Despite years of Jewish education, much of which focused on Israel, this young American Zionist was still ignorant of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
By David Sarna Galdi
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank will mark its 50-year anniversary next year. For five decades, since 1967, that occupation has been a central theme in any discussion of Israel’s politics, history, current events and obviously, conflict with the Palestinians — except, apparently, if you’re young and Jewish in America.
While recently reading a critique of the absence of any discussion of the occupation (or any criticism of Israel, for that matter) in the 2016 American presidential elections, I made a disturbing realization: I myself had only become aware of the occupation and all of its ramifications relatively recently, only after moving to Israel and actively trying to codify, for myself, the country’s political genome.
Despite being the product of an active Jewish diaspora community and intense Jewish education (I was the target audience for a thorough understanding of Israel’s political physiognomy) I had been utterly in the dark when it came to Israel’s greatest blemish.
I attended Jewish schools near New York City. I went to Jewish camps. I spent countless Saturday mornings in synagogue with my grandparents. I traveled to Israel with my family a dozen times. As a 17 year old I spent the summer hiking the length and width of Israel. Later, I spent a hot, sweaty summer volunteering in an economically depressed city in the Negev desert. One could argue that I had the quintessential Zionist Jewish-American upbringing.
Yet somehow, in all of those years of exposure to Jewish and Israeli reality, history and culture, I never heard one word about the occupation, or even the actual word, “occupation.”
I came of age during the giddy, hope-filled days of the Oslo Accords. In fact, I distinctly remember the 13th of September, 1993, when my modern-Orthodox Jewish high school cancelled classes and gathered all of the students in the auditorium to watch the live broadcast of the signing ceremony on the White House lawn.
Yet, for all of my school’s engagement with Israeli current events, they left out one huge detail of modern Israeli history: the fact that in 1967, after the Six Day War, Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza but didn’t absorb them, setting the stage for today’s reality in which the...Read More