UJIA Louise Jacobs six months oped

July 04, 2018 08:53

I passionately believe our children should have a deep and profound connection to Israel.

Being Jewish is not only defined in religious terms or as a route to social justice but being part of the Jewish people must also include a national dimension that is sometimes called “Peoplehood”.

The link to the State of Israel and Zionism is paramount to this broader notion of being a Jew. This issue is all too easy to say but more difficult to deliver.

Israel has moved on from being a romantic notion, a liberating dream, and we need to understand how the new reality resonates with the next generation.

Many of our young people have a challenging relationship with Israel. We need to be honest about that, respect it and not be afraid to talk about it. It is so important that my generation does not dictate its own thinking and narrative. 

Our role is to educate, inspire and inform. We need to provide them with experiences that work within their parameters, while being mindful of all the other pressures that they are grappling with today.

In the short term, I cannot see the issue of Israel engagement getting any easier. Young people in the UK are going to find that their relationship with Israel continues to be challenged and we will see many different ways in which they are going to express their concern and their angst and in some cases these actions will go beyond what the more traditional community feel is comfortable.  

At UJIA, we support 12 youth movements and organisations, all of whom have their own ideology and we have donors and trustees with their own stance on Israel; these are not easy constituents to balance. 

UJIA has been a unifying organisation within the community, where all the different ideologies have been able to sit respectfully round the table and express their views without fear of recrimination.  

But I have been horrified to read and hear about both some of the activities, and also much of the language, used recently around Israel.

In my view, if this continues, it will only drive a wedge between these different constituents. UJIA and others will no longer be able to play this unifying role.

If we no longer be this, it will not be because of the actions of Israel but because of actions within our own community. If this becomes reality, all the good work and all the great initiatives of UJIA and other similar organisations will be in vain. 

As a community, we need to work together to solve this problem. Engaging with Israel is vital to us. Without it, our young people are losing a critical element of their Jewish identity. This is so important, it should transcend political ideology.

As a community we need to be nurturing those that want to engage with Israel and accept that views may differ.

Of course there will always be those whose behaviour is not acceptable and in such circumstances as a community we need to respond appropriately. UJIA are leading this conversation.

We intend to work with the community to define parameters and will hold public meetings and closed education seminars. We have to reach communally acceptable conclusions as the risks of failure are too great. We need to be enabling this debate not stifling it.

July 04, 2018 08:53

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