Israel-Diaspora Relations before Israel

Around the turn of the last century, the idea of “negating the exile”—of breaking free from the habits and attitudes acquired by Jews during their two millennia of diasporic existence—emerged as an important pillar of Zionist thought. But for those living in the Land of Israel before independence, putting this principle into practice posed unexpected challenges. Donna Robinson Divine writes:

Jewish immigrants to Mandatory Palestine carried their customs to the new land, recreating ethnic neighborhoods in their homeland as in the Diaspora, and for the same reason: to ease the turmoil of assimilation. Even those who embraced Zionism’s romantic ideals often found themselves heavily burdened by trying to put theory into practice. Disappointments that backbreaking physical labor did not produce a sense of fulfillment or feelings of intimacy with the land triggered profound feelings of melancholy and a deep sense of personal self-doubt.

Acknowledged individual “failures”—missing home, lapsing into Yiddish, longing for the music of Beethoven and Chopin rather than for the sound of jackals—were often treated not as private troubles but as public issues, violations of Zionism’s sacred norms.

It was one thing to imagine physical labor as the only way to achieve spiritual fulfillment, quite another to experience it as such. . . . It was one thing to do away with religion—another to live without the warmth of family and synagogue, particularly on holidays. It was easy to criticize traditional worship but hard to replace it with something genuine and appealing. It was one thing to denounce rabbis, another to marry without one. It was one thing to denounce religious rituals, another to bury loved ones without them. It was one thing to insist on speaking Hebrew; it was quite another thing to comply with the demand.

There were also political difficulties with negating the exile:

Leaders of many Zionist political parties understood that the wellbeing of their institutions and organizations depended on their success in generating and maintaining loyalty in the Diaspora as well as in the Jewish national home. Their more powerful branches in various countries of Europe sometimes overshadowed even the strongest of Palestine’s political parties. Torn between conflicting needs, these political parties frequently had to respond to demands issued simultaneously from two different continents or sometimes had to establish priorities between them, often beholden to continental trends.

Read more at Fathom

More about: History of Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, Mandate Palestine


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy