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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 30, 2003

With Independence Day nearing,are U.S. Jews connected to Israel?

The various voices and statistics given here may depress or elate you. You decide.
[...]“The fact that we have our own Jewish homeland,” said Yoni Bokser, 14, “gives me a safe feeling.”

Such visceral connectedness to Israel is not so common among American Jews, a majority of whom — from 60 percent to 75 percent, according to estimates — have never visited the Jewish state.

However, American Jewish interest in Israel has soared over the last two years, as worry for the embattled state has joined with a new sense of vulnerability after Sept. 11.

American Jews’ level of attachment to Israel is as great as he has seen in his seventeen years as head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Malcolm Hoenlein, with “standing-room- only” crowds for his speaking engagements around the country.

As Israel Independence Day approaches on May 7, however, other Jewish leaders are voicing concern about the relationship between American Jews and Israel.

For one, the protracted Palestinian intifada, now in its 31st month, could have damaging effects.

The drop in American travel to Israel since the intifada began — a fall of 60 percent, almost all of which is assumed to be Jewish, according to Israel’s Tourism Ministry — has lessened American Jews’ physical connection to the land.

An emphasis on security diverts American Jews from other critical issues in Israel, observers say.

The continued violence might be emotionally overwhelming for American Jews, causing them to detach from the issue entirely[more]