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Friedman: Will Jews Still Care?

The following exchange was excerpted from Charlie Rose’s May 30 television interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

CHARLIE ROSE: The other thing is that the American Jewish community does not speak with one voice either.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Absolutely. The rank-and-file are a lot more moderate than the, quote unquote, leadership.

CR: Why is that?

TF: I don’t know. I think it’s probably a certain institutional kind of dynamic that takes hold. I don’t really know. But what worries me, and I see this with young kids on campus now, the activists — they’re still active. But the vast majority of kids, they’re just going to the coast, Charlie, when it comes to Israel. They’re drifting away. I see this… when I grew up in Minneapolis, I went to Israel. I lived on a kibbutz all three summers of high school. I grew up in a post ’67 era. And Israel was central to my life as it was to all my friends. A lot of us went to Israel together. Today I’m probably the only one of my friends who is still emotionally involved in Israel. We started a synagogue in Washington, a small group of us…. And our synagogue president, a couple of months ago, came and at the end of services she gave the presidential notes and minutes. She said something that really struck me. She said to me she’d been to a UJF — sort of a Jewish federation gathering – and they were starting a new program called Virtual Tourism. You’re going to Israel.

CR: But you don’t have to go.

TF: If you know a friend going to Israel give him $100, and when he or she is out to dinner, let them buy a meal for you. I found that so sad, Charlie, because virtual tourism turns into virtual identification. If you don’t go, you don’t know and you don’t feel. That’s what I worry about. Again I’m no fool about this. I’m perfectly capable of understanding that you know what? This is just how it is: There is no Palestinian partner for a secure peace for Israel. But I know one thing: We have to test. And the position of the American Jewish community, the right position from my view, is to be always encouraging our administration to be doing a realistic test, and that’s where we’re at right now. I’m glad Bush is doing it.

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