The land of hi tech and honey

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, October 16, 2012

On Kol Nidre, our rather brilliant rabbi asked: "Why do so many of our young people feel disenfranchised from Israel and what can we do about it?"

Five years ago, a poll in the United States revealed that more than 40 per cent of non-Orthodox Jews under the age of 35 felt little or no allegiance to the Jewish state. Since then, that number has grown exponentially.

I was brought up in a household where the need for the state of Israel was a given. My Aunty Joy made aliyah and married an artist who was an Auschwitz survivor. In 1948, the two of them helped found one of the country's early kibbutzim. The struggles that followed were part of our family folklore. This tiny country, voted into existence by a marginal UN ballot, (ostensibly through global guilt at complicity in the Holocaust), faced destruction from day one.

The surrounding countries were hostile and warmongering. The European arrivals swapped pen and paintbrush for hoe and shovel to toil the arid land but soon found themselves holding guns and grenades to defend themselves. The War of Independence, Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War. "The struggle for survival." This was what my peer group grew up with from family and Jewish youth movements. Need and respect for the Jewish homeland without too many questions asked about the Palestinians or a peace plan. Israel was our miracle country, defending us from persecution, and we showed outward familial allegiance at all times, no matter what misgivings we might have harboured.

Many of the generation below mine resolutely refuse to identify as Zionists, having been bombarded with negative press for years. Zionist flag-waving doesn't hold the power it once did.

The small David taking on the might of the Arab Goliath is ancient history to them. They see an aggressive global power, not a desert blooming. And many young Jews feel nothing either way for the Land of Milk and Honey.

We need to re-engage them. They may not always like Israel's politics but we need to tell them new stories to instil pride in their youthful breasts. A Jewish kid may not be easily able to by a Jaffa orange in the supermarket now, but chances are the app he downloaded on his smartphone came from Israel, the TV programme his sister religiously Sky Pluses originated there and the electric car his parents want was developed by Israelis. There are more hi-tech start-ups per head in Israel than anywhere else. There are the medical breakthroughs and the music, and the art and architecture. This is the modern, pioneering Israel that can grab a generation of go-getters.

There are certainly questions that should be asked. Israel is far from perfect. But the younger generation can be critical and still engage with Israel's non-political side. It it is the country where anything can happen, if you have the sense of adventure and some guts. And, please God, one day, with enough goodwill spread over both sides of the divide, even peace will be harvested in that glorious desert.

Last updated: 11:45am, October 16 2012