Wayward Journalists

     It is hard to conceive of a more repugnant editorial than the one published in Friday’s Jerusalem Post entitled “Wayward rabbis” (Apparently the title was deemed so negative that it was changed in the online editions.) The editorial castigates our nation’s rabbinical leadership for its opposition to the proposed government reforms in kashrut supervision and conversion and for good measure lambastes them for adhering to the Torah’s moral standards that are at odds with Western values. Perfect timing, indeed, like editorializing on Chanukah against the Maccabees for their fidelity to Jewish tradition and antagonism to Hellenism.

     One might think that the opposition of the leading rabbis in the country to reforms of Jewish law and practice would mute the ardor of proponents of those reforms. After all, who but the rabbis are better situated to opine on such matters, given their dedication, years of study and experience? It is lost on the editorialists that merely being Jewish does not make one an expert on Judaism.

     Imagine, for a moment, that the nation’s leading doctors joined together and opposed a particular government edict regarding the Coronavirus. (They probably should, but that is a different topic altogether.) No one would consider condemning those physicians for their opinions or suggest that they be fired, silenced, prosecuted or replaced by more “diverse” and accommodating doctors. In fact, one would be foolish not to strongly consider their recommendations or their resistance to a given approach, seeing that they have studied medicine and others have not. Editorialists have routinely denounced governments across the globe for not following the doctors, the science, or the data.

     Why then are doctors’ opinions treated with greater deference than is accorded to the Rabbis? Why do some people value the guidance of physicians but belittle the guidance of rabbis?

     The answer is multifaceted. In the worst sense, it reflects the attitude of the heretic (noted in Masechet Sanhedrin 99b) of “Mai ahanu rabanan?” How have the rabbis ever benefited us? But that itself presupposes a cavalier attitude towards Judaism, as if Jewish law doesn’t matter at all and the Torah offered us suggestions but not commandments, suggestions that we can spurn if we don’t like them. And Westerners struggle with obeisance to any authority figure.

     More typically, this dismissive posture reflects an approach to Judaism, and often religion generally, as something that lacks real substance or gravitas. To them, religion is meant to be fluff. Feelings count more than do facts or laws, and since we can intuit the right and wrong ways to live, who needs rabbis? So if the Western rejection of traditional morality feels right, that must be Judaism. If people want to join Judaism for whatever reason, they should be allowed to, no questions asked, because that too is Judaism. If a ritual does not speak to one’s sensibility, then abandon it or reform it. Science is real, Torah is not real. As such, we would sound like fools if we laymen offered amateurish opinions on physics or medicine, but Torah? Apparently, everyone can have an opinion and claim it is legitimate, even journalists and pilots. It completely dismisses the rigor, dedication and discipline needed to acquire expertise in Torah.

      That conceptual error engenders the view of rabbis as mere functionaries, or in the words of the editorial, “there to provide services.” What a constricted and ultimately embarrassing and uneducated view of the rabbinate! I am reminded of the old school rabbinate whose primary purposes were to be available to Jews to “hatch ‘em, latch ‘em, and dispatch ‘em” (meaning present at the Brit, where actually a mohel but not a rabbi is needed; there to officiate at a wedding, which today’s reformers also want to revise; and present at a funeral, where technically speaking a rabbi is also not required). It was the rabbi as supervisor of life cycle events, called upon to spout a few platitudes to which no one paid much attention, and then to be ushered aside.

     But that conception of the rabbinate died decades ago. Its death was hastened by the collapse of the non-Orthodox movements in America whose members, among other things, began to largely tune out their spiritual leaders who responded by supporting every new ideological and immoral fad in the hope of remaining relevant. That failed miserably and the toll it has taken in assimilation and intermarriage is so steep that those who shepherded those catastrophes now extol the virtues of assimilation and intermarriage – and want a seat at the table to plan the Jewish future.

       “Who is a Jew,” by conversion or otherwise, is a Torah issue, a rabbinic issue, and not a governmental or journalistic concern. No Jew has authorized the Knesset to determine matters of Jewish law – not to decide Jewishness, move Shabbat to Tuesday or permit the consumption of cheeseburgers. Israel has many Muslim and Christian citizens, and it would obviously be preposterous if the Knesset took it upon itself to liberalize conversion to Islam or Christianity on its own authority. Israel can rightly decide who can be Israelis but not who can be Jews. That is up to the rabbis, and properly so.

       Similarly, the definition of sin or mitzvah, right and wrong, moral or immoral is a Torah issue, a rabbinic issue, for which guidance should be sought and accepted. To chastise rabbis for espousing Jewish morality is as absurd as chastising doctors for prescribing antibiotics. Neither pressure nor parades will change that. As faithful Jews perceive it, matters of the spirit are in fact more real than matter of the body, for the former is eternal and the latter temporal.

       The narrow minded view of Judaism as just ceremonies, meals and feelings is self-defeating in the extreme. Whether or not Israelis recognize it, our claim to the land of Israel is rooted in the Torah. To the extent that we diminish the Torah, reform or revise it to suit transient trends, we undermine our claim to the land. It is this same mentality that gives rise to the notion of the Kotel as an historical site that should be available for all forms of worship rather than a sacred place of traditional Jewish prayer, in the shadow of the holiest place on earth, the Temple Mount.

       It is obvious that matters of Jewish law should remain the province of the authorized decisors of Jewish law rather than politicians or journalists. But rabbis should also be emboldened to speak out more, not less, on public issues that touch on moral, ethical and political matters. (Here’s a good laugh line: the editorial asked “Would we allow a situation in which a Supreme Court justice would openly voice his or her opinion on controversial political issues?” It is as if they never heard of Aharon Barak, who of course claimed that everything was justiciable, not political – as long as it suited his preferred ideological conclusions.)

      Rabbis must be wary of being used as mere functionaries. Here is a good example. Rather than recite a chapter of tehillim at the state ceremonies for Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron (which an eight year old can do), wouldn’t it be more meaningful if the Chief Rabbis actually spoke words of Torah – instead of the annual clichés of the President, Prime Minister, Chief of Staff, etc. – about the ultimate meaning of these events, the State of Israel, the prophesies of exilic calamities and eventual return to the land of Israel? That perspective, that analysis, is sorely lacking in these somber events.

     What do rabbis do? True, they interpret the Torah in line with tradition, they decide questions of Jewish law, and they guide Jews (and even sometimes Gentiles) through the vicissitudes of life. But primarily, they are to be voices of Jewish morality and reason, especially when they run counter to modern life. They are here, to the best of their abilities, to bring a divine perspective to events and challenges, even if they won’t always agree on every conclusion. The criticism of “how have the rabbis ever benefited us?” was directed at rabbis “who study the Torah and the Mishnah for their own benefit” and never engage in public affairs.

     Ironically, these wayward journalists want just that – rabbis who remain in the House of Study, uninvolved with the public, to be trotted out for ceremonies, and then duly criticized for their aloofness. But here is another irony. Today’s Chief Rabbis, for example, engage with the public far more than any Cabinet Minister or Knesset member ever does. They engage daily, teaching, guiding, interacting, and sharing the eternal wisdom of our Creator.

    It is a shame that many journalists, wedded to their own agendas, do not see it. If they even tasted it, they would savor the Torah as the elixir of life and the rabbis as purveyors of goodness and wisdom. And together we would build an Israel that is proudly Jewish, awaiting the coming redemption.

Sweets, Cars and Honor

      Far be it from me to offer business advice to anyone so I have been an agnostic on whether the Kof-K should decline to renew its supervision contract with the Israel-hating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company. I know and respect the leaders of the Kof-K, even as I never developed a taste or an interest in Ben & Jerry’s until I came to Israel. (In the US, I was partial to Haagen-Dazs or Carvel, the latter also a Kof-K supervised company.) B&J’s politics were always distasteful and the only times I recall eating their product is when I found myself in some remote corner of America and bought a small cup at a convenience store.

     There are compelling arguments on both sides, and some unconvincing ones as well. On one hand, it would be odd for Jews to supervise the kashrut of a company that other Jews are told to boycott, a boycott that is successful to the extent that it helps us maintain our self-respect even if it has a negligible impact on the B&J bottom line. The boycott also strengthens the hands of Attorneys General across America whose state pension funds are divesting their interests in parent company Unilever.

     On the other hand, the kashrut of the product remains what it was before. An ongoing debate in the kashrut industry (even in Israel) is to what extent non-kashrut related activities of a company should play a role in supervision. The “just the food, baby” element would ignore violations of Shabbat, tzniut and the like, which can so constrict the Torah’s reach as to render kashrut less a reminder of our sanctity and uniqueness as a people and more a technical act of eating or shunning specific items – and nothing more.

      Whether or not politics should play a role is an open question but distinctions between different causes or policies – and the level of offense they cause – can easily be made. One would think that a kosher caterer who is asked to service a convention of white supremacists (farfetched, but bear with me) who on a lark want kosher food provided could readily decline on the grounds of the offensive nature of the gathering. So, too, the kosher caterer asked to service an interfaith wedding, although I can hear the claim of people that “it is bad enough they are intermarrying, must they also eat non-kosher food?”

     The possibility must be entertained that some nefarious, Jew-hating companies will use a cancellation of the B&J hashgacha to cancel their own hashgachot to protest Israel’s existence or something. As if to say, “we hate Israel so much that we don’t care if no Jew buys our product.” It sounds strange, but no stranger than the irrational hatred of Jews since the time of Avraham. Consider what would happen to kashrut if a major corporation – even Unilever – arbitrarily halted the kosher supervision of all their products. Such a scenario is plausible but unlikely, as most corporations just want to make money, not statements.

     Certainly, if the Kof-K dropped the supervision, some other of the 1400 kashrut agencies in the world would take it before a spoonful of ice cream even melted. And if B&J, disgusted with Jews, dropped the hashgacha or any hashgacha? That would be fine with me, although too many Jews would eat it anyway.

     So I was torn – until I came across a fascinating vignette in a book entitled “Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away” (by Ann Hagedorn), about George Koval, the American-born son of two Russian Jewish Communists who brought their family back to Russia during the Depression. In the Soviet Union, Koval was recruited by the GRU (forerunner of the KGB), returned to America in 1940. He enrolled in City College, drew high marks for his brilliance as an engineer, and when drafted by the US Army, was sent to work on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Dayton, Ohio. Koval was probably more important to the development of the Soviet bomb than were the Rosenberg’s. But Koval successfully escaped back to Russia in 1948 when he felt the noose tightening around him.

     His story is not directly related to the vignette that the author records. George Koval grew up in Iowa in the 1920’s and experienced the systemic Jew hatred that then pervaded America. Those pockets of hatred were fueled by people such as Henry Ford, the legendary automaker and notorious Jew hater who was also the publisher of the “Dearborn Independent,” a periodical so rabidly anti-Jewish that it ran a ninety-one part series – that’s almost two years for a weekly – on the subject of the “Jewish Menace.” (I’m still puzzled where they got the material for a ninety-one part series…)

      At a certain point, and in order to increase circulation, Ford directed all his dealerships to distribute the Dearborn Independent in their showrooms. Anyone who didn’t would lose their dealership as, Ford asserted, the Jew-hating rag was as much a Ford product as was the Model T. Most dealers succumbed to the pressure, and circulation soared. But not everywhere,

      The Barish brothers – three Jews – of Sioux City, Iowa (where Koval was born and raised) published an article in the local paper in 1921saying that if Ford requires them to distribute the paper, they would take their money and invest in a different business. They wrote: “We are Jewish and we are successful. And money is less important than loyalty, dignity and truth. Stop the lies and we’ll return. But until you do, we will find another way to make an honest living.” They then closed their dealership.

     And perhaps therein lies the key. Sometimes our visceral reaction to an event or a challenge is more reasonable and correct than if we stop to analyze and debate and explore and investigate and hear all sides. We can fall victim to the “paralysis by analysis” syndrome. We think too much and in so doing allow whatever biases or predispositions we have to play a greater role than they should. Thinking too much actually impairs our ability to make a rational and moral decision. It is a point noted by Rav Chaim Shmulevitz in his explanation of why Chushim ben Dan killed Esav on the day of Yaakov’s delayed funeral. Chushim, who was deaf, did not comprehend why Yaakov’s body was lying unburied and when he learned that Esav was responsible, he acted instinctively. The fine points of negotiations, the two sides with all their claims, were irrelevant to him. All he saw was his grandfather being disgraced, and he reacted.

     Sometimes, certainly not always or even often, the answer is not in our head but in our gut. It just feels right or wrong. Recall the classic self-hating Jewish moment when one of the B&J clowns in an Axios interview could not explain why only Israel is singled out for a boycott (Judea and Samaria) but not any other country in the world which occupies territory claimed by others or otherwise brutally mistreats its citizens. That is Jewish self-hatred, plain and simple, and indulging Jew haters, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, is not a good look, and not a sign of Jewish pride and self-respect.

      Ironically, Henry Ford himself had once reached out to the Barish brothers when he ran low on some raw materials. They helped him acquire it and Ford was grateful – but that did not stop him from publishing how the Jews were the cause of “nearly all the troubles in American society.”

     The Barish brothers ceased selling Ford products and instead opened up several Plymouth dealerships, eventually in Los Angeles as well, and were so successful that in the 1930’s, Max Barish bought land in Afula to help settle the land of Israel and where a granddaughter now lives. That is a story of Jewish pride, with an eye on the past, present and future.

      The situations may not be completely analogous and there is certainly no one correct answer. And we can argue both sides intelligently and there are any number of valid considerations. But in our gut, it is not difficult to ascertain the way forward. As the Barish brothers wrote to Henry Ford in the Sioux City newspaper, quoting the Midrash, “none of your honey and none of your sting.” Or your fancy flavors.

     That seems about right. But I leave the ultimate decision in the hands of the decision-makers.

Pushback

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a noted Israeli politician a conundrum that Orthodox rabbis face these days:  how can we show our love for every Jew, all our brothers and sisters of all levels of observance or non-obervance, and simultaneously uphold and defend the integrity of the Torah? It is an uneasy balance. Oftentimes, maintaining the Torah’s integrity and defending its moral system is perceived by offenders as unconscionable assaults on their dignity and humanity.

      A related question: is there a way to speak the hard truth without sounding insensitive? To that the obvious answer seems to be no, and that has caused many rabbis to color the truth, avoid certain topics altogether or, worst of all, try to revise the Torah, subtly or overtly. Thus, many embrace the new immorality “as the world we live in” without recognizing that their acquiescence is shaping and validating that “world.” And the effect on the laity, which is both a prime mover of these deviations as well as pressure points on the rabbinate, is devastating in terms of their fidelity to the Mesorah. Lacking forceful, unapologetic Torah guidance, their moral authorities have become Twitter or Facebook, the society at large, its loudest progressive voices, the secular culture and other anti-Torah outlets.  

    What has to be said that is not being said? Every month or so it seems, there is a public forum under Orthodox auspices that discusses the alphabet soup of moral transgressions, LGBT and the rest. The ground rules are always the same: the discussion can never be about halacha, Jewish values, or tradition, but can only encompass various ways in which we show acceptance, sensitivity, inclusion, etc. The discussion about halacha, Jewish values or tradition must wait until another time – a time which never comes. Sometimes the moderators will proclaim that those too are legitimate topics but “not our topic.” Whose topic is it? No one. When will it be discussed? Never.      

It is a bait and switch game, which results in only one voice being heard – call it the pro-sin forces – and those forces are featured, promoted and even honored by the Modern Orthodox, really neo-Conservative fringe. It has engendered the growing acceptance of same sex unions in the Modern Orthodox world, in which parents, relatives and friends are expected to shelve their values and celebrate the sin of the young couple. 

      Anyone who wants to discuss Torah, Halacha, sin, immorality, mental illness or degeneracy is accused of endangering their lives, causing suicides (itself an indication of mental illness), bullying, insensitivity and cruelty. Consequently, the new immorality has cornered the market. Only they are allowed to speak. Only they are allowed to misinterpret the Torah as they wish. No one else is allowed to differ and whoever dares to sound a contrary word must be censored, ridiculed, silenced and canceled. Their cherished concept of “inclusion” excludes, castigates and bullies religious people and anyone who challenges their agenda. Enough.  

    To be sure, others suggest that we ignore them and not give them any more attention. But ignoring them has enabled them to dominate all discussions of morality, leaving many – especially impressionable youngsters – perplexed, experimenting in ways that ruin their lives, and rebelling against Torah norms.   

      The weird secular culture has permeated Jewish life as well. We are supposed to accept as true what we know to be false. We desperately need a Hans “Jewish” Anderson to shout that the emperor has no clothes. Here are the obvious truths that people have been intimidated into silence: same sex relations are Torah prohibitions regardless of the parties’ love for each other. Men are men and women are women. Boys are boys and girls are girls.  

    Those who struggle with this are suffering from a form of mental illness and the worst of all of society’s dysfunctions in the last decade has been the mainstreaming of mental illness. There is certainly no joy in noting this; indeed, it should evoke sadness and an abundance of compassion. Sure, gender dysphoria is real (true sufferers are infinitesimal in number) but it is a malady that should be treated, not indulged. That mental illness exists is an unfortunate reality, and sufferers should not be stigmatized, but nor should they be coddled or consecrated. And they deserve both our sympathy and common sense responses.     

If a boy thinks he’s cat, we get him help. Aside from Rav Nachman’s parable, we don’t put a bowl of milk before him on the floor every morning for fear that otherwise we will be labeled bigoted anti-felines or feline-phobes. Yet, today, it is considered decent and virtuous to encourage him to purr and to meow right along with him. This is insanity.

       Men cannot become pregnant. This is not controversial. This is normal. A tiny number of people believe such nonsense and they are very loud and aggressive. The rest of us ignore, smirk or roll our eyes but we need to do more than eye roll. We all know that woke is a bad joke but we have to speak up and strike a blow for sanity. Otherwise, the day will soon come when traditional morality will be deemed a form of mental illness and believers will be persecuted (if they aren’t already).

       The modern world tries to convince people that they are not what they are and they are what they are not. This is not an innocuous phenomenon. Abigail Shrier has well documented the catastrophe in her “Irreversible damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters” in which thousands of teenage girls are talking it into themselves today that they are really boys and then engaging in life-altering mutilation and sterilization. And when they regret it, it is too late. But they are succumbing to this claptrap because that is all they see on social media. There is no pushback, no voice for sanity, And this popular acceptance is itself an inevitable extension of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s lament a half-century ago of society “defining deviancy down.” Even a self-described Rebbitzen recently declared herself to be neither a man nor a woman, whatever that means, by her own admission talking it into herself during the long Corona lockdown. This needs to be treated, not feted.   

    Mental health is a legitimate issue and, to be sure, not everyone guilty of some sexual offense is mentally ill. But those who are do need help and guidance, not indulgence. There have always been people who thought they were Napoleon. These people were referred for treatment; they weren’t provided with cavalries and cannons and encouraged to invade Belgium.

     Additionally, no one is allowed to control another person’s speech. No one should be forced to use they/them/it/zir/hir/whatever or any other fabricated pronoun or terms. That is tyranny. It is not normal. It should not be humored. It is not insensitive to try to help someone overcome a mental disability; indeed, true sensitivity demands that we help them recover. With all due and appropriate sympathy for the plight of these individuals, they do not get to dictate reality to the rest of us, nor alter our perception of reality, and absolutely not to decree the way we speak. Control of speech is nothing less than a naked power play.

It should be obvious. “They” is a word for a plural. One person is not a plural. That is normal. We should reflect what is normal in our speech and thought. We should not pretend that what is not, is. That is not even kind as it prevents the person from seeking help. Perhaps it would aid their recovery if the plural people had to pay income taxes in the plural as well, one for each identity. That would be a needed dose of reality. 

      Yet, advocates for this nuttiness have created a repressive society that resembles Communism without the Gulag – but with the capacity to control and ruin lives, take away people’s livelihoods and send them into internal exile. It shouldn’t be tolerated by the society of the sane. We shouldn’t laugh, mock, indulge or conclude “they can’t be serious.” They are serious. They are bullies, and bullies should be confronted peacefully but vigorously.  We all lose when society cowers before them, cancels good and decent people on their demand, and pretends that all this is normal, a sign of modernity and morality. It is none of those things. And bullies always back down when challenged because they really are powerless. Let them tweet at each other to their heart’s content; none of that is real or meaningful anyway.       

We are still allowed to say that homosexuality is prohibited by the Torah and that boys thinking they are girls and girls thinking they are boys is abnormal. We are still allowed to say the obvious even though its advocates claim we are thereby “insensitive,” because those espousing these views are “insensitive” to the rest of the world. Yes, like 99% of the rest of the world. The Jewish public need not just listen, acquiesce, accept and pander to those who trample Halacha, mock the Torah and claim G-d’s imprimatur.

       This cannot be ignored. George Orwell said famously that “to see what is in front of your nose needs a constant struggle,” and that is even more true today. I have heard all the counterarguments that I am certain I will hear again: such talk is insensitive, unkind, causes bullying and death, and there are (always) other issues to discuss Nonsense. Those assertions are only made to stifle the speech of normal people, and to mainstream mental illness with all the attendant and unfortunate consequences.

           Certainly there will be hundreds of rabbis and others encouraging me privately, wishing that “if only we could say this.” But you can, you all can, and you must, once you realize that right is right, Torah is Torah, moral is moral, ill is ill. A whole generation of children under our watch is being raised thinking this is normal and that society, even Jewish society, accepts and applauds it. It doesn’t, and even the general society has had enough as is apparent from the pushback over “boys” competing against girls in high school sports and the outcry of “boys” using girls’ restrooms and locker rooms in schools and even committing assaults there.   

     Torah Judaism should not accept it. Torah Judaism doesn’t accept it except for a Modern Orthodox fringe that labors to accommodate every new fad and fetish. The greatest sin in Modern Orthodoxy today is to be judgmental but without judgment we lose our minds, morality, connection with G-d and with the Torah. It is not judgmental to observe that the emperor has no clothes.  It is reality. And too many Jewish teenagers have no idea why it is wrong, and prohibited, and few with the capacity to address it from a Torah perspective are willing to do it.

Either we can join the battle or we can mistakenly conclude that we can passively outlast it. The latter is tantamount to surrender, and the effect on our children and their appreciation and acceptance of the Mesorah and of traditional Jewish family life will be devastating. What is the triumph of Chanukah but the celebration of our salvation and the preservation of Torah from the decadence that was mainstream Hellenism.

     Let our voices be heard – not to harm anyone but to protect the innocent and uphold the integrity of the Torah. Can obvious truths be uttered without someone taking offense? I hope so, even in today’s tightly controlled marketplace of ideas. But they still need to be uttered, if only to strengthen the Torah, give clarity to the confused and direction to the misguided. We can (and should) love every Jew, as we must also faithfully and unequivocally love and defend the Torah. 

Israel and the Democrats

      By now, it should have occurred to many American and Israeli Jews that the animosity of the last decade between Democrats and Israel has less to do with the personalities of Obama, Trump and Netanyahu and much more to do with the policy positions of the Democrats and Israel, even consensus positions within Israel. Since the media obsessively and simplistically focuses on elections, horse races and gossip, it was simple to conclude that the problem of the Democrats with Israel was that Netanyahu got along poorly with Obama, publicly opposed him during the negotiations of the disastrous Iran deal, and famously supported (and all but endorsed) Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. That is true but facile and misleading.

     The simple truth is that the policies of the Democratic Party towards the State of Israel have tended to be hostile – although not relentlessly or unequivocally so – for more than a decade. Gone are the days of Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The traditional supporters of Israel in the Democrat leadership – people such as Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer – are anachronisms. They are both octogenarians whose influence rests in their official titles but are increasingly powerless in the face of the young, new Democrat radicals on whom the media fawns. This despite the fact, or perhaps because of it, that some of them dabble quite openly in Jew hatred and Israel bashing.

     There are exceptions – New York’s Ritchie Torres is one, the widespread support for Israel’s Iron Dome defense is another – and AIPAC labors mightily to sustain the myth that Israel has bipartisan support in Congress. The myth has some value, as it does remind people of what once was, but it also discourages people from exploring why it is no longer the case. It is especially troubling that the Jew-baiting and Israel-hating that emerges from these young Democrats, almost all from ethnic minorities, is essentially glossed over. There is no price to be paid for verbally attacking Jews and Israel with the most outrageous and repugnant canards.

     The proof of the real problem is that even the political demise (temporary or not) of Binyamin Netanyahu has not changed anything. The Bennett government, especially FM Lapid, has put much stock in trying to rebuild relations with the Democratic Party. But nothing has really changed and the real problem should be dawning on every sentient person.

       There are Democrats, bad people, who disparage Israel as a racist, apartheid state, in utter contradiction to the truth. (By the way, they don’t think much of America, either.) But there are many more Democrats, not bad people, who perceive themselves as supporters of Israel – but only of a certain kind of Israel. They love the Israel that is docile and doesn’t respond to terrorist attacks and provocations, as if Jewish blood is cheap and Jews must always turn the other cheek. They love the Israel that is always offering territorial concessions, the Israel that embraces the land-for-peace travesty and the two-state delusion. They love the Israel that feels itself subservient to America, as if a sovereign nation surrounded by some hostile countries in an aggressive part of the world always has to ask permission of the United States before it promotes its own interests or defends its citizens. They love the Israel that accepts American assistance and then insists that Israel bends to their dictates. They love the Israel that is not very Jewish in practice or character but in name only, and that acts only on the biblical values that the world endorses but never on the Bible itself.

       They do not love the Israel that sees itself as the fulfillment of the divine prophecies of exile, return and redemption. They do not love the Israel that seeks to incorporate all aspects of the Torah into modern governance and statecraft. They do not love the Israel that perceives Judea and Samaria as the biblical heartland of Israel granted by G-d to our forefathers and their descendants, and whose territorial integrity is therefore inviolable. They do not love a proud, defiant, strong, independent Jewish Israel.

      That is the root of the dissonance.  We should therefore not be surprised when those Democrats, led by Joe Biden who loves theIsrael of his own concoction and has long lambasted the real Israel (in private, and going back to Menachem Begin’s time), demand that Israel not build in Judea and Samaria for Bidenhas determined that the biblical heartland of Israel must be the location of a second Palestinian state. Jews cannot build in Judea, of all places, but Arabs can build in both Arabia and Judea.

      Nor should we be surprised that Biden seeks to reverse the United States’ recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s undivided capital by opening there a Palestinian consulate. Nothing will undermine Israel’s sovereignty there more than the US, followed by dozens of other countries, opening consulates there for foreign entities. It is an insult that is meant to be an insult, something the US would never do to any self-respecting nation. This is not just Biden following the political course he has adopted since taking office –reverse whatever Trump did, even if it is good for America and the world. (Only a clueless Joe could blame OPEC for spiking oil prices by not increasing oil production and ignore his own role in drastically cutting American oil production soon after he took office.) This is Biden acting on his Democratic bona fides, loving a certain type of weakened Israel but sticking it to the real Israel that exists and thrives.

     Can the Israel-Democrat relationship be restored? Probably not in the short term and definitely not in the long term. Long-term, the Democratic Party base is shifting to ethnic minorities who are less Western, less Christian, and less white, and who detest Israel as a religious, nationalist, colonialist outpost of white interlopers. Such, of course, is not the reality, but then again, these are the people who maintain that every person or group is allowed to create its own reality. Today’s Democrats prioritize diversity over wisdom, truth, talent, values and aptitude. This might change but it is hard to see how or why it would change.

     In the short term, if American Jews and Israelis do not realize one fundamental truth about the United States today, the consequences will be most deleterious: America is not a reliable ally. It has its own interests but even those now routinely change sharply with each new administration. There is no foreign policy consensus in America, only competing views, and some of those competing views are diametrically opposed to each other.

      America will speak kindly about its purported allies and friends but then act in its own interest anyway. America can demand that Israel act against its own sovereign interests, but those who think that America will defend Israel when those policies fail should have a talk with the former leaders of Afghanistan and Vietnam. The historian Bernard Lewis said years ago that “America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.”  Neither is completely true but there is more substance to this assertion than not. Israel’s response to these American demands should be a resolute and categorical “no.” It need not be a public repudiation but it needs to be a “no.”

      Thus Israel should reject – as is our right – the opening of a Palestinian Consulate in Yerushalayim. And if the US in turn threatens to open an embassy in Ramallah (implying recognition of statehood) rather than a consulate in Yerushalayim, so be it. Under current conditions, it is bound to happen anyway in time. Such would be the treachery of a friend. Let their ambassador live in Ramallah.

      Similarly, Israel should continue to build in Judea and Samaria, period. And with all the threats of dissolving the coalition coming from Meretz, Ra’am or Labor, it is time to realize that there are enough right-wing members of the government who can also make threats. There is leverage on all sides. The right-wingers should use that leverage or be shunned in the future.

      The attempted reconciliation between Israel and the Democrats is a worthy objective per se but should not blind us to the realities that are staring us in the face. This discord is not a clash of personalities. It is a clash of policies, values and world view. We can minimize the effects of the tension but as long as Israel is a sovereign nation, it will not go away. One way to minimize it is by not acting precipitously or fearfully, cognizant that Biden has so much now on his plate that he is unable to manage competently that Israel is not really a priority. That too is Israel’s advantage.