A fresh look at the Holy Land

DIASPORA Jews need to refresh their view of Israel to rebrand it as an appealing destination for Generation Y, a leading Israeli scholar told the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) conference.

Addressing the ZFA’s 45th biennial conference in Melbourne this month, Dr David Hazony lamented that younger Jews are “tuning out”.

In a speech titled “Does Israel Need Saving?”, the American-born Israeli writer reflected on the anti-Semitism that led to the creation of the Jewish State, noting that the Iranian nuclear threat “does not feel quite as compelling as the gas chambers and [former Egyptian president] Nasser’s armies on the border”.

“A new generation of Jews has grown up without an immediate and compelling threat to the Jewish people … Israel is no longer a tiny embattled David … The old vocabulary of fear and panic does not hit home.”

A stable fiscal policy has enabled Israel to weather the global recession. Today it is ranked 17th of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, it is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has one of the world’s 16 exchangeable currencies, and has a booming technology-driven economy, said Hazony.

Israel has finally won “a chance to breathe” and now has a flourishing popular culture and is a paragon of TV production, popular music, the culinary arts and architecture.

“So much of what we do, so much of what Israel activism and advocacy is about, is fighting the battle against the enemies of a very embattled, very endangered, very small enclave of Jewish life in the Middle East,” he said. “Is there a point at which Israel becomes strong enough … that the impulse to save Israel becomes a little off the subject?

“Do not believe that Israel has become a post-Zionist, tired, weary, terrified country. Very much the opposite has happened,” he said. “Israel has become a powerful force around the world … creative and dynamic, and fun and fearsome.”

He said Zionist organisations should encourage young people to learn to love Israeli culture, and spend more immersive time in Israel, not just as tourists.

They should be encouraged to use today’s online tools to spend more virtual time in Israel. And, he emphasised: “It means learning and teaching Hebrew.”


Dr David Hazony.