of Israel in 1948, as they needed to be, to create a Jewish State in an Arab-majority land. Most are still barred from setting foot in their homeland. Their descendants, who have always considered Palestine their home, have no less connection to the land than Jews who make aliyah. And they too are kept out. Palestinians subject to full Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and de facto sovereignty in Gaza, are kept from power and denied any form of civil rights. And even Palestinian citizens of Israel, the privileged few, face severe discrimination from the state unlike anything else in the Western world.

As people with uniquely strong political, economic, and in some cases ethnic ties to this system, the moral responsibility is on us to change it. Our task is to bring Israel in line with the most rudimentary standards of liberal democracy — principles to which it already pays endless lip service. In reality, nothing could be more moderate. (Unfortunately, mainstream Zionist and even American discourse classifies these ideas quite differently: as a beyond-the-pale extreme. “Redefinition of the state of” becomes “destruction of the nation of” Israel.)

I trust your judgment to recognize that most of the arguments posted here to attack the Palestinians (and you by extension for humanizing them) amount to (a) mass demonization and (b) historical rewriting/denial. But I also understand that there is legitimate concern for the safety of Jews in Israel, especially after so many years of tension and violence. And I can promise you that the caricatures are wrong. Palestinians are capable of tolerance and forgiveness, as I believe all people are. And they have demonstrated it too many times to count, even though the stories rarely get told.

But most importantly, human rights are not for Palestinians to earn. They are simply inalienable. I would no sooner tolerate the denial of Jewish human rights, no matter the rationalization. And what’s more, oppression undermines security and stability, for everybody involved. It has not made Jews safer. Jewish-Arab relations are most stable within Israel proper, where Palestinians have the most rights. Discrimination and abuse by the more powerful party does not allow for an end to conflict.

You may have noticed that I do not refer specifically to two states or a single state as a goal. That is because, to me, the most important thing is not how the territory is divided. It is that no one face discrimination, abuse, or violence. In any part of it. In principle, that does not rule out a two-state solution. But in many cases I would have to question whether support for partition is in the interest of preserving, rather than ending discrimination.

I hope that you keep searching for greater understanding of this issue, as I will also try to do. And I hope that you reach a more confident sense of your own role in finding an end to the hurts and injustices of Israel/Palestine.

Mason says:

I echo Robin’s sentiments above. Israel is as split politically and culturally as America is, but the dominant political and social forces are towards apartheid and militarism. To take on a specific issue, consider the new trend towards preventing Jewish women from dating Arab men:

Or a very thoughtful critique of how Zionism and liberalism are incompatible at their core, just as much as Jim Crow and liberalism were:

Even Israelis are not safe from their own armed forces, if they choose to be activists for Palestinian rights:

Zionists will no doubt claim that all of this is smearing Israel by taking isolated incidents as characteristic of an entire country. Well, no, no more than murders of prisoners at Bagram and the black site at Guantanamo are smears of the U.S. military. They are not the whole picture but an important and disturbing portion of it.

Indeed America and Israel have some striking parallels, as both become authoritarian states in which the rule of law and principles of justice corrode under a endless search for safety through military dominance.

There’s a lot wrong with Israel.
That’s why I’ve been a citizen of Israel for 35 years, and, God willing, will be for many more years. Marjorie, you have criticism of Israel? Come home, Marjorie, and work toward the kind of Israel you want. You might just find that your views undergo considerable change, but if they don’t, you will at least write from an informed opinion.
Oh, and people like Beinart ought to put their lives where their mouths are, too. He really hasn’t got a clue what life is like here.
And lastly, I don’t think the state of health of the American Jewish community is anything to brag about. Parts of the Jewish community are almost completely unrecognizable as Jews.

David says:

“That’s because I am deeply ambivalent about Israel. Modern-day Israel, as opposed to historical Israel, is a subject I avoid with my children. Yes, of course I believe the state should exist, but the word “Zionist” makes me skittish” – this is what will forever separate you from those who want to isolate and demonize Israel under the cover of “apartheid” claims. Having failed to eliminate Israel militarily, they now seek to deligitimize it with an ultimate goal of eliminating it as a Jewish state and homeland. As long as nationalism exists, Jews must have a place at the table.

Personally, I too am uncomfortable with the current trends in Israel – just as I was uncomfortable in the U.S. with our last president’s actions or even Ronald Reagan’s vision of the U.S. But that didn’t mean that I felt that the U.S. did not have a right to exist – which is the hypocritical goal of the ISM and others. Like any other situation, your child(ren) will come to understand that the world is not black and white and that they will have to determine which shade of grey they can live with. If you fail to give them “our” side however, they will be left to fill in the gaps only from the “other” side.

Norwegian says:

First of all, thank you for writing this. Honesty in these times is as rare and as welcome as water in the desert. Personaly I am a gentile, but have been writing with jewish folks like Spencer Ackerman, and I would just like to commend you for being willing to stand up for your principles in print. I am an old anti-fascist and have been confronting fascists of all types, both anti-semites and anti-muslims, physicaly many times. Your courage in standing up to the fact that parts of Israels current policies vs. individual palestinians is becoming similar to fascistic countries is a real act of bravery. (I know Im putting words into your mouth, but isnt that the feeling you are describing, that the continued opression of another people is wrong?)

Ralph says:

Take heart Marjorie. Your daughter is wise beyond her years and the utterly predictable vitriolic attacks on your character here should be all the evidence you need that you have done the right thing in writing this article. Just as you took courage from Beinart’s article, so too many are taking courage from yours. And this is what prompts such a panicked response. For far too long, liberal and progressive American Jews have allowed themselves to be bullied into silence about the great and ongoing crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

I hope you give Robin’s comment above a close and thoughtful read. Beinart hopes for a revival of a liberal and critical Zionism, but I suspect it is already too late. Four decades of settlement construction under Likud and Labor alike have rendered a just two-state solution almost impossible. Sadly the “peace process” was never anything more than a delaying device for the purposes of grabbing more Palestinian lands. Recognizing this, the percentage of Palestinians who prefer a single bi-national democratic secular state has exploded over the past several years. When they find a credible leadership and begin to demand one person, one vote more and more American Jews will break ranks with the bullies. You can take pride in having had the foresight and courage to blaze a path for them.

Again, thank you.

Shalom Freedman says:

It is right to be compassionate and caring for others. It is also right to be fair and honest, and know what one is talking about. This article makes it seem as if there is some wonderfully innocent people called the Palestinian Arabs, who some terrible bullies Israeli Jews will not let live in peace. In fact the real story of the conflict is one in which incredible cruelty has been displayed again and again by the Arab side. It is one in which many offers of peace and compromise have been rejected again and again by the Arab side. It is one in which Israel is far far more humane to the ‘other side’ which is devoted to its destruction.
Another point is the ignorance the article displays of everyday life in Israel.

Yehudit says:

My reactions:

1) This is what happens when you live in the East Village.

2) “Baby-boomer Jews seem wedded to a sepia-toned image of Jews as victims—in the shtetl, in the Holocaust, in Israel’s early wars. But in real life, victims can turn into bullies.” Or they can turn into real citizens of a real country; apparently, one you visited some years ago. How come you don’t say anything about your actual experience of actual Israelis? Did you just hang out with other liberal Americans? How long were you there? Your portrait is just as sepia-toned, and you’re the one flipping the Jews from victim to bully. As several people pointed out, Israel isn’t about you. or Peter Beinart.

3) If after reading that book, Josie’s take on the conflict is: “You can’t just push someone out of their seat, and you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.”…then the book told her lies. “The Jews left and came back after 2000 years to push the ancient Palestinians out” is one of the major myths propagated by the people who don’t just want to criticize Israel but delegitimize its existence.

An accurate sentence would be: “If lots of big bullies push someone out of their seat over and over, and they always manage to at least keep their toe on it, and keep coming back and sitting in it, no matter how many times they get shoved out, and 2000 years later they manage to sit on it again, you should recognize that they went to a lot of trouble and got beaten up to keep their seat.” I’m sure Josie can relate to that. Then you can get into sharing it with people who fairly recently decided they are a) a nation and b) want it and DON’T want to share it at all, and join the bigger bullies to continue to beat up the original owners real bad.

(Like you I am a Jewish New Yorker who “does Jewish” but isn’t observant. Coincidentally I write this from a cozy little bedroom community near Haifa. I go home next week. I like visiting Israel. As a tourist. I like Israelis, I like their culture, their creativity, their energy. I like them because they are Israelis, not because they are holding my place till Moshiach comes. YMMV, but you have no excuse for not writing about Israel as a real place.)

Rav says:

Those who attack the author as wishing to fit in with the Gentiles are repeating a very old line from early political Zionism: in the wake of the Enlightenment and the emancipation of Jews in Europe, many Jews in Western Europe converted and/or attempted to erase their distinctiveness to avoid anti-semitism. In many cases, these early assimilationists still faced discrimination thereafter, largely because the emancipation of the Jews took place as the logical consequence of a political theory rather than a deep sentiment in favor of the Jews. Political Zionism was born in the context of this painful process, taking it as axiomatic that any attempt at acculturation or integration was necessarily doomed to failure. The Holocaust, in its enormity and its unfathomable destruction, has served to reinforce that world-view, providing the horrific case in point. 

Consequently, political Zionism in its simplest form runs like this: Jewish history from the medieval period to the present is a series of massacres and pogroms; Jews have not had political sovereignty since the destruction of the Temple; without a nation of their own, Jews will always face anti-semitism and need a safe haven that will protect them; American Jews are cut off from reality and blissfully unaware of the true nature of things, but they too will be in danger some day; assimilation in America is so great that Judaism is no longer recognizable as Judaism; American Jews are likely to disappear within a generation; the Palestineans are brutes; and finally, anyone who disagrees with this narrative must be a self-hating Jew who cares too much what the goyim think.

This classical Zionist narrative was born of great pain and suffering, and is deeply felt. It does not, however, demonstrate genuine insight into the American Jewish experience. It does not recognize that Jews have had political rights here since the time of the drafting of the US Constitution, and does not acknowledge that Jews have been in America for 350 years with nary a pogrom. It also takes a selective reading of Jewish medieval history, ignoring, for example, the Jews were self-governing in medieval Poland (the Council of the Four Lands), that Jews were highly integrated into Spanish society during the Golden Age of Spain, and that some of our greatest cultural treasures come from periods of ecumenical creativity. And it is often blind to the possibility that Medinat Yisrael isn’t always absolutely in the right. 

So, am I a self-hating Jew obsessively concerned with the opinions of the goyim for pointing out these weaknesses in classical Zionism? Hardly. 

Am I observant? Yes, most definitely. Have I spent time in Israel? Yes, I’ve lived there. Am I knowledgeable about Judaism? Yes, I’ve earned two graduate degrees in Jewish studies from accredited Jewish institutions of higher learning. Am I involved in Jewish life? Yes, I’m affiliated with a congregation and teach in a day school.

We need to create a new narrative, one that supports Israel without indulging in rigid us-versus-the-world absolutes. 

shmuel says:

“That’s because I am deeply ambivalent about Israel.”

This says it all.

Ehy don’t you become a Christian or a Muslim and stop pretending to be “Jewish.”

Interesting how you attract so many antisemitic posters who are not ambivalent about Israel at all: they hate the Jewish State and wish it to be abolished.

You are a hypocrite, Marjorie.

Yehudit Ilana says:

Admitting ambivalence is honesty, bravery, and clarity. It is far from hypocrisy. Why does it threaten you? Marjorie, I do not agree with your point of view entirely, but I identify with your ambivalence. I think it reveals the depth of your understanding of what Judaism teaches: let the stranger in your midst be as your neighbor. Do not wrong one another but fear your God. Love your neighbor as yourself. These values are not conditioned upon how your fellow treats you: they are commanded of you regardless of the relative worth of the “other”. From a religious perspective, it is not acceptable to say that we will treat the Palestinians as they have treated us or as we believe they would treat us if they had the power. From a religious perspective, we are required to abide by a higher standard. Taking religion out of it changes the equation. Then we can hold Israel to a more base standard and say that she may take whatever means necessary to defend herself against enemies who seek her destruction. But the ambivalence comes in when one tries to synthesize the Jewish values with the political and strategic realities. To be Yisrael is to wrestle with God. Marjorie is being a faithful Jew in exploring and exposing these contradictions and controversies. Those who condemn her because they disagree are acting in poor faith and need to rectify their path. We need not agree with one another in order to foster dialogue that promotes progress and growth.

rivka says:

As Golda Meir said: “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” But nothing so far indicates that they might discontinue holding suicide bombers in high regard. And besides, doesn’t anyone remember that before 1948, “Palestine” had no industry, no infrastructure, was an arid patch of land, nothing to write home about?

marta says:

Marjorie Ingall, how Jewish!

I have such mixed emotions reading this piece. I sympathize with the author a bit but feel she is basically ignorant of what is happening in the Israel/Palestinian situation. This is NOT a dispute over land. Look at the map. One thing the Arabs have is land. There really is no such thing as a “Palestinian.” When the West Bank and Gaza belonged to Jordan and Egypt, there was no such thing as a Palestinian. The whole idea was a creation of the PLO and it started in 1964. The Muslim Arabs invaded and took over that part of the world. They left it a barren wasteland as attested to by the writings of Mark Twain and many others who visited there in the 19th century. The word “Jerusalem” is never mentioned in the Koran. 800,000 Jews from Arab countries who had been persecuted over the centuries had to be resettled in Israel but the Arabs couldn’t take in their brethren after they ordered them to leave the land in 1948. Now these people’s great grandchildren are calling themselves refugees. To our shame, we American Jews did not do enough to prevent what happened during the Holocaust. Before you apologize for the nation of Israel, go spend some time there and really examine the situation. Israelis sacrifice their lives on a daily basis so that you can have a refuge if you ever need one. Whether you like it or not you are a part of the Jewish people and that involves some level of sacrifice and always has.

Eli says:

Using the “leaving your seat on the bus” analogy to analyze the Arab-Israeli conflict is a dangerously shallow way of looking at our situation. To suggest that the Jewish people being forcefully and violently uprooted from their homeland by the Romans is comparable to a person leaving their seat on a bus is historically ignorant and analytically retarded. I would think in the “four years” it took the author to feel comfortable writing this article they might have taken a few hours to read up on the history of our people. As with the person who said to “live where your mouth is”, I recommend for anyone to spend an extended period of time in Israel and the Middle East before providing us with suggestions on how to live in peace in this part of the world. I find it very hard to believe that a person living in the comfort of suburban America knows what is best for the security of Jews in the Middle East. On this point, Ms. Ingall, I do agree that you need to engage more. My only suggestion is that you engage with Israel in Israel and the region rather than through CNN or Fox News. Shabbat Shalom.

susan says:

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my condemnation of this writer but the whole-hearted way that some Jews have joined the attacks on Israel is truly appalling. Here are 2 recent quotes from the New York Times. In a review of a new book on British anti-semitism and how in Britian today, the rabid anti-Israel sentiment must have roots in anti-semitism, Harold Bloom says, “Of the nearly 200 recognized nation-states in the world today, something like at least half are more reprehensible than even the worst aspects of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. A curious blindness informs the shifting standards of current English anti-Zionism.”

A letter to the editor on this column states, “In place of this precise slander and imprecise imputation, Bloom might have noted that some of the most robust left-wing discussion of Israeli policy has come from members of the British literary and academic establishment who are also Jewish (Tony Judt, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh, Jacqueline Rose).”

Israel, while hardly the worst player in the world – what about the Australian aboriginals? The Kurds? The East Timorese? has been singled out for the most invective and when Jews jump aboard it is a signal to the world that Israel obviously is horrific if even Jews say so.

Alan says:

I was going to write more, but so many others expressed my thoughts perfectly. So I’ll add some observations on this bus analogy:
1. A land is not a bus.
2. To be perfect you have to add Rav’s bully analogy and the fact that the person with the seat was only taking up a small proportion of it when you moved more than your toe to the spot.
Ms. Ingall, tell your child that Jews are a people and that Israel is a place that they can express their national life and culture. Bring your family to Israel to see this and experience it.
This doesn’t mean that Israel is perfect. You need not agree with everything it does. But the Jewish people has a right to one place on earth to express its culture and values.
Finally, living in Israel, I do not vote in American elections. Though I do read and follow news, I don’t feel that I catch the nuances of American society and the candidates. I suggest that American Jews be a little more reticent when talking about a situation that they know from afar.

Josh says:

Can’t say the fanatical responses surprise me much. Certainly, they’re quite troubling, but having been raised in the vein of Kachnik and Likudnik Zionism I’ve heard all of the base, fervent rhetoric which emanates from the AIPAC/ADL/StandWithUs, and other such groups.
Beinart’s article was terrific, and highlighted some of the ambivalence any reasoned liberal (note: not directed at the Glenn Becks among us) should naturally feel. Namely, why must one check liberalism at Zionism’s door (poorly paraphrasing Beinart)? The most troubling aspect of the American Jewish community’s views regarding Israel, however, are those directed towards Jews who disagree. The authoritarian swiftness and veracity with which their protests are muffled – sickening monikers such as “self-hating Jew” come to mind – is astonishing. It’s not quite eating their young, but the modern Jewish community certainly swallows up all that disagree.

I want Martin Buber and Sholem Aleichem (“The Wrong Way”) back…

I think that Ms. Ingall is seriously confused about a number of issues. How you can suggest that you can’t talk to your children about Israel is mind boggling. The U.S. has been an incredible place to live and raise children.

But its history like every country has it is own share of “warts.” Slavery, Japanese “internment” camps and the shameful treatment of native Americans come to mind.

Are you afraid to talk to your children about these things. How will you teach them about these issues or civil rights. What will you teach them about the Civil War. If you can’t talk to your children about these things than you have serious issues that need to be dealt with.

The point is that America like Israel has good and bad. One of the basic distinctions is that the US has had more than 200 years to work on these issues and Israel has not. That obviously doesn’t take into consideration some of the unique challenges that Israel has faced during that time.

Nor does it take into account the other lessons/questions that you can bring up in a discussion about Israel, such as how other countries were created out of “nothing.” Or have you forgotten about Jordan.

Israel can and should be criticized like every other country. And frankly it is.

The comments here are more interesting and involving than Marjorie’s shallow and selfserving nonsense. What was the purpose of her article?

director says:

I didn’t want to comment on this article. Frankly, I was afraid — chicken — to acknowledge how much it reflected views similar to my own though my children are full-grown.

I watched from the sidelines. I read the comments. Then kept choosing not to make my own. I didn’t want to get the flack that Marjorie was getting. I had made my own waves — on a much smaller scale — in the midst of Jewish controversy, among Jews and non-Jews.

I had seen — and — experienced, personally, how challenging and painfully Jews can so disrespectfully treat one another for simply giving voice to views with which they disagree.

I have contributed a great deal (on a local level) to Jewish dialogue within the “tribe” as well as with non-Jews. It didn’t succeed. And I got judged and ostracized for the effort.

Though that’s not the only way that Jews treat one another. It is, unfortunately, very much a part of generic traditional Jewish culture to have rational debate that ignores the heart in the service of righeousness.

I applaud Marjorie’s ability to articulate her heartfelt views and perspectives. And, her courage in being able to put herself so much on the front line and take the heat from it. I thank her for it.

Today I can no longer be silent. Israel’s attack on the boat delivering aid to Palestinians is just too much! In my worldview there is no excuse for taking the first steps toward another round of violence.

David Cohen says:

I have never posted a comment to an article on the internet as the comments section almost always seems to be full of ad hominem attacks or ridiculous screeds. I felt compelled to respond to this article, however, as I feel the ideas the author espouses are absolutely deplorable. The writer displays how the philosophy of liberalism has been so twisted that it has infiltrated public discourse to this ridiculous degree. The writer seems to agree with much of the Euro/Arab/liberal American Jewish consensus that Israel has no right to defend itself or to respond when it is attacked. Despite the fact that Israel is surrounded by powers that wish for nothing more than its destruction and constantly attack it, whenever Israel responds, the world’s heart (and seemingly this writer’s) bleeds over the destruction caused. Articles like this that emerge from the American Jewish community only increase the likelihood that Israel will pay the consequences with more civilian deaths and a relinquishing of its homeland. The writer needs to understand that she has no understanding of recent history. She seems to forget that Israel has constantly offered independence to the Arabs, has pulled out of Gaza asking for nothing, etc. etc. and has received only missile attacks in return. Shame on your for writing this!

Tsvi says:

OK…let’s parse this out a little, as Socrates would have recommended…

First, Ms. Ingall, your bus analogy is inappropriate – at least you used it. We did not get up from our seat on the bus and expect to have that same seat back. A more apt analogy would be getting kicked off the bus entirely, walking to the next city, then the next, then the next, and then finally catching up with the bus and demanding simply a seat. As we know, with the destruction of the Hurva, and even the fact that a mosque sits atop our holiest site [at which we were forbidden to even pray!, *long* before Zionism even was a word in Herzl’s mouth], we are not demanding the same seat. If we were truly demanding the “same seat on the bus”, we’d be demanding territories from the Euphrates to the Med, from mid-Lebanon through all of Sinai, and would have exiled people from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. I am not defending Israel here. But if you’re using a bus analogy, at least let us ride.

Second, let’s deal with the fact that we are not actually “engag[ing] in an informed debate”. Such a debate would, as a precedent, deal with the fact (as you described it) that there are two “peoples [who] feel they have a legitimate claim to the same land.” In Arab media, Jews have no claim to the land whatsoever. None of it. Not even a claim to being able to pray at the base of the Wall — pursuant to decree, long before such “modern” decree was made official in 1929 [let alone that we’d have a right to live *near* such wall!]. Debating the merits of “Palestinian rights” is SURELY a just cause, (even if you ignore the idea that “Palestinian” is what many of us used to call ourselves until 1948 and which moniker the local Arabs did not formally adopt until 1967…). After all, “If I am for myself alone, what am I?” But while we debate such merits, Arab states and all of Israel’s neighbors and almost all of the United Nations do not even recognize the viability of a debate ab initio. To them there is no debate. We are trespassers. And Israel is a trespassing entity, ever since the “Nakhba” — the “Catastrophe” — as the whole of the Arab world defines Israel’s establishment in 1948. We Jews argue and debate. To most of the rest of the world, there is no debate; nay, we are not even afforded the opportunity to present evidence in a debate. If we cannot reach the Arab citizen (in any of these countries) to show that we would prefer to coexist with them, how can *any* debate be considered “informed”?

I have not defended nor deplored Israel here. I have, frankly, done both, at times, when each was appropriate. I, too, am liberal. But if you are going to hide behind the idea that the State itself is deplorable to “Palestinians” in the “territories”, as justification for failing to discuss the merits of the State of Israel itself, you, yourself, Ms. Ingall, are preventing the debate from even being “informed” — from a Jewish perspective or otherwise. And Socrates would be ashamed. That you are willing to finally discuss it now (“If not now, when…?”) — this is at least a step in the right direction! But we should at least inform ourselves of our own position, and our own reasons for being in the Land. After all, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” If you look at the world’s media, the answer is clear.

Sam Stein says:

Dear Marjorie — The reason you have ambivalence about Israel is because Israel was formed on an exclusionary, racist basis, values that you clearly don’t subscribe to personally. I believe the only moral thing for you to do is to actually disengage from Israel until it becomes a democratic land for all its people or agrees to a peace accord on mutually respectful terms. Otherwise you are complicit/participating in oppression. I see good, moral people tie themselves into knots trying to justify the things Israel does and what it stands for. It’s pathetic. When you actually take a clear stand for justice, Marjorie, your kids, like thousands of Jewish American kids, will respect you and respond. Till then you are in murky ground.

Dan says:

Here’s what you can tell your children. First, it’s good to share. Both Jews and Arabs have lived in the land that we call Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan for a long time. The land was split into separate countries for both the Jews and for the Arabs a long time ago.
The Arabs got Jordan, or 77% of Palestine, and the Jews got the rest. That sounds fair, doesn’t it? In other words, if you and your friend both think that something is yours, you keep 1/4 for yourself and give your friend the rest. Oh, and there’s one more thing. Your friends, the Arabs, get to live in your land, but you don’t get to live in theirs. How can things be any more fair than that?

Next, you can tell your children about the Altalena Affair. It is often forgotten today, but be sure to tell your children about it. You can explain that a country can only have one army. A second or third army is nothing but trouble. You might want to tell them a little about our own Civil War. Also be sure to mention the Fatah-Hamas clashes of 2006 and 2007 that killed over 600 Palestinians. If you’d like, you can add some of the details of the Black September (September 1970) clash between the PLO and Jordan in which thousands died. Oh, yes, I’m sorry, perhaps we shouldn’t mention all of the Arabs who have been killed by fellow Arabs. You can tell them that the Hezbollah forces act as a second army in Lebanon, and that’s very bad.

Next, tell your children the story of President Carter agreeing to
return the Panama Canal to Panama back in the late 70s.
Then, tell them that presidential candidate Ronald Reagan didn’t like it one bit. Reagan, though, was a loyal American. He spoke out against the deal, but he didn’t urge any violence. The canal was returned to Panama peacefully. You can contrast this with potential peace agreements that have been proposed. The Israelis might not be happy about all of them, but they go along. Many of the Arabs want to make peace, but the bullies in their midst (much like the playground bullies your kids know) just want to make trouble. They loudly threaten violence any time a peace deal is proposed. Those Arabs who want to make peace–there are a lot of them–are scared of the bullies!

Please don’t forget to mention Hezbollah, Hamas, and
and Iran! If you want to tell your kids that Hezbollah, Hamas,
and Iran are peaceful at heart that’s up to you, but deep down we all know that this isn’t true. You can mention that every time a peace plan is discussed, all three do everything they can to mess things up. It’s like the mean bullies that try to get between you and kids you want to be friendly with. If you and your kids have strong stomachs, you can tell them what Hamas says about Jews–even Jews who don’t live in Israel.

Finally, please mention that a lot of peace plans have been proposed. The Israelis and Arabs can be very creative, and come up with a plan that is fair to everyone. Please mention, though, that some of the loud and mean bullies (with their “second” armies) don’t want Israel and the Palestinians to have peace with each other.

Yes, Marjorie, this is how I’d explain it to my kids!

I’m not a mother yet, Marjorie, but never have I found a piece that so accurately reflects my own feelings about Israel. Thank you for putting them to paper.

I love how when people who don’t fall in line with the “right” view of Israel while showing support for the idea of the state and its right to live and let live, the flag waving nuts come out to tell us that we aren’t worthy of the protection afforded to us by the mere existence of a State half-way around the world.

This thoughtfully articulated article about the issues of teaching kids about a situation that is polarizing, politicized and so unbelievably complex to even the most educated international scholars, should be welcomed. Not everyone is going to agree with you and when you come in to say these thoughts are unwelcome in the community, you only will open the door, push out those who support a Judaism that welcomes the stranger, supports the widow and the orphan, pursues justice and walks humbly with our God.

Sher says:

I have wanted to comment many times on articles about Israel, but haven’t because I just can’t get the words in my head and heart to come out right. Then comes along TSVI and does it all for me. Thank you!!!

Let’s just take this last incident and look at it in it’s simpliest form.

A boat (6 in fact) with aid wants to come to Gaza but a blockade is in effect. They can stop at port and be checked for contraband and if clear have their aid delivered. Simple huh? NO they reject this and try to run the blockade and violence ensues! IF aid was the reason for the trip they would of came into port. The fact that they rejected all chances to be checked for contraband and that people on board were from terroist organizations make this an open and shut case!

I don’t see where debate is of any use. Israel is a Nation. They can protect themselves.

If people would learn the history of the land and the people this would not be an issue.

Think of it like this, If everyone around the state you lived in wanted to annihlate you how would you react?

I love Israel and stand proud with her!

Here’s an interesting thought for you, Marjorie. I’ll bet you would feel better about teaching your kids if you read your history!! If you did, you would know that Jews tried to reach peaceful accommodation with Arabs since Chaim Weizmann exchanged promises with the King of Saudi Arabia in 1919; since the same man suggested to the British in 1936 that Arabs and Jews share Palestine 50-50; since the Jews accepted the 1947 partition compromise; since the Camp David accords; since Oslo; since they pulled out of Gaza.

I am a conservative Jew, but I love my liberal brothers and sisters. Together we form the wonderful tapestry that makes us all strong. But there is also something I hate on both sides. What I hate is intellectual laziness and intellectual cowardice. Both sides tend to get passionate over sound bites, and never take the time to read their history. They are lazy. And many feel awkward about learning the other’s side – it’s outside the comfort zone. That really bothers me.

Sadly Marjorie, you are not debating your ideas with people like me. If you were to start, you would find a wealth of pride in learning that the history of Zionism is rich with the same exact values that you live by. Values that led to the doubling of the Palestinian Arab population from 1922 to 1936 through dramatic improvements in ARAB health at the hands of Jewish doctors. Values that led to Arab universities and intellectual development. You would learn that the only massacres and almost all the murders in early Palestine were of Jews, not Arabs. You would learn that Jews bought land legally, and only with war did the refugees run. I would paint context for you, and compare that tragedy to the recent 4 million Iraqi refugees who also fled because of war, not ethnic cleansing. I would challenge you to challenge the stories you are being fed.

You owe me nothing, but you owe your children and their grandparents something. That something is truth. Marjorie, what if I’m right? Peace.

Just interview a few people what the world was like before there was a state of Israel. Ask them how Jews lived and which nation opened the doors for Jewish refugees.
Then google to find out and post on a map Jewish refugees today, please add numbers to each location.
Next, ask yourself to examine the results.
Post them on your next blog as the – definition of Zionism.
The best results for the advancement of Judaism, growth potential,
In a family not everyone is in agreement, but the family remains united, and we are one people.
That’s what you should teach your children, and if you are not, you have robbed them of their roots, and unique origin.


I very much appreciate your sharing your thoughts and feelings with us! I know these feelings are shared by many Jewish parents.

The “matzav” is so complex, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is difficult for anyone to evaluate what is fair, what is true.

However, how you end your essay is the very one thing that is true: “Disagreement with Israel doesn’t mean not loving Israel, just as being upset with your own children doesn’t mean you don’t love them.”

So — what is it that you _do_ know? “Israel is mine” — Israel is yours, and mine, and all Jews. (And I’m not making any specific claim to land here.) I’m just saying Israel and the Jewish people are _ours_ because Israel is threaded into our Torah, our history, our collective consciousness. Israel is part of us.

So– all you have to do is teach your kids to love Israel and the Jewish people. That doesn’t mean being blind to facts or debate. But it does mean fostering an emotional connection.

So how do you do that? As Steve T. writes, there is so much to be proud of and celebrate about Israel, not only historically but in modern Israel. Learn and share.

Of course, there are many things to be ashamed of too –just like any people and every country — because Israel is made up of human beings, who makes mistakes, don’t always to the right things. But, nu?, who doesn’t? So talk about these things too, and America, and Palestine, and all peoples everywhere who have conflict. It’s life.

You know what to do: engage. Have faith that even with all the yuck of matzav, there is plenty to love about Israel.

xoxo I completely adore Justin Bieber!

bobinNYC says:

Parents of all religions can use Israel as an example of how religious fanaticism can turn into political movements that aren’t what one would think of religion at all.

One wonders if the fanatics that want to steal Palestinian land in the West Bank
or drive Israel into the Sea even bother reading the Bible or the Koran.
Even worse when right wing Christians misread Revelation and think once Israel grabs the West Bank that Jesus will return for the Second Coming and the world will end. Of course those believers will then go to heaven.

Once you cross the rubicon and tell youngsters that its ok to displace people from homes you create a moral gray area.

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