The mother of a friend of my son, a French woman with educational and professional accomplishments to her credit, was faced with a move from Brooklyn Heights to Montreal. She was a bit anxious, even though that Canadian metropolis was a linguistic fit for her and her family. I expressed excitement and optimism for the change.
“You are so American!” she exclaimed. “Who said change is good? Why can’t things stay as they are, at least for a long while?”
I’ve certainly been called worse. American indeed.
Americans are optimistic, even in the face of difficulty, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable facts to the contrary. We are defiantly hopeful. Concerning Israel, Palestine, diplomatic negotiations and the hubris of presidential administrations, hope springs eternal in American diplomacy. From Jared Kushner to John Kerry, from Bill Clinton to Jimmy Carter, and from Truman to Nixon—presidents, special envoys, power-broker diplomats and special interests have all tried to create their version of a better way. It’s a seemingly intractable quagmire, wrapped in a conundrum, with deep layers of history, violence, security, regional politics and faith.
New York Jewish Life believes that international pressure on Israel to pursue diplomacy that compromises its security and self-determination should be a nonstarter, but it’s always fascinating to watch American presidents try. There are obvious and important areas where changes need to be made, and the constant conversation is healthy, and the hopeful efforts of new presidents always make for a good read. And who knows? Perhaps some good will come of it.
This week’s issue has an exclusive interview with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. His words inspire hope. We will watch, assess and look forward to speaking with him again soon.
Our NYC bureau chief, Maxine Dovere, who seemingly knows everybody everywhere, will be in Israel for the next week, meeting with government officials, advocates, social service providers, educators and friends. She’ll be traveling throughout the country, sending back interviews, stories and profiles. We wish her safe travels, and are very jealous.
I remember a column then-assemblywoman, now-Congresswoman Grace Meng wrote on her return from a trip to Israel several years ago, some of which is still very trenchant:
The proud dedication of Israelis to their government, people and culture—obvious to anyone who cared to look for it or even casually notice—has encouraged me to work at being a better American. The Israeli love of public life, their paper-thin and transparent separation between personal and public, showed me how we can love America just a little bit more and take our participation more seriously. I don’t believe it can be argued that we take our liberties and government for granted, or that, over time, we have come to treat privileges as rights. Worse, we have become increasingly apathetic about this all….
At Yad Vashem—one of the world’s most significant Holocaust memorials and education centers—I read a quote by Kurt Tucholsky: “A country is not just what it does; it is also what it tolerates.” As Americans and New Yorkers, we live the good and the bad sides of that insightful comment.
Israeli regional politics is not for the faint of heart, but must always be engaged by the well-intentioned. And French mothers in Brooklyn Heights sometimes need to move to Montreal. It’s the way of the world.