The following letters appear in this week’s Australian Jewish News:
The ironies never end. The first thing waiting for me upon my return to Jerusalem from my speaking tour of Australia, where, like a Marrano, I had a secret meeting with Jewish professors in Melbourne and had to address the Jewish community of Sydney from a church, was an invitation to address a visiting group of 25 Australian Jewish students, which I did!
When Diaspora Jews actually come to Israel, it turns out, they discover a real country with a wide diversity of views to which they have to listen.
While I would have liked a more meaningful exchange with all of you, the controversy surrounding the refusal of The AJN to run the ad of my talk at Temple Emmanuel in Sydney -– and that talk’s subsequent cancelling as well -– contributed, I believe, to the discussion on Israel.
Letters to The AJN revealed that many of you did want to hear a critical presentation, that your community leaders abused their role as gatekeepers.
But it raised an even deeper issue over the relationship of Diaspora Jewry to Israel.
Clinging to an idealised image of the country that must be defended at any price is not a useful position.
It disrespects the vitality of Israel, as well as its sovereignty, and leads to a disrespect of whatever Israeli voices, like mine, that do not fit into that image.
The controversy has revealed an unhealthy aspect of your relationship to Israel that, I believe, should and must be addressed.
THE ‘REAL’ COMMUNITY
Vivienne Porzsolt’s count of letters to The AJN (27/03) cannot include the actual number of items submitted. Only the editor knows that.
Porzsolt’s states that “the real Jewish community” is “hungry for discussion denied by their official bodies”.
She disregards the space given by The AJN to her views and contradicts herself in acknowledging the community’s “rich diversity”, while claiming that its official bodies -– which the community elects -– are unrepresentative.
Official bodies in Australia are overwhelmingly Zionistic. Letters express the views of a segment, but mainly those of people concerned enough to write.
It is ridiculous for anyone to claim that their views represent a community, when they advocate on behalf of the community’s opponents.
THIS week I decided to go and listen to Professor Jeffrey Halper’s talk at the University of New South Wales. I am a committed member of my North Shore Jewish community, with children at Masada College.
I am also a believer in freedom of speech and ideas.
I found Prof Halper’s talk informative and interesting, and while I may not have agreed with everything he said, there was much he did say that I found pertinent and true, especially in light of Israel’s current situation.
At one point in his speech (and despite the presence of those in the audience who were clearly anti-Israel), Prof Halper discussed his decision to leave America many years ago to make aliyah, his extremely strong attachment to Israel and his love for the country.
He is an Israeli and he and his wife have raised three Israeli children. That is more of a commitment to Israel than many of us here will ever make.
What a shame our community sees fit to only welcome Israeli citizens who agree with mainstream community beliefs, and reject those whose ideas perhaps make us feel a bit uncomfortable.
Jeffrey Halper’s visit here was a wonderful opportunity for exchange of ideas and constructive debate within the Jewish community.
I am sorry I did not have my children with me at his talk that evening. It was one occasion I did not feel proud to be a member of my Jewish community.
St Ives, NSW