While in the US for the high holy days, I followed events in this region via the general media (radio, television, and newspapers) and had the opportunity to read the Jewish newspapers in several different communities. I know that there are many American Jews who are very upset by the perceived bias in the coverage of Israel by CNN, BBC, NPR, the New York Times , etc. It seems that the language, and the choice of angle, in story after story, portray Israel as the oppressor and the Palestinians as innocent victims, when the reality is obviously more complex than that (or, some would say, simply the reverse). Indeed, whole organizations have arisen whose sole purpose is to respond to the unfair treatment of Israel in the media. This is an interesting problem; I have written about it in previous entries, and will probably return to it again.
However, what struck me on this trip was the coverage of Israel in the Anglo-Jewish press. I looked in vain for insight into the issues rending Israeli society, for coverage of education, spiritual creativity, the integration of immigrants, Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel, ecology, culture, pluralism, fashion in short, for news or features about life in Israel. Almost all I could find was death. A Martian learning about Israel from today's coverage in the Anglo-Jewish press would certainly not be moved to question the State Department's advisory against visiting Israel! On the contrary, she would be hard-pressed to come up with any reason why anyone would want to take the risk to come here after all, what is there to see other than the burned-out skeletons of buses and the broken bodies of terror victims.
The editorials and op-ed columns were so busy declaring how we are living our lives in spite of the horrors exploding all around us, that they seem to have lost interest in the lives we are in fact living. It may well be true that the Israel you read about in the New York Times is not the real Israel (or maybe it is there is room here for debate, I think). But it is also true, and more painfully so, that the Israel you read about in the Anglo-Jewish press is certainly not the real Israel.
It may be that "all the world wants the Jews dead." I always thought, however, that Israel was supposed to be the answer to that desire: Israel is the place where we get to struggle with integrating our Jewishness into every aspect of our life moral, cultural, ethnic, national, personal. As an independent nation-state like any other, we have our military and political struggles; we have to find our way to live in peace with the nations around us. We may differ among ourselves as to how to do that, and we may have to endure a certain amount of pain and death in the process of defining and insuring our existence. But we are, for ourselves, much more than this struggle. The struggle is an aspect of life, annoying, painful, scary but it is not all of life for us, and if it is all we are to you, then it seems to me that our relationship has no future.
We are living here. Not because we have no choice, and not "in spite of everything." We have achieved a great deal and we still have a lot of difficult and exciting work to do. We invite you to share in the achievements and the challenges. We are living here for the history, the culture, the challenge, the authenticity, the beauty, the future, the promise; for ourselves and our children. If it is important to the dynamics of the Diaspora community for us to be dying here for you, then we have a problem, and maybe we should talk about it.