I almost unsubscribed from the Jewish Agency’s newsletter this morning. I mean, I have no idea why I get it anyway … because I taught Hebrew School? Because they ‘know about me’ and are trying to not-so-subtly bring me over to the dark side?
But I took another look at today’s mailing – Hannukah greetings! and wishes for Jewish prosperity and remembrance of Israel – and I was struck with in fact the usefulness of this newsletter. Yes, it’s the Jewish Agency, and no, I don’t agree with pretty much anything they do or say. But it’s a fascinating study of the rhetoric of this debate.
In reality, Israel is a tangible thing. It’s a country with political problems and a military occupation and minority rights issues, with a complex society of not just Jews but Christians and Muslims and Atheists and Baha’i, of Europeans, Americans, Russians, Ethiopians, Palestinians, even Azerbaijanis. But Israel as it’s painted in this picture is an idea, an ancient myth, a figment of some publicist’s imagination. This is the image that so many of us, as American Jews, are shown and believe. This imaginary wonderland is the place to which we give millions of dollars a year in tax-deductible donations. There is a huge disparity between the Israel being sold to American Jewry and the Israel that exists. It is in their (Israeli government, the Jewish Agency, etc.) interest to perpetuate this myth, and to keep the reality of what Israel is as far as possible from the awareness of their donor base: American Jews.
And it is for this reason, this fascination with the mythology of this debate, that I will proudly continue to receive the Jewish Agency’s emails, and so I can point out their continuing efforts to keep us in ignorance and blind faith. And because, honestly, scary as they are, I am vaguely amused by this intentionality and their brilliant marketing strategies.