Rabbi Davidson’s Response to Thomas L. Friedman’s “The Israel We Knew Is Gone”

Photo Credit: Amit Elkayam for The New York Times

November 8, 2022

Originally printed in The New York Times: A Senior U.S. Rabbi: ‘Israel Is More Than Its Government’

To the Editor:

Re “The Israel We Knew Is Gone,” by Thomas L. Friedman (column, Nov. 5):

Mr. Friedman’s concerns about the potential effect of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition on Israel’s future are legitimate. Should the ideologies of his most extreme partners shape the direction of the next government, Israel’s social freedoms unique in the Middle East, its growing détente with the Arab world, the vital support of the U.S. Congress and any hope of peace with the Palestinians may all be in jeopardy.

But his assertion that “synagogues in America” will now debate whether to “support this Israel or not” represents a troublesome equation of Israel’s government with the nation itself. As with America, so with Israel: One can protest the policies of the government and still support the nation.

The strength of the diaspora Jewish community’s ties with Israel must transcend the politics of the moment, no matter how fraught they may be. Israel’s well-being depends on it.

And at a time of heightened concern over increasing incidents and expressions of antisemitism, often fueled by the bond between Israel and American Jews, our critiques must be especially precise, or they may exacerbate the risk here at home. Israel is more than its government.

Joshua M. Davidson
Peter and Mary Kalikow Senior Rabbinic Chair
Temple Emanu-El
New York