For much of the 20th century, the Israel of American Jews – the Zion that they imagined in their minds, wrote about and worked to realize – was a mythical Zion, a utopian extension of the American dream. Proponents conjured up a Zion that they described as a “social commonwealth.” They conceived of it both as an “outpost of democracy,” spreading America’s ideals eastward, and as a Jewish refuge where freedom, liberty and social justice would someday reign supreme.
In place of the utopia that we had hoped Israel might become, young Jews today often view Israel through the eyes of contemporary media: They fixate upon its unloveliest warts.
Israelis who question me about the waning American Jewish love affair with Israel nod comprehendingly when I offer them this explanation. After all, they have seen many of their own Zionist dreams ground down by years of war. In both countries, the ardor of young love, with all of its unrealistic hopes and passions and dreams, has given way to middle-aged realities.