Milking Holocaust Guilt to Keep Israelis Home

Berlin offers Israelis what their country does not offer them. This is what Lapid must understand.

Yitzhak Laor
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Yitzhak Laor

BERLIN - As in a boring ceremony, Channel 10 broadcast something "sensational," Yair Lapid responded, the responders responded to the response, there was a bit of noise and the Holocaust of European Jewry returned to the place politicians designate for it: A whip for feelings of guilt, abroad and at home.

Lapid of course made a mistake. If there truly are “neo-yordim" (Israeli emigrants), they come from the middle class, part of which voted for Lapid's Yesh Atid party. The finance minister hurt, most likely, the parents, or aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters of the yordim. And that is actually the pleasant side of this boring story: The naiveté of the finance minister, unless of course he intended on being part of some version of the Likud, where it is still possible to speak out loudly and dramatically on matters of patriotism and the Holocaust, like in school ceremonies.

What exactly does Lapid want from the neo-yordim? That they should stay in Israel and live in the poverty that is expected for widening parts of the population? If he had bothered to check the gap between the salary of a German high school teacher and an Israeli teacher, he would have understood why masses of college graduates do not hope to find a future in Israel once they are exposed to other economies. No, they will not be teachers in a German high school, and as for the "Berlin community," this is really just the postponement of maturity for another three years, more or less, until they return to Israel: If you already have to live without a future, why not live without a future in the center of the present, and Berlin in the best example of such a life for Israelis, far away from their mothers and fathers.

Nonetheless, some of the neo-yordim will remain in places where they will succeed, they or their children, to escape from the jungle the Israeli economy offers: Either you go all out, "make money," and, in short, become a shark. Or you are sentenced to low wages, or unemployment.

Because for every story about a grandmother who died of hunger, there is a story about grown children, 30 years old and more, who have no chance of living normal lives, working and making a living. This, in simple terms, is the misunderstanding of Lapid and the rich.

Moreover, the use of the Holocaust to preach against neo-yordim, as Lapid phrased it on his Facebook page, is trying to have your cake and eat it too. How is it possible on one hand to scare us, day and night, with the Iranian danger and Palestinian terror, and other hand to tell us we are living in Israel, the only place where Jews will not die on account of their being Jews?

This justification was impossible to write in a serious newspaper at the end of the 20th century, but we said it in political arguments out on the grass in college or on the street many years ago. The reason that it can be said today in public stems exactly from what Lapid wants to forget: The sanctity of the symbols has been erased. And not just because of the inflationary use of them.

The symbols continue to exist only when there are no real demands alongside them. But on the other hand maybe “something good will come from them,” whether the “journeys to Poland” sponsored by the company, or military service that promises advancement in life. At any rate, the objective dimension of the symbols is fading quickly.

I am writing this article in a German coffee house. I know there are many Israelis here. It could be that they have learned to live with the word "Germany," the same way people my age have a hard time doing. Berlin offers them what their country does not offer them. This is what Lapid, the son of a generation that fled Europe for their lives, must understand.

It is said that it is comfortable living here as an Israeli, it's easy to milk the Germans. But the neo-yordim did not learn the skill of milking on their own. The State of Israel is the greatest of all teachers of emotional extortion. It is doubtful whether any enlightened Israeli residing in Berlin is capable of descending to the place where Lapid descended with the memory of his grandfather, between the theater and the Holocaust memorial, between the university and the supermarket.

Yair Lapid talks to voters on Facebook.Credit: Eran Wolkowski