Looking at Zion

A Jewish Perspective on Israel-Diaspora relationship: 235 members of Jewish communities around the globe answered a questionnaire, which asked them to articulate their thoughts and feelings towards Israel

Elizabeth Goldman

Elizabeth Goldman, Senior at Northeastern University

“I am just back from a service of two years in the Iron Dome Unit of the IDF. Needless to say, Israel means a great deal to me. The reason why I drafted is because I feel that it was my duty as a Jew to defend the Jewish state.

The Interviewee – Elizabeth Goldman (Born 1993), Senior at Northeastern University studying Finance. I was born in Westchester, NY. I spent 13 years attending Solomon Schechter Day School in Westchester. I dreamed of going to the IDF since I was 12 years old (though I wanted to be a fighter in golani….) I attended Northeastern University in Boston for two years before deciding that I had to enlist.

I enlisted into the Iron Dome Unit in November 2013 and served as an active fighter for 8 months. Following this I got sent to commanders course and became a basic training commander which is where I served for the remainder of my service. I reenrolled in Northeastern University in January 2016, and am currently finishing my bachelors degree.

In your opinion, what importance, if any, does the existence of a Jewish state have to you personally and to Jewish people in general?

“I am just back from a service of two years in the Iron Dome Unit of the IDF. Needless to say, Israel means a great deal to me. The reason why I drafted is because I feel that it was my duty as a Jew to defend the Jewish state. I believe that Judaism has helped me become who I am, and I am proud of who I am and that if Israel did not exist, Judaism as we know it would not exist either.”

Do you feel committed in some way to defend the future existence of Israel?

“Absolutely. I always wanted to draft as a combat soldier to the IDF. I did, and served as a ‘lochemet’ in the Iron Dome Unit and ultimately as a ‘makit.’ While this is some of the hardest work I have ever done, i found it incredibly rewarding to leave base on weekends and know that I did my part to defend my country. I, in fact, would love to ultimately work at a defense organization- be it the Mossad or any agency that deals with protecting Israel day to day. I very much identify with the belief that it is my generation’s turn to defend Israel, and that we should do so as long as we are able to.”

Did you as a girl and a young adult have the same patriotic feelings towards the U.S?

“I consider myself equally Jewish and American. I appreciate and love the United States for the liberties we have here that most other countries in the world do not. However, the United States plays a different role in the world. Due to the United States political position in the world the American soldiers are frequently forced to embark on missions that are not considered directly relevant to the United States.

“I identify with the Jewish need for the state of Israel and that the Israel Defense Forces are just that- a defense force. It is a military that abides by the best of its abilities to its core values and has one mission- to ensure that the state of Israel exists for a long time.”

Do you affiliate yourself with a specific denomination in Judaism? What is your view regarding the dominance of the Orthodox denomination in Israel religious establishment?

“I grew up going to Schechter day school (conservative) and an orthodox shul, but I do not identify with any specific denomination. I think that there needs to be a standard in Israel and that generally the strictest form of religion is used to be that standard. Recently, though, there has been extremists who have been allowed to dominate and I think the problem lies with them.

Do you feel morally responsible for Israel’s actions (such as its management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

“I do not. I think that Israel does the best it can given the cards that are being played. I don’t know another army that forces its soldiers to carry its values with its ID, that drops pamphlets to evacuate an area, or that emphasizes education so its soldiers will make educated decisions. I noticed returning to college everyone loves to attack me with questions about the Israel- Palestinian conflict. While I do obviously care, I think there are such bigger questions to be asked in Israel today. There are questions such as the country’s economy, standard of living, immigrant problem that I think are more pertinent questions.

Specifically regarding the Israeli- Palestinian conflict I hate that it exists. I hate that people, kids, citizens and soldiers have to die. I do, however, think that is a reality of life on that side of the world. I do not see a way that peace is going to be made, but I do see ongoing propaganda in the world and in the college world today.”

In your opinion, what is the main thing Israelis fail to understand about the reality of being Jewish outside of Israel?

“I served as a lone soldier in a predominantly male unit. I learned that American Jews don’t understand much about Israelis, and vice versa. Coming into the army I believed I was following a Zionist dream. The first time any guy met me he would ask me where I’m from (due to my accent) and once I answered New York, he would then ask me if i was stupid (before asking me to marry him). It took me my whole service to understand.

“American Jews think we have all the answers. Many of the communities donate to FIDF and give themselves a pat on the back and call themselves a Zionist. We, however, frequently forget that while we carry around the ‘Zionist dream’ in our heads, there are many people who are living it. These people are called Israelis. Israelis have their own food, culture, people and issues.

“While the world sees the famous Israeli- Palestinian conflict, people living there barely think about it. They think about how they’re going to have food on their table, afford the bills, manage the taxes, pay for a house, help the various immigrating populations, keep their kids out of trouble etc. basically anyone’s worries. I think that the American Jews with all their knowledge of the history of Israel sometimes do Israel a great disservice by forgetting to acknowledge the people who live there today and what they suffer with on a day to day basis.

“Conversely, I realized Israelis do not know anything about living outside of Israel. Many Israelis in my unit did not speak English, nor did they know that the rest of the world has a weekend on Saturday and Sunday. They do not acknowledge their Judaism, because it is thrust upon them, so they don’t have to.

“Most Israelis when they leave Israel are in utter shock. As a commander, I frequently held lessons on what it is to be Jewish outside of Israel. When I explained to them the antisemitism I have faced, and how the world views the Jews in a negative way, my soldiers were shocked. They thought the world hated them for being Israelis, they did not realize that being Jewish held its own meaning in the world. I think the main thing they fail to understand is that.”

How would you describe Israel’s policy (formally and in practice) regarding its relationship with the Diaspora?

“I don’t know too much about their formal practice. I do know, however, that the amount of money and aid they give new immigrants is incredible and helps families tremendously.”

In your opinion, does Israel have an obligation to defend and help Jewish communities in need?

“I think Israel has an obligation within the borders of its own state. Israel is a country as much as it is a haven for Jews. It needs to worry about its people first.”

What was your best experience of Israeli culture in the past year (book, music, TV, movie, theater etc.)?

“I am a sucker for Israeli Music- particularly the mizrachi stuff. Omer Adam and Eyal Golan are two of my favorites.”

Can you tell us a bit about the Jewish community in your hometown? Is it organized? Are there any community activities?

“I grew up in a very Jewish community. My dad grew up Orthodox in Brooklyn, my mom grew up reform in Scarsdale, NY. This made me a ‘Jewish mutt’ in that I attended a conservative day school growing up, and an orthodox synagogue. I never found the beauty of Judaism to be in the denominations, rather in the culture of it.”

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