How a Year in Israel Could Transform Diaspora Jewry

What can be done to counteract young American Jews’ rapidly attenuating sense of connection to Israel and Judaism? And how can Jewish college students be better prepared for the increasing hostility to Jews and Israel on campuses? Gil Troy and Natan Sharansky suggest a program to encourage American Jews to spend an entire year in Israel between high school and college:

Since the 1980s, the yeshiva gap year in Israel has become an accepted rite of passage for Orthodox high-school graduates, as it has long been for rabbinic students of all denominations. At the same time, the Birthright revolution shows how even a ten-day Israel experience can launch young Jews’ Jewish journeys. . . . Studies show that almost every Jewish communal leader and every oleh (immigrant to Israel) has enjoyed a serious, transformational, Israel experience.

Our effort will succeed only if American Jews recognize en masse that a gap year is, in fact, a not-to-be-missed opportunity that better prepares their children for college emotionally, intellectually, ideologically, even socially.

If done right, these programs just might awaken students to the exciting opportunities of Jewish identity, peoplehood, and statehood. By getting a grounded perspective on Israel and its dilemmas, in an environment encouraging analytical skills and vigorous debate, many students could emerge as involved insiders rather than dismissive outsiders. They might be less willing to abandon their Jewish state even if it occasionally disappoints or embarrasses them among their peers. A newfound aptitude for understanding and living with complexity, built in one of the most complex places on earth, will be profoundly useful when students get back home: in conversations about Israel and about America, in debates about the past and the present, in the ability to criticize without denigrating or delegitimizing.

Read more at Sapir

More about: American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, Israel on campus

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy