It’s Israel’s 65th birthday. Here in the States that’s retirement age. So, does Israel get to retire? Well, not exactly…
But it does make me realize it’s perfectly appropriate and OK that my relationship to Israel is different than it was when I visited it on its 44th birthday in 1992 or than the relationship that an older generation of Jews remembers from even longer ago.
My synagogue recently ran a program featuring JNF blue boxes, and I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t participate. But I realize now that those boxes were for taking care of baby Israel, not AARP-age Israel. I mean, you joyfully change a baby’s diaper in your close family because you know it’s totally dependent on you. But, while you would change your grandparent’s diaper if you had to, you’re really happier if you don’t have to. It’s not a perfect comparison: the blue boxes are still valuable for teaching the value of charity and a hands-on lesson in modern Jewish history. But 65-year-old Israel’s survival is not hanging on the micro-donations of diaspora Jews. And that’s OK and as it should be. That kids today don’t relate to Israel as their grandparents is not a question of “what’s the matter with kids today?”; it’s perfectly appropriate.
And if I want to donate my small change to free Jewish culture or if I’m more concerned about the Women of the Wall or the plight of civilians on both sides than I am about a militant attack, it’s not because I don’t think Israel has a “right to exist,” it’s because I see Israel as an established country with a capable enough military that its friends don’t always need to spend all their time merely asserting it’s right to exist. (I mean, we don’t all run around arguing that the United States has a right to exist any more, but that was a matter of debate, too, a couple hundred years ago.)
An earlier generation of Jews actually succeeded in building a state, and if today we seem to take that for granted, it’s not because we care less than they did, it’s an appropriate testament to their success.