Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley speaks 

Israel to me


In 1948 I was in high school. Okay, now you have a pretty good idea of how long I’ve been around. Point is—I was in a high school of 1500 kids, of whom about 12 were Jews. When the State of Israel declared its independence, let’s just say there was not dancing in the halls.

I was plumb ignorant of the situation. Ours was not a kosher home. My family was not active in the Jewish Community and while we had been impacted by the Holocaust as every Jew alive had to be, we had not lost any family members of whom we were aware.

Two years later we moved to Cleveland and my father became very active in the Jewish Community and the nascent State of Israel. Matter of fact, he was on the first UJA Mission to the Jewish State in 1953. I have a picture in my office of him shaking hands with Ben Gurion.

Over the years, after marrying and having children, Judaism and Israel took a larger and larger role in our family life. Marrying Rachel with her Orthodox background helped. In 1968 we took our first trip to Israel and the rest as you probably know, is predictable history.

On our numerous trips since then, on UJA missions, missions we hosted first from Cleveland and then Orlando, the ties grew stronger. Meeting Menachem Begin when he was a “Back Bencher” and becoming close to him and his family aced it.

I remember the 1967 war and the thrill of victory. I remember the 1973 war and the terrifying possibility of defeat and genocide. We were in Israel during the second intifada.

During all that time, I know that no matter if it were Labor, Herut or Likud in power, their No. 1 priority was the safety of the People of Israel. Israel has been blessed with a Jewish Community in the U.S. and around the world that stands with them and works on their behalf with the governments of their own countries to guarantee that safety.

Do we always agree with the policies of the government there? Of course not. Would we like to see Israel do some things differently? Sure—we are all strategic and political experts from 7000 miles away.

Thing is, we can work for the policies and politicians we believe in here in the U.S. Even in Florida—although it is admittedly harder. We are citizens, we pay taxes, we use the roads and the telephone system and have our garbage collected and pay what the supermarkets demand.

Do Israeli politicians say and do some stupid things from time to time? Of course. Have you been following the Republican debates? ‘Nuff said. Complain? Of course! We’re Jews, for God sake! BUT: We have to draw a line. We are not in Israel. Not on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis.

We happen to have a daughter who lives in Jerusalem. We are aware of what she goes through on a daily basis. But we don’t live it. We don’t go to the bus stop every day and wonder if we will get home. We don’t drive on a two-lane road and hold our breath at each dark turn.

Unless we are willing to do that—to live in that wonderful land with all its wonders and warts, we have no right to tell them what to do. Unless we pay their humungous and unfair taxes, face the daily threats and all the rest—we do not have that right.

Beyond that—again, we are Jews—so, you want to rant against Netanyahu and his cabinet? Do it at your own dinner table, in the privacy of your shvitz. BUT: Not in a public forum. Especially not if you are an elected or appointed representative of any organization.

My grandfather, Abraham Shiplacoff, was a labor leader in Brooklyn in the teens and twenties of the last century. He was one of the founders of the Workman’s Circle (you can Google both Abe and the Circle). He also was instrumental in the formation of the ILGWU (if you are too young? Back to Google).

When Abe saw a need, he acted. Jewish immigrants were living in horrible conditions in the early part of the last century. Living sometimes six members of one family in two rooms.

He got the cream of New York Jewry to put their money and political clout to helping these Jews from whom they desperately wanted to distance themselves. He preached that if one Jew anywhere was in trouble, every Jew everywhere was in trouble.

He believed the greatest nation in the world for the Jews was America. He did not live to see the birth of the Third Jewish Commonwealth, but he would have loved it—and never criticized it in public. You can bet that.


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