Thursday, April 30, 2015

UK: How EasyJet and anti-Zionism are turning British Jews into Israelis

Via Tablet Magazine:
Ties between the Jewish community in Britain and Israel have become so close that an attack on Israel is taken by many in the community as a personal affront. Sometimes these attacks have anti-Semitic motivations, often they do not: It can be difficult to tell. But anti-Semitic or not, they are attacks on Britain’s new kind of Jewish life.

“There is a growing transnationalism to Jewish communities, connecting them to Israel,” said Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola. “There is much more communication, crossover, and complexity. Twitter, Facebook, Haaretz English is creating a more intense experience of Israel for these communities. I believe that old ideas of very clear distinctions no longer hold. But this is not unique to the Jews, not in the slightest—this is globalization, and this is only how it is affecting the Jews.”

As Della Pergola suggests, much of the British Jewish community is increasingly transnational between London and Israel. Britain’s Orthodox rabbis are now mainly trained there. Roughly 5 percent of the Jews living in Britain are Israeli citizens. Almost 70 percent of British Jews now have family or a close friend living in Israel. What these statistics mean in concrete terms is this: When Israel is at war, coming under sustained bombardment by Hamas rockets, the majority of British Jews are worrying someone close to them in Israel is at risk.

The new anti-Zionism, which is becoming ever more pronounced, feels the same way that anti-Semitism does: a singling out, discrimination, them turning against us. One reason for this equivalence of feeling is that there is a very real element of anti-Semitism wrapped up in fervid anti-Zionist sentiment. But another is that in the past 50 years many British Jews have become, in part, culturally Israeli. Zionism is at the heart of their Jewish identity. Israel’s travails drive much of their political engagement. Israeli culture is a part of their daily lives.

In part, Zionism now fills a void at the heart of Anglo-Jewish identity, which has never been that well-defined. Weakened somewhat by the British class system and a desire to fit in, British Jews have never developed the same depth of culture that American Jews have; the literature, the humor, the food, New York. When Jews first came here from Russia in the late 19th century they reached back to the old country as their cultural crutch. Now most of them lean on Israel.

This transition can be summed in a single word: “We.” Many British Jews say “we” when they talk about Israel, rather than “they.” No one knows quite when this started, but given this choice of pronoun it is perhaps not entirely surprising that non-Jewish people can also say “you.” Both are identifying Jews and Israel collectively.  more

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