No one can speak about all israeli youth any more than one can speak about all american youth or all french youth. Here I present only my impressions of some fifty young israeli men and women with whom I talked at some length during my two visits to Israel last spring and summer, extending over an aggregate period of nearly two months. I believe these young people reflect the views and attitudes of scores, probably hundreds and even thousands, more. I am limiting my report largely to what the young people had to say about american Jewry.
The public relations department of Hebrew University was good enough to arrange a lunch for me to meet some students. I met other students at the university cafeterias, on the campus, in the halls of various buildings. I met still other young folk at cafes and restaurants, in synagogues, at concerts and public lectures, at Hillel House, and on buses. I told them who I was and promised I would report their conversation as fairly as possible. I asked them to hold back nothing.
The very first thing a group of three young students objected to, and rather vehemently, was the american jewish names on so many of the universitybuildings. “Why do they have to remind us all the time that they gave us money? We resent that. It makes us feel like beggars. Rich american jews, with all their money, don’t own us.” One of them seemed to be particularly incensed that the top floor hall at Hillel House on Balfour Street, which is used for social purposes and also as a synagogue, has a plaque bearing the name of Philip Klutznick, former president of B’nai B’rith. “I can’t tell you how I hate that sign whenever I see it on fridaynight.”
A girl who had emigrated from England six years ago (she came originally for a short visit) and is now married to an israeli doctor (“We’re here for keeps, as you americans say”) had some special complaints. “My husband and I have to work, both of us. I mean he’s interning, and I have a secretarial job. We have a 19-month-old baby, and we have to pay someone to take care of it while I work. But we all know hebrew. You americans come here and you don’t even learn hebrew. Why not? Tell me that. You talk only english and yiddish. English is english, after all. But yiddish I can’t stand.”
“Why can’t you stand it?”
“You talk like my father. He talks yiddish, too, and he wants to know why I can’t stand it. Well, it’s a dead Language. It’s past, gone, dead. You can’t live in the past.”
“But Yiddish is a thousand years old,” I ventured. “It has infiltrated into hebrew, it has produced great authors, SholomAleichem and...”
“I know. I can give you the other names, too. But SholomAleichem deals with the shtetl, which is gone. Why the constant living in the past?”
“Have you read SholomAleichem and the others?”
“No. I can’t read yiddish. I tried to read some english translations. He’s so old-fashioned. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Why do so many american jews speak yiddish and not hebrew?”
I reminded her that PresidentShazar and BenGurion speak a beautiful yiddish and love the Language.
“That’s different,” she said. “They’re an older generation.”
Outside the central library of Hebrew University I met a group of students. I told them of an interesting remark I had heard Dr. IsraelGoldstein, head of KerenHayesod, make: “We must zionise a large portion of young Israel.”
“What does he know?” said a young man. “He wants us to go to his kind of shul.”
“I don’t think that’s what he meant,” I said.
“What difference does it make what he meant?” said another young man. “Anyway, we want our own leaders, not you americans. We appreciate what you did, but this is our own country, and we know best what we need.”