The Israel-Diaspora Relationship

An unequal partnership?

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The focus on quality of life was also a source of cooperation. As American Jews grappled with assimilation and intermarriage during the 1990s, Israel was looked to as a way to stoke the embers of fading ethnic identity in Jewish youth. This approach became the centerpiece of "birthright israel," a program aimed at providing a free a trip to Israel for Jewish young adults aged 18-26 who have never visited the country. Commercials for the program on Israel radio provided testimonials of participants who had become active in their community and behalf of Israel after the trip.

Israel was once again playing the central role in Judaism, but instead of encouraging immigration it is being used to help strengthen the Jewish community in the Diaspora. As the situation between Israel and the Palestinians worsened in the early years of this century, however, the pendulum began to swing backward somewhat, with Israel--again under attack, figuratively and literally-- relying heavily on Diaspora Jews for political support.

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Joshua Mitnick is a freelance journalist living in Israel. His articles have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The Toronto Star, The Newark Star Ledger, and The Washington Times.