Guest Post by Shaun Bernstein, Do The Write Thing participant at 2010 New Orleans General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America
In April, I’ll be finishing up my journalism program in Toronto, Canada. In the past two years of J-School, I’ve learned how to at least try and see both sides of an issue by abandoning any opinion I ever had…on anything…ever. Suffice it to say, I still have a few of those left, and in an environment like Jewlicious I’m more than happy to share.
Iâ€™ve managed to leave the GA with less of an understanding of Zionism than I came with, and have misplaced any grasp I once had of the concept of aliyah. Why? Iâ€™m a journalist. Thatâ€™s what brought me to the GA in the first place. This means I look at the world a little differently, and I ask the questions other people may not be asking. When Iâ€™m surrounded by answers, I start asking even more questions.
This is how I tend to feel when Iâ€™m surrounded by thousands of people proclaiming with fervent ovations that the answer is aliyah. Itâ€™s how Iâ€™ve felt when Iâ€™m in a room of 40 people who make the same claim, but at 4,000, you can pretty much do the math. In moments like these, I stop and do a quick mental head count. In an audience of thousands of people claiming that aliyah is at the pinnacle of Zionism, how many of these people are actually going to take the plunge, so to speak?
I imagine the Jewish Agency has the numbers, but Iâ€™d say under five per cent is being more than generous. So the real question then here is how is 95 per cent of an audience purporting that the answer to their troubles is a move they themselves will probably never make. How can so many people stand so passionately behind something that reality dictates just isnâ€™t in the cards?
Now donâ€™t get me wrong; Israel is a beautiful country, and if itâ€™s where you feel you can live at 110 per cent then go for it. As for me, Iâ€™m staying put. Thereâ€™s no question Iâ€™ll be back to Israel, and hope
to someday take my children and grandchildren. But I can assure you itâ€™s for visits only. This isnâ€™t about me though, itâ€™s about the thousands of other Zionists who will always call â€˜Columbusâ€™ medinehâ€™ as they say in Yiddish, home.
I donâ€™t know the answer. The more that I think about it, I canâ€™t really fathom how so many people can claim to stand behind something they know deep down is probably never going to happen. Wait a minute, this is starting to sound like a bit of a familiar theme here.
Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?
I donâ€™t want to sound glib, but itâ€™s hard to ignore that feeling that fighting for something that you know deep down isnâ€™t going to work sounds like something weâ€™ve seen before. Is there some sort of correlation here? Are the same people who are vowing to move to a land they wonâ€™t move to the ones championing a peace they might never see?
Itâ€™s a grim projection, but I worry it might not be that far fetched.
I donâ€™t know the answer, I really donâ€™t. I invite you to respond to this with your own thoughts, maybe even after youâ€™ve had the 48 hours to ponder it that I had. Before when Iâ€™d hear people waxing poetic about aliyah, Iâ€™d shake my head and tune right out of the conversation. Now, after the GA, Iâ€™ve realized that my words arenâ€™t of much use when they stay silent.
Shaun Bernstein is a 23 year old journalism student in Toronto. When he’s not asking questions online, he’s usually busy pestering people in person.