HOW DO YOU LIKE ISRAEL?
In his autobiography, automobile industry icon Lee Iacocca who, in the latter part of the 1970’s, performed the miraculous act of Tchiyat HaMetim (resurrection of the dead) on moribund Chrysler Corporation teaches a profound lesson. He tells the reader that he would always make it a point to train Chrysler dealers never to ask new car owners how they liked their cars. Instead, he trained his dealers to ask new car owners how their neighbors liked the new Dodge or Plymouth or Chrysler or Imperial that sat in the driveway. The former question instinctively challenges the recent new car purchaser to come up with a list of complaints: “the driver’s door doesn’t shut as easily as it should” or “I was expecting better gas mileage” or “I sit too low behind the steering wheel”. The latter question produces only praise, in that no new car purchaser wants to come off looking like a shlimazel. Every new car purchaser wishes to see himself as the most looked up to individual on the block as neighbors ogle his new set of wheels. Mr. Iacocca was very clever. A genius however, he wasn’t. Instead of training Chrysler dealers never to ask new car owners how they liked their new purchase, he should have trained Chrysler dealers to ask new car owners why they liked their new purchase.
Such thoughts went through my mind this past Wednesday, when a group of Dallas rabbis met with four members of Knesset. Why the M.K.’s (members of Knesset) met with rabbis instead of say, Presbyterian ministers, in that the Presbyterian Church voted to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel is beyond me. But I digress. Although never explicitly stated, the meeting was in essence a “How do you like Israel” fest. And then the kvetching started! There wasn’t a thing that Israel was doing right, as far as my kalikess (look that one up in your Yiddish/English dictionary) – make that colleagues – were concerned. Had the M.K.s distributed pens and paper and given those assembled five minutes to list five reasons why they like Israel, they would have accomplished the following:
The M.K.s would have directed rabbis to think positive when it comes to Israel. We have enough Israel bashers in the media without rabbis having to jump into the fray. Equally as important, with so many Christian ministers professing profound love for the Promised Land, it’s utterly absurd as well as a shanda for rabbis to point out Israel’s shortcomings.
The M.K.’s would have sent the subtle message of Ein lanu eretz acheret, we have no other Jewish homeland. Would this same group of Rabbis have been willing to raise the shortcomings of their parents? And their parents’ lives aren’t being constantly threatened as is the case with Israel. To criticize parents is verboten; to criticize Israel is Kosher leMehadrin (the highest level of kosher). Am I missing something?
The M.K.s would have started the creative juices flowing and provided the rabbis with excellent sermon material for Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, or Israel’s Independence Day, which we celebrate this Thursday. Unless Tiferet is different (as a matter of fact, Tiferet is different – spectacularly different) I would like to believe that Israel “feel good” sermons are always in vogue and will be well received. As Israel celebrates 68 years of independence, may it continue in strength, safety and positive support from rabbis.