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We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel Hardcover – September 10, 2019
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“Impassioned, brilliant, and riveting, We Stand Divided is the essential book for understanding American Jewish-Israel relations. Gordis has made an outstanding contribution to the field.”
-- Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States
“Those anguished by the rift between Israelis and American Jews might be surprised to learn it was ever thus. With empathy and deep historical insight, Daniel Gordis traces the roots and development of this disconnect and imagines a future of deepened mutual appreciation aimed at sustaining one unified Jewish people.” -- Daniel Shapiro, Former US Ambassador to Israel
“A fascinating and provocative description of the growing gap between American Jews and Israel. This book is a conversation starter, a conversation that is increasingly important. I recommend it highly.” -- Deborah Lipstadt, author of Antisemitism Here and Now
From the Back Cover
From National Jewish Book Award winner and author of Israel, a bold reevaluation of the tensions between American and Israeli Jews that reinterprets the past and reimagines the future of Jewish life
Relations between the American Jewish community and Israel are at an all-time nadir. Most explanations pin the blame on Israel’s conduct: its handling of the conflict with the Palestinians, its attitude toward non-Orthodox Judaism, and the Jewish state’s dismissive view of American Jews in general. Others point an accusing finger at American Jews, insisting that in embracing America’s progressive values, many American Jews have become more sympathetic to Israel’s enemies than they are to the Jewish state.
But these explanations, Daniel Gordis argues, miss the real causes for the divide. Gordis’s new book, We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel, examines the history of the troubled relationship, showing that from the very outset—even before the state of Israel was created—the two communities’ dreams for a Jewish future had little in common.
American Jews and Israelis built their respective communities to embrace different opportunities and in response to different challenges. Over decades, two radically diverging visions of Jewish life emerged. Thus, Gordis argues, as a first step to healing the breach, the two communities must acknowledge and discuss their profoundly different purposes and moral commitments. Only then can they forge a path forward, together.
- Publisher : Ecco (September 10, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062873695
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062873699
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.01 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #223,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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While Gordis tries to blame the rift between Israeli and American Jews on historical differences, he ignores that most of what upsets American Jews today is a sort of behavior that is anathema to Judaism itself. The Torah itself says several versions of "Be kind to the stranger because you were once a stranger in a strange land." He dismisses criticism of racism and discrimination in Israel by calling it "ethnic democracy". As I read that, again and again because he repeats this assertion as if that alone will make it persuasive, I wondered why that formulation wouldn't have applied equally well to apartheid South Africa. Sure, South Africa for the white people, a cultural democracy where the rights of all white people are respected.
A very smart rabbi once explained to me that Judaism became tribal in response to its European experience, where Jews were segregated, persecuted and slaughtered repeatedly. He said earlier forms of Judaism were not tribal but universal in their outlook. It's right there in the Schema: Hashem echod. When we create separation in our minds to justify the mistreatment of others, we are disloyal to and at odds with core of the very Judaism that Israel claims to preserve.
Like most Jews, I was raised on a steady diet of pro-Israel propaganda. Before I understood the history, I saw no problem. These days, I see the great tragedy that is the history of the nation. I'm not saying that the Jews were all wrong and the Palestinians all right. But one has to take into account that a bunch of white people in the supposedly "civilized world" believed it was appropriate to take land that they had been living on for hundreds, even thousands, of years. A Palestinian man once said to me, "Yes, the Jews have been victimized terribly, but if the world were just Israel would be in Bavaria. Why did we pay the price for the sins of others?"
Realistically, Israel can't be undone. Ultimately, the only possibility for a solution must include respect for the rights of others. In my opinion, healing can occur if Israel embraces true democracy where the rights of all people of the region are respected. In the context of history, Israel isn't different from the U.S. in the sense that, when Jefferson wrote "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal", those idealistic words didn't apply to everyone. They didn't apply to people of color -- especially those of African or Native American heritage -- and they didn't apply to women. Little by little over the last two centuries, the U.S. has come closer to fulfilling Jefferson's ideal.
I hope Israel will, with time, realize that it can't treat some of its citizens as though they were of a lower caste or class. I hope too that it will realize that it's not right to occupy territory belonging to others, and that it's particularly wrong to appropriate land belonging to others. Israel tries to have it both ways, stealing land as if it were the state's to take, while refusing to give the people there as if they were prisoners.
This is what upsets American Jews. I find it particularly frustrating that Israel claims to act in my name when it behaves this way. It does not. I cannot support any country that behaves immorally, and that's all the more so when it claims to be doing so on behalf of my religion. Gave two stars anyway because the author included some worthwhile information.
This rift, if not solved with good will and understanding in both sides, will be as tragic to the future of the Jewish people as the destruction of the Temple by the Romans two thousand years ago.
I don’t say this about many books, but I will say it in this case: if the future of the Jewish people is important to you, reading “We stand divided” is a must. I gave it 5 stars, but it deserves even more.
Most importantly, Dr. Gordis lays down a challenge to world Jewry (85% live in Israel and the US) to reach an understanding and acceptance of our differences in order to preserve our future.
We’ll written and organized, impossible to put down, and filled with fascinating and new information and insights.
This book should be required reading for current Jewish students and any student of history.