Josh Howie

Parents, teach your kids the facts about Israel

'Judaism allows us to live our history, Zionism is about knowing it.'


whole and half falafel isolated on a white background closeup

June 30, 2021 14:39

What do Jewish parents want for their kids? I assume everything non-Jewish parents wish for their children; happiness, fulfilment, to love and to be loved. Although to be honest, once one of my offspring knows how to read, swim, ride a bicycle, tie their shoelaces, and brushes their teeth without being threatened, I’m pretty much ready to tap out and take that other stuff as a bonus. What makes Jewish parents different though, even from a Jew who’s a parent, is that we want our children to also be Jewish. And call more often.

While the messiness of being a people and a religion can make defining what it is to be Jewish fill up a book or five, at its simplest I mean that we want our children to grow up to become Jewish parents themselves one day, in that they want their children to grow up to be Jewish parents. And so on and so on. We want continuation for our tribe. And for thousands of years our religion, in partnership with our peoplehood, has ensured that outcome. Alas, while being a bagel-loving cultural Jew might work for a generation or so, it’s no long-term strategy. Whereas most religions tend to survive and thrive through the recruitment of others, Jews survive from generation to generation by recruiting ourselves.

Yet for this generation, our desire to ensure the next can’t rely on the Torah alone. Its story stops too early in our history. Our ability to forge our youth into the next link in the chain lies just as much in the telling of Israel’s second creation. Judaism allows us to live our history, Zionism is about knowing it. The worldwide response to Hamas’ recent aggression and Israel’s retaliation indicates the magnitude of what our children face. Social media, American identity politics and antisemitism under the ever-eroding disguise of antizionism have combined, reacting together like a chemistry foam experiment, expanding and spilling over the online beaker and into real life.

My fellow Jewish parents, I’m really sorry to do this to you, but I’m about to dump a whole load more work on your laps. This isn’t taken lightly. As a dedicated proponent of Jewish life-hacks I’ll take any shortcut or assistance when it comes to sharing the burden of continuation; Jewish schools, b’nei mitzvah classes, summer camp. But I’m worried that our children’s future alliance with Israel is being taken for granted, rather than being actively fought for.

Sure, being comfortable with the reality of Israel is important for young Jews in the diaspora, more than anything to show them it’s a normal country made up of normal, albeit brusque people. As opposed to the hate-filled propaganda that they’ll one day be exposed to, portraying a nation of child killing monsters. But to counter the onslaught of lies, our young people are going to need more than falafel making and Israeli dance festivals. They need facts and knowledge, and lots of it. They need critical thinking and the ability to confidently express their opinions.

Unfortunately, if the talmudic commentaries are a rabbit hole, they’re nothing in comparison to the bottomless pit of historical analysis of the region. But the more history our children read, the more facts you expose them too, the more lies they’ll be able to counter. The more they’ll come to see the truth as to why 99 per cent of the thousands marching in the West wouldn’t be there if Jews weren’t involved. That those protesting against the Jewish state, are actually against any Jewish state. Why this one tiny country is singled out for such hatred, and most importantly they’ll see that to speak up for it is to defy that hatred.

I’ve recently read a great many articles by Jewish intellectuals circling this problem, and some of them I even mostly understood, but the best one argued that when it comes to Israel, unfortunately the time for nuance has passed. It already failed some in my generation. Either you’re a Zionist, or you’re an antizionist. Criticise the Israeli government all you want, no one thinks Israel’s perfect, and most Zionists want peace with a neighbouring Palestinian state, but we either teach our kids how take a stand that Jews have the right to safety and self-determination in our homeland, or they’ll be with those few on the periphery of our community who side with a movement that ultimately seeks to shame Jews, to delegitimise us as a people and even as humans. And while those few may indeed still be Jews, it’s unlikely their children or grandchildren will be.

June 30, 2021 14:39

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