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Ever since its establishment, Israel has been a source of Jewish anxiety as well as of Jewish hope. The balance between the two shifts over time and according to circumstances, but in the soul of every feeling Jew, the one is rarely found without the other. A strong, self-confident Israel has given rise to an unparalleled sense of inspiration and pride, but an Israel embattled or adrift awakens the most intense anguish, dread, and foreboding. All of which means, especially for the Jews of the Diaspora, that Israel is not only a political state but a state of mind-the center of hopes for national restoration and renewal but also of fears of a looming catastrophe and something akin to the end of Jewish history.

Those who write about Israel can be taken as the barometers of these shifting moods. In reading them, we come to see how deeply invested Diaspora Jews have been in the changing fortunes of the Jewish state and also how an individual author's perception of these changes reflects much about the emotional and ideological underpinnings of Jewish identity. Melvin Urofsky's American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (1975), for instance, offers an expansive account of how Jews in this country effectively adapted European Zionism to fit the requirements of American Jewish liberalism and achieved considerable political success. By contrast, Ruth Wisse's If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (1992) strongly contests the values of such politics and maintains that liberal ideas, far from being an inherent part of Judaism, pose a serious threat to the Jewish state.

Given the political leanings of most American Jews, it is not surprising that much of the literature about Israel by American Jewish scholars has been written from the standpoint of Urofsky and not Wisse. There are exceptions, however, and, at their most thoughtful, they challenge many of the assumptions that inform conventional thinking about Israel and American Jewish identity and force a reconsideration of both. Jerold Auerbach's Are We One?, a passionately argued assessment of mainstream Zionism and its liberal premises, is such a book. Since to some degree it is a rejoinder to Melvin Urofsky's We Are One! American Jewry and Israel (1978) and Hillel Halkin's Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist Polemic (1977), a few words about these two books are in order.

In narrating the story of American Jewry's support of the return to Zion, Urofsky presents something like an exuberant family history. As in all families, there are differences, but in the main these are not serious enough to break the partnership between American Jewry and the Jews of Israel. This partnership, anchored in "the unity of the Jewish people," makes all of Israel responsible for one another. It has contributed importantly to the upbuilding and defense of the Jewish state and thereby has helped to create a more secure Jewish future. As the exclamation point following the book's title indicates, We Are One! is a celebration of the ties that nourish, sustain, and bind.

Hillel Halkin will have none of that. Writing ideologically as well as geographically from the other side of the Israel-American Jewry divide, the author of Letters to an American Jewish Friend sees the relationship between Israelis and American Jews in adversarial terms. Far from affirming the notion that the Jews are "one," Halkin is convinced that the Diaspora communities are fated to disappear and that the Jews of Israel bear no special responsibility to prevent that inevitability from happening. On the contrary, the Diaspora should be treated as a depletable resource, for "Jewish life has a future only in Israel." Individual Jews may survive for a time outside of the Jewish state, but for most Jews a viable and coherent Jewish existence is possible only within its borders. "It alone is the natural place for the Jew," and sooner or later those who are seriously committed to perpetuating Jewish life will follow Halkin's own example and come home to Israel.

From the many accounts of personal experience narrated in Are We One? and in his previous book, Jacob's Voices: Reflections of a Wandering American Jew (1996), Jerold Auerbach has taken Halkin's arguments to heart and tested their premises through extended time in Israel. What he finds puts him at sharp odds with Urofsky's affirmations of Jewish unity and with Halkin's insistence that only in the Jewish state can Jewish life flourish. Far from exhibiting anything like unity, the Israel that Auerbach comes to know is full of ideological rancor and bitter divisiveness. In addition, the erosion of Jewish religious traditions and the eager adoption of Western secular values reveal a steady attenuation of the Jewish character of the Jewish state. These are ominous developments and help to explain the note of skepticism sounded in the book's title–Are We One?–as well as its rueful and often anguished tone. It is not for nothing that Jeremiah, the prophet of doom, is frequently cited throughout the pages of this g enerally downcast book.

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