In a week Israel will turn 64. This brings to my mind the Beatles lyric, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?”
Do we need still need Israel? Does Israel still needs us? I would say yes to both questions. Maybe not precisely in the same way we as decades years ago. But Israel still needs us and we still need Israel.
To say we need Israel and Israel needs us, I do not have to say that I agree with everything every government of Israel does. I do not agree with everything the government of this country does.
I am not less of an American if I disagree with a specific act of the American government. And I am not less a friend of Israel if I disagree with a specific decision of a particular Israeli government. Neither the president of the United States nor the Prime Minister of Israel consult with me on a regular basis.
I am a devoted Israel advocate. In March I once again attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. I went to learn but more than anything else, I went to lobby our representatives in Congress. I understand that Israel needs me.
As an adult I can no longer feel about Israel as I did as a romantic teenager. But I can hope that today’s Jewish teenagers will feel that way about Israel. I do more than hope. I devote significant time and energy to creating those feelings. Every three years I lead a Youth Israel Trip for the teenagers of the congregation. Each summer I go to camp where I work with teenagers in a Hebrew immersion program staffed mostly by Israelis with the theme, “Israel and me.”
As human beings our task is Tikkun Olam B’Malchut Shaddai, repairing the world under rule of God. We want to be part of building the Jewish state to be a model for other nations.
The Prayer for Israel describes the Jewish State as “Raisheet Tz’michat Geulateinu", the first budding of the blossoming of our redemption. We understand Israel to be as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “Or L’Goyim", A light to the nations.”
During May of 1967 I was a junior in High School. During the last weeks in May of 1967 Israel faced possible destruction. The armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan were poised to attack with armies that could easily overwhelm Israel. The width of the Israel was in places only 14 miles, less than the distance from here to Lake Michigan. We feared that just one generation after the end of WW II, we faced another Holocaust.
Then on June 5th Israel dramatically, surprisingly defeated its enemies in six days. Suddenly we learned that Israel was not powerless. This created a major shift in Jewish self perception. Jews moved from being powerless to being powerful. Jews moved from being the object of history to being the subject. Jewish history was no longer a tale of what was done to us Jewish history became a story of what we did.
One year later as an 18 year old I made my first visit to Israel. I lived in Israel as a student for my 1972-1973 academic year. In May of that year Israel celebrated its 25 anniversary. Israel celebrated with a massive military parade. My friends and I watched in the middle of the night the rehearsal for the parade then the military parade itself.
The mood that day was one of pride, accomplishment and confidence. It seemed Israel could do anything.
Israel provided American Jews with a sense of confidence as well. At that moment of Israel turning 25 things seemed clear. Israel needed us and we needed Israel.
Since May of 1967, I have changed and the world has changed. The world stubbornly insists on continuing to change. The claim that “the times they are a changing,” continues to be true.
Despite all the changes my devotion to Israel has not changed. Paul McCartney might say, “Israel is Mine for evermore.”