There have been differences between the Jews in Israel and their counterparts in the American Diaspora and these differences have been becoming more obvious making the two groups more distant. It is becoming likely that the two largest populations of Jews on planet Earth are going in diametrically opposed directions with the Jews in the United States becoming more assimilated and less religious while the Jews in Israel are moving closer to Torah observance and less concerned with whatever differences may exist between the increased importance of religious belief within Israel when compared to the trends throughout the rest of the Western World. These differences are evident in other areas which, when investigated more closely, can be traced back to the shift towards religion in Israel and the increasing separation from religion throughout the West.
The number of children has fallen in the West and is below replacement level through much of Europe and among other population groups within the developed world while in Israel and the developing world religion is increasingly important and their populations are growing, not shrinking. This also results in an older average population and increasingly larger segments of the population being immigrants who come from lands where custom, religion and almost every important theme in life are very different and foreign causing great friction between these two populations as they increasingly find themselves competing for control of the society and its norms. In Israel the population is increasing which relieves them of the increased strife of a burgeoning immigrant population slowly becoming the majority in the society. But what are the most evident signs of any real attitudinal differences between these two major Jewish populations which one can readily see?
One very easy to measure difference was made so very evident in the latest United States Presidential election where Israeli Jews supported Mitt Romney casting over 80% of their ballots for the Republican candidate while the Jews in the United States supported the reelection of President Obama with 69% of their votes. Even more telling was a race in New Jersey which pitted Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in a race for the 9th District against a very liberal Democrat candidate, Bill Pascrell. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lost the race by over three to one margin, 22.8% (29,214) for the Rabbi and 76.1% (97,646) for his opponent. This split between American Jews and Israeli Jews can also be found in their perceptions of politics in Israel. Where Benyamin Netanyahu is heavily favored to be reelected as the Prime Minister of Israel and the Knesset is very likely to result in not only a stronger swing to the conservative agenda but also to see a definitive increase in the religious Zionist party representation, this is trending in the opposite direction from their American counterparts who are almost unified in their liberal, progressive political tendencies. This is largely rejected by Jewish Americans who many feel revolted by Prime Minister Netanyahu and reject the conservatism and religiosity of their fellow Jews in Israel. What could possibly be driving such a disconnect between the Jews of the United States from the Jews of Israel?
The most significant driving factor by far is the relationship and attitudes of the two Jewish populations to Torah observance and in their feeling of a connection with G0d and feeling that this connection is an intricate and defining force in their lives. The religious sector of society in Israel has been making significant gains in numbers which was made infinitely evident with the celebrations of Daf Yomi seven-year study cycle of the Talmud which was staged in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other places around the world early this past August and was the largest such celebration of participants in modern history. In Israel the religious Zionist political parties and the straight religious parties have both been slowly gaining numbers while the far left liberal Meretz Party has seen falling numbers in membership and representation in the Israeli Knesset. Meanwhile, in the United States the Jewish population, with the exception of the shrinking Orthodox Jews, has been increasingly turning more and more secular in their nature and intermarriage is reaching threatening levels that may lead to a more rapid vanishing of the American Jews. The religious services and traditions of both the conservative and Reform Jewish congregations have seen their services slowly contain less and less Hebrew while the amount performed in English has increased. Less American Jews keep a Kosher home or strictly observe the Sabbath admonitions and limitation and drive automobiles; turn on and off lights; use their computers, televisions, microwaves, stoves, ovens and other devices; and do not spend the day in prayer, study, and complete rest from normal daily activities. Recently in Israel a group of secularist Jews in a suburb of Tel Aviv attempted to force the permitting of public transportation to be provided on the Sabbath and ran into a massive wave of opposition and the referendum was soundly defeated. The ever widening gulf between the Jews in Israel and in the United States is evident in every aspect of life. It permeates through their lives, religious observance, politics, societal norms, and just about anything else one may choose to observe.
There is something which appears to be paralleling the falling away from their religious center by the Jews in the Western industrialized world, and that is an overriding concern placing Israel above all other concerns. It is as if these Jews have forgotten Yerushalayim and who would not be able to identify with the sorrow and feeling of an emptiness expressed in the “Song of Babylon” which is also known as Psalm 137. Instead, these Jews are concerned about abortion rights, homosexual marriage, assisted suicide, minorities’ rights and other leftist concerns. What is distressing is the number of liberal leaning Jews who have not only lost their love of Israel and no longer live for Jerusalem but have gone over to the opposing side and support those who claim that Zionism is a form of racism, Israel is practicing apartheid, the Jews of Israel stole the land from the Palestinians who lived in their own country peaceably before 1948, and support the BDS movement (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel as well as supporting the Palestinian claim to their “Right of Return” thus supporting the end of the Jewish State. There is a prediction which some believe is approaching, myself included, namely that there is fast approaching a crucial change and time of choosing for the Jews of much of the West. Things are slowly building where those who are Jewish are going to face a choice, adopt Zionism and go love in Eretz Yisroel or forget their Jewishness and adopt a secular humanist life devoid of religion in the traditional sense. Truth is that secular humanism as it is now pursued has become a religion itself. The branches of the secular humanist religion run the entire range of liberal and progressive political beliefs. The time where there are a significant number of practicing Jews outside of Israel is coming to an end and Israel will likely soon be the entirety of the future of the Jewish peoples.
Beyond the Cusp