Will evidence of Israeli indifference to American Jews’ lives never cease to surface? The latest is the publication of a book entitled “Shtetl, Beigel, Beisbol: Al matsavam ha-nora veha-nifla shel yehuda Amerikah” or “Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball: On the Dreadful, Wonderful State of American Jews” by Shmuel Rosner, an Israeli journalist for Ha’aretz.
You might think that the publication of such a book would davka constitute proof that they do care, but here’s the thing: it’s basically the first one; according to The Jewish Review of Books, this is a rare publishing event.
“There are few if any real precedents for an Israeli journalist or indeed any other Israeli doing this kind of thing,” opines the Review, which is so erudite, it must be right.
Somehow, I thought this asymmetry of interest was slowly evening out. Last summer, I wrote an article called “Aliyah Now a ‘Career Move” in which a bunch of olim told me part of the reason for their decision lay in the maturation of Israeli attitudes towards the rest of the world. That is, the prickly, know-it-all sabra (whom I have a not-so-secret weakness for, who am I kidding?) is on the wane and being supplanted by the charming, cosmopolitan technocrat who acknowledges that diaspora Jews have something to offer.
But I really shouldn’t be surprised there aren’t more books like "Shtetl, Bagel, Baseball." Remember those TV ads that chastised Israelis so strenuously for their susceptibility to the blandishments of America? Don’t let your Abba turn into Daddy!
Of course, in those commercials, they’re protesting too much. They come here, after all. But when they do, they often stick to themselves. So I find myself continually hoping, without even realizing that I’m doing it, that the Israelis will warm to us. I’ll be disillusioned afresh soon, I’m sure.
Then again, the book seems to be published only in Hebrew so far, so maybe our collective preoccupation with them doesn’t go so deep as to convince a publisher that we all want to read it.
Of course, I desperately want to read it myself. But my Hebrew isn’t up to the task. I love reducing myself to a cultural stereotype.