American Jews are only partial Jews while Israeli Jews are total Jews, Israel Prize laureate A.B. Yehoshua claimed at a lecture he delivered Friday on the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews.
"They are partial Jews while I am a complete Jew," Yehoshua said, referring to American Jewry. "In no way are we the same thing - we are total and they are partial; we are Israeli and also Jewish. In recent years, my friends and I have needed to defend Israel against the matter of the state, as if it is merely an issue of citizenship, while Israel is the authentic, deep concept of the Jewish people ... in no siddur is there a mention of the word 'Jew' but only 'Israeli'. The name of our country and the territory is Land of Israel - and it is about this deep matter that we must defend against a Jewish offensive."
The lecture was part of the HaKatedra Strategic Friday lecture series, which is organized by the Land of Israel Museum.
Yehoshua added that living outside Israel "is a very deep failure of the Jewish people." He reiterated that the settlement of Jews in the Diaspora was something they opted for 2,000 years ago, when Jews could return to Israel but chose not to, and which he says was not imposed on Jews - as it is historically presented among the Jewish diasporas. The author noted that the amount of immigration from the United States is minimal and embarrassing.
"There are about 500,000 Israelis abroad who can easily glide into their Israeliness, which they consider only citizenship and not identity ... there is nearly no home without a convertible outside. I know these homes, who are well off. Why? Because they cannot find jobs here? The Swedes, too, don't have work in high technology like they would want, but you will not see so many Swedes in the United States," Yehoshua said.
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In response to a question from the audience about the difficulty facing Diaspora Jews to immigrate to Israel, Yehoshua said: "If Judaism is important to you, then come here, receive it in full and be part of it. But it is important that you understand: 'they' and 'us' are not the same thing. Do not make do with texts. At least learn Hebrew, learn about us through the intimacy of Hebrew. They should come here more often. All the love they have for Israel, [yet] they were here for barely a five-day visit; barely 20 percent of them [American Jews] were ever in Israel."
This is not the first time the internationally-renowned author has made such statements. During an American Jewish Committee conference in Washington five years ago, his statement struck a similar chord.
Commenting on that conference in his lecture Friday, he said, "I have never heard the Jews analyze the Holocaust as a Jewish failure, which was not anticipated, where ... for 2,000 years, in spite of the many red lights which lit up throughout history ... we must say, first and foremost, we failed. For five years a third of the 'nation' was destroyed and it was not because of ideology or religion, or economics or territory."