Zionism today must include a strong educational component. We as American Jews are committed to the State of Israel as lovers and as family. That means we have disagreements – or even aspects of Israeli society we don’t talk to or about – but we still feel a connection. Nicky Morris captures this in poetic fashion:
I know these people will be important to me / will be the ancestors / I forgive over and over and find something of them in my own actions.
We share an overlap of self with Israelis. And yet, as time passes, there is an ever increasing risk of foreignness. The risk increases every year as Israeli identity forms according to its own logic, place and cultural imperatives. A lack of understanding emerges purely from distance: distance of place, culture, literature.
I believe strongly that American Jews have a moral obligation to find ways of entering Israeli culture. This includes high literature and culture – Amos Oz or Agnon, but also popular culture like the TV show Ramzor. It means reading popular newspapers like Yediot Aharonot (available in English at ynetnews.com) and looking at the culture, food and sports sections.
This is why we are bringing Rachel Korazim to Kol Emeth this weekend for an amazing deep dive into Israeli identity. She will use poetry and music to explore the ways in which the Israeli self is forming and finding expression. For example, she will show through literature how the early Zionist understanding of the Holocaust gave way to a dawning comprehension of the bewilderment and heroism of the victims and the survivors. She will explore the emergence of new Jewish voices in the culture as Jews from Arabic lands reclaim their own voice. In the past, we always called these refugees from Arabic countries Sephardim, but in fact they are deeply part of Middle Eastern culture and are only now finding their voice in Israeli literature and identity.
Finally, she will explore the amazing spiritual awakening happening in the secular community. She will show how they are using popular Israeli music, often laden with Biblical and Midrashic allusions, in prayer and other spiritual gatherings.
Rachel Korazim is an amazing teacher. I’ve studied with her multiple times and have always been moved and influenced by what she has to share. The Song of Songs talks of the passion lovers have to come to know each other. As lovers of Israel, let’s come together to come to know our beloved in her wholeness.
I look forward to spending an amazing Shabbat with you!