Earlier this month, for the first time in three years, the Knesset held a "Diaspora Day," under the direction of Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (Kahol Lavan).
It was a joke, of course. A sad joke.
There’s nothing personal here. I don’t know Minister Yankelevitch, and it may be that she is a sincere person with the best of intentions.
According to press reports, her agenda was to give world Jewry a voice in the deliberations of Israel’s government. To accomplish this, discussions were held, in person and virtually, with representatives of Jewish communities across the globe. All of this sounds admirable. Who could possibly oppose it?
But the problem is that no one was paying attention – not Israelis, not American Jews, and not Jewish communities anywhere else. With a minuscule number of exceptions, the Jewish world was unaware that "Diaspora Day" was even happening, and had they known, they would not have cared.
The grim reality is that relations between world Jewry and Israel are, at the moment, in a state of disorder and disrepair, and this is especially true with American Jewry. And symbolic gestures, even well-intentioned, are not going to help.
Does this mean that American Jews are indifferent to Israel? Fortunately, it does not.
The great majority of Jews in the world identify with Israel’s destiny, and wish to advance its welfare. Most are applauding the diplomatic normalization between Israel and many of its Arab neighbors. And most worry about the threat Iran poses to Israel and the region even if there’s little consensus about what must be done.
But it does mean that when American Jews look at Israel’s government, they see very little of the care and concern for world Jewry of which Minister Yankelevitch speaks, and that "Diaspora Day" was intended to reflect. To know what shapes American Jewish thinking on Israel today, consider the following:
• Bibi Netanyahu cares not a whit about the opinions or sensitivities of Diaspora Jews. Whatever the issue – conversion, prayer at the Western Wall, recognition of non-Orthodox streams, maintaining Israel’s democracy – he and Likud have remained resolutely indifferent to what Jews of the world think about his government’s policies.