A Maturing Israel-Diaspora Connection

In the weeks since the Israel Democracy Institute released a poll on the Israel-Diaspora connection, the Jewish state has endured the agonizing disappearance and death of three teenagers at the hands of Palestinians, the immolation of a Palestinian teenager at the hands of Israelis suspected of revenge and the renewal of deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. One wonders whether the findings would reflect a stronger connection today.

The survey, released by the Israeli think tank in late June, found that 62 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Jews in Israel and the Diaspora share a common fate, while 35 percent disagree. At the same time, 60 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish people in Israel are a nation separate from the Jews abroad, while 36 percent disagree.

A plurality of Israelis surveyed believe that the connection between the two communities is Jewish culture and tradition (40 percent). Fewer than half that percentage said the common link is Jewish religious law, followed by Jewish nationality, anti-Semitism and blood relations/genetics.

This evolving Israeli view of the Diaspora, and its relationship to the Jewish state, is heartening. Over the years, Jews in the Diaspora have “forgiven” the apparent lack of reciprocity from our brothers and sisters in Israel, because they have recognized the different and difficult struggles the Jewish community in Israel has undergone. Our community’s passion for the Zionist dream and pride in the reality of a Jewish state focused our community on a heartfelt embrace of Israel — especially in times of turmoil and war.

That is and was as it should be.

But now, things are changing. And, as the poll results reflect, Israeli perceptions are changing, too. Now an increasing number of Israelis are recognizing their shared worldwide responsibility for the Jewish people. And that perception is creating a new reality. We see that in the government of Israel’s World Jewry Initiative to strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora — in which one-third of the budget is supposed to be funded by the government of Israel itself. We also see it in the new poll, which found that 71 percent of Israeli Jews think that their government should consider how its decisions will affect Jews in the Diaspora.

This is all very promising, since we are, after all, one large family that is responsible for one another.

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