An Israeli writer, Abraham B. Yehoshua, once again, in his statements, called out a live discussion about the Jewish identity. Speaking in front of a group of American Jews, Yehoshua claimed that if they indeed want to stay “Jewish” then they must move to Israel. By the words of the writer, only those living in Israel are “real Jews” while those living in the diaspora are only “part-Jewish”.

This world-wide known writer first expressed his controversial idea at a symposium of the American Jewish Committee in 2006 and since then proclaimed it repeatedly (predominantly in front of an American Jewish auditorium). His view on this matter was disputed by various rabbis and Jewish wise men.

A.B. Yehoshua

Yesterday’s appearance of Yehoshua on the symposium Fonda Abi Shefara named “Is the Zionist revolution continuing?” was very emotional. “From the view point of identity, Israelis are the absolute Jews,” says the writer, “in other words, those empty spaces that exist in defining Jewishness are filled only while living in Israel.”

“Everything that is surrounding me is Jewish,” continues Yehoshua, “just like everything American surrounds the Americans. You can’t read about the treasures from books. The treasures are first most identified while working and in everyday life.”

By the words of literature, Jewishness is seen every minute of every day in the life of an Israeli citizen, in the language that they speak, how they act and even how they carry their weapons.

Criticizing the “part-Jews” of the diaspora, Yehoshua noted, “Jewishness is not what the rabbis talk about in their Saturday sermons. The Jewish treasures are found in Israel every day, when facing the war of good versus evil.”

“Unlike your comfortable ‘Judaism day of rest,’”, he continued with a chuckle, “This is a realistic thing and not something imaginary.” Remembering a phrase he used in his speech in 2006, he underlined that he had been misunderstood: “I didn’t use the terms ‘good Jew’ and ‘bad Jew’. Jews of the diaspora lead an active Jewish lifestyle, often visiting Israel and sending their kids to expensive Jewish schools. You do a lot. However, my life is completely Jewish. To the extent that, those, leading an active Jewish lifestyle being in the diaspora, for the most part are Jewish in comparison to their fellow assimilation, but in the same manor are inferior to ordinary Israelis.

In addition, Yehoshua brought up some historical arguments to support his position: “The first word being used to describe our nation in the Torah was ‘Israel’ not ‘Jew’. The word ‘Jew’ was first mentioned in the book of Esther, referring to the period when most of the nation was found in the diaspora. The country was always called ‘Israel’ and not ‘Judean’ or ‘Zion’. To be a Jew, means that you were born from a Jewish mother or you identify yourself in the quality of a Jew. Both of these definitions have nothing to do with religious characteristics. If you indeed want to be Jewish, move to Israel,” concluded Yehoshua.

The professor of a Jewish University, Rachel Elior, a scholar of philosophy and Jewish mysticism, did not agree with the writer: “all Jews are equal members of the symbolical community,” she says, “There is no such thing as ‘part-Jew’. Any Jew is a complete Jew, and it doesn’t matter where he lives. And it is also not possible to talk about the Jews that are ‘first type’ and the ‘second type of Jews’. All Jews are equally responsible before the past, present and future. You are known as a good Jew until you stop identifying yourself as such.”

Translated from Russian version

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