To A Young Jew: Why Israel Matters

Rabbi Dan Ornstein

Times of Israel

Jan 2, 2014


Thank you for speaking with me concerning your personal struggles about Israel and Zionism. You could have dismissed me as a blind Jewish loyalist of an older generation who might try to shame you into silence about your very thoughtful criticisms. Instead, you took the chance to have a genuine conversation with me, with all of the risks that strong disagreement could entail.

I hope that our initial discussion proved to you that I, one of the Jewish adults and leaders in your life, can be relied upon to listen to you and to your generation, and to respond to you with respect and substance. This letter to you is a continuation of my thoughts in the hope that we can continue to build dialogue about Israel as committed Jews.

I know that, like many young American Jews, you find reports about Israel’s difficult relationship with the Palestinians and at times with its Arab citizens, truly disturbing. How can our sovereign Jewish nation, founded upon timeless Jewish values and in part a proactive response to Jewish suffering and persecution, tolerate our often coercive control of a rootless, stateless population whose future freedom remains in limbo?

How can Israel tolerate any form of discrimination? I too ask these questions all the time, precisely because I love Israel so much. We both understand, as do many Israelis, that Israel must do everything She can to remain a Jewish and democratic state, even as She vigilantly protects Her citizens from Her hateful enemies. I am therefore proud of you for asking the hard questions about Her survival and values.