Welcome to Eli Talks #3, A Tale of Two Zions.

The main reason I chose this particular talk out of the selections Miriam sent me is this: I disagree completely with most of it.  More later.

First, here’s the talk, and a comment about the name “Mishael.”  I think it is an excellent name.  I wonder why it’s not more common.  Daniel, Mishael and Azariah were a threesome but somewhere along the way Mishael fell off the name wagon.  OK.  Onward, or as they say so pithily in Israel, “Yala!”

Eli Talks’ Miriam Brosseau says:
Rabbi Mishael Zion is nothing if not a family man (he even wrote a haggadah with his father); and that includes his extended family of the entire Jewish people. Which makes the premise of his talk all the more provocative. What does it mean for a family to be simultaneously united and divided?
In some ways, I find his premise to be totally intuitive. Of course! It’s a descriptive talk, not a prescriptive one. This is just how it is! And I love the way he intertwines Hillel’s deceptively simple teaching about responsibility and selfhood.
In other ways, it’s an unsettling position. The Land of Israel isn’t the only great dream of the Jewish people? And hey, even if we are talking about Israel and America (or Jerusalem and New York, as it sometimes feels), what about the rest of the Jewish world? What are they, chopped liver?
Ultimately I do think it’s a prescriptive talk – a talk that’s trying to encourage a sense of mindfulness. We are a people with a project…or two. We are in it together. So we should learn from and with one another and get it together. Cuz if not now, when?
(And if you liked this talk, a good companion piece is Gidi Grinstein’s “Flexigidity.”)
OOTOB’s Ruchi Koval says:

I mean, I loved the stories about the grandfather – how could you not?  And of course about working together, etc.  But there’s  underlying premise here that I really just can’t get around, and the irony is I felt that way when I first watched this talk a couple of weeks ago, before #bringbackourboys.  Before Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were kidnapped – three kids, teens, unarmed – just for being Jews.  Not for being Israelis mind you, as one is not Israeli but rather American.
How can we say we’re better off than in our ghettos, when there are plenty of neighborhoods – shockingly, the whole middle chunk of the country – that is unsafe for Jews?  How can we say our dreams have come true when kids are kidnapped for no reason whatsoever?  How can we say this is the successful story of our arrival?  By the same token, how can we say the Diaspora experience is the fulfillment?  The only thing Israel has over America is its holiness.  And it had that before 1948.  If you look at our prayers, it’s all about Israel.  Every single thing we say references Israel.  “God, thanks for the awesome meal!  Oh, and bring us back to Israel!”  Really.  True story.
And part of that is fulfilled by Israel today.  The holiness.  The intensity.  The opportunities for Jewish expression.  But much is NOT fulfilled.  Much is unfulfilled.  And it’s unfulfilled in the Diaspora too.  That’s why we continue to wait for the Messiah… may it be soon.

In this vein, not only isn’t the rest of Diaspora “chopped liver” (yum) but Israel is the epicenter from which all radii, um, radiate.  So Israel, then unifies us ALL.  No matter which Jew I am chatting with, Israel is something we can talk about, even if no one has been there.  This actually happened to me at a rest stop in upstate NY when three teens with tattoos and chains walked in.  I was terrified, till they came over and seriously bageled me!  In Hebrew! We all care about it.  Most of us know someone there!  (The only thing that really comes even halfway close is Jewish NY’s weird relationship with Miami.) So Israel, far from being a competitor (!) to “us,” is a unifier.