A few weeks ago I was e-mailing with a friend in the U.S. about Israel's most recent election and the stalemate in forming a coalition. This friend is not some marginally identified Jew. He is a regular at his synagogue. He has headed up Jewish community organizations. He's attended AIPAC conferences and programs. He and his wife sent their kids to a Jewish day school. His family visited Israel on several occasions.
In the course of our exchange my friend (I will call him "Mike") wrote this:
"I have to admit, and I think I am not alone in this thought, that I have grown farther away from Israel in the last eight years or so. I am just tired of the direction the country has gone in. No, I certainly am aware of the risks involved in a center-left government but I don’t think Yesh Atid really is even moderately left, so why can’t it win an election?
The country is just leaning more and more to the right so it just does not seem to be the Israel that was in my heart nor in my conviction to support."
My heart sank. A stomach punch.
It is not news that a growing number of American Jews no longer feel as strong a connection to Israel as they or their parents once did. It's also no secret that while American Jews largely identify with the Democratic Party and a more liberal agenda, Israelis, at least on foreign affairs and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, have adopted what to American Jews is perceived as a right-leaning approach.
But coming from such a connected, knowledgeable, long-time supporter? If we've lost Mike, we're really in trouble. Truly depressing and distressing.
I did not respond. What's the point of arguing? My friend was not arguing politics. He was expressing feelings that have developed over years of experience and observation. It's difficult if not impossible to argue with feelings.
The e-mail has gnawed at me. It did occur to me to ask Mike whether, even though he was strongly opposed to President Trump and was greatly distressed at the course the U.S. took under the Trump Administration, had he "grown farther away from" the U.S.? Although he was "tired of the direction" the U.S. had taken under Trump (and, for that matter, under George W. Bush), did he feel that the U.S. "does not seem to be the [U.S.] that was in my heart nor in my conviction to support."
In short, did worry and disappointment with the U.S. cause Mike to loosen his connection with and concern for the country? Or, as a citizen who loves his country and has a stake in it, did he dig in, get more involved, discuss and advocate, and vote?
I suspect Mike did the latter. He cares about his country and the course it was on. He didn't "grow farther away."