We may not be able to flip Israel’s haters, but there are plenty of “intellectually honest” people who can be persuaded of the truth of Israel’s cause, Rabbi Dov Lipman, the first U.S.-born member of Knesset in 30 years, told a Nefesh B’Nefesh gathering in Jamaica Estates last week.
“They can realize three things,” he said. “That it’s far more complex than they realized … that it’s not apartheid … and boycotts are counterproductive.”
Rabbi Lipman, who made aliyah on the second NBN flight nine years ago and was elected to the Knesset in 2013, told The Jewish Star afterwards that beyond concern for Israel’s critics, those who love Israel need to focus close to home.
“We have to begin educating our children about the conflict,” he said. “Meaning Israel can’t be just a rah-rah march down Fifth Avenue.”
“We are losing kids because when they get to campus they are not prepared for the negativity,” he continued. “Students for Justice in Palestine is so srong and our kids” — including those from Orthodox homes, he emphasized — “don’t have answers. They get confused by it.”
Also, he suggested that Torah observant Jews kick their Zionism up a notch. “Let’s talk mitzvah level,” he said. “How is it that we, as religious Jews don’t talk about aliyah.”
“We have to reaclaim Zionism in America, and get kids excited about it, so they’ll have passion and more confidence to stand up to whatever pressure comes their way.”
Rabbi Lipman responded to an audience member who spoke about the difficulty some olim have had after moving to Israel, by conceding that it’s not easy. “For olim, planning is most important,” he said, urging people to enter the process with eyes wide open.
Many groups, including NBN, work to assist olim, he said. NBN ferried its 50,000th oleh on a late-summer charter flight, but the group has been putting resources behind efforts to make the aliyah decisions stick.
On the subject of making friends outside communities that reflexively support Israel, Rabbi Lipman recoounted that after a recent talk to a pro-Palestinian group at UC Berkeley, he received a letter from an attendee who thanked him for expressing pain over the suffering of innocent Palestinians.
“It does bother us that innocent people anywhere suffer,” Rabbi Lipman said. “Even if we’re at war, we don’t want to kill innocent people, it breaks our heart when it happens.”
“It’s a core Jewish concept — we care about non-Jews who suffer,” he said. “We should talk that way so people can see who we truly are —not the hate mongers that we’re made out to be, but people who really do care about the world, about other people.”
“Israel is the source of so much good and we have nothing to appologize for,” he added.
Overall, “I am nothing but filled with with optimism. We are blessed to live in incredible times. We have the State of Israel.”
Rabbi Lipman spoke at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, 83-10 188th St.