Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.
Allison Benedikt regrets her Zionist upbringing, and pro-Israeli Jews, so much so that in 2011 she wrote a curious self-absorbed analysis of her journey, and how she went from proud Zionist youth to being disgusted with Israel, Life After Zionist Summer Camp, including some awkward personal details:
John [Cook, formerly of Gawker now of The Intercept] fills my head with allllllllllllll kinds of bullshit. Stuff about the Israelis being occupiers, about Israel not being a real democracy, about the dangers of ethnic nationalism—a term I really hadn’t heard applied to Israel before. (Okay, fine, I hadn’t heard it at all.) My parents worry that I’m being brainwashed. We get in huge fights on the same topic over and over again and have terribly awkward dinners where John insists on bringing up Israel and pissing off my Mom. I act as moderator and it is the worst. John buys every book about Israel that’s ever been published, and then reads them all so he can win any argument with my family. What he doesn’t realize is that my parents don’t do facts on this issue. They do feelings. Israel is who they are. Gradually, and then also all of a sudden, it’s no longer who I am—and I am angry…..
John and I have two kids of our own and are raising them as Jews. Most of my Jewish friends are disgusted with Israel. It seems my trajectory is not at all unique. My best memories from childhood are from camp, and I will never, ever send my kids there.
You can read the rest. It sparked a mini-firestorm.
So be it. But Benedikt is now an Editor at Slate.com and is taking her Zionist childhood regrets out on a dead Israeli “lone soldier,” Max Steinberg from Los Angeles.
“Lone Soldier” is a term applied to non-Israelis who go to Israel to serve in the IDF. Typically these lone soldiers are American Jews, who do so out of a sense that threats to Israel are threats to Jews everywhere. This does not necessarily even involve emigration to Israel; lone soldiers often return to the United States after service (I’ve known many).
Why do lone soldiers not just join the U.S. military? For those I’ve known, it’s been a sense that serving in the Israeli military puts them directly on the front line against violent Jew haters, not out of any disrespect for the United States. It’s where the fight against anti-Semitism is most real.
Steinberg’s desire to move to Israel was ignited during a Birthright trip to Israel — a group that takes young Jewish youth to Israel for about 10 days. The goal of Birthright is to establish a connection between Jewish youth and Israel, something which is needed considering how hostile much of the educational system has become to Israel.
Steinberg’s mother recounted to The Washington Post:
Max Steinberg never wanted to step foot on Israeli soil.
In early 2012, Steinberg’s siblings, Jake and Paige, were planning to take a free 10-day trip to Israel sponsored by a private foundation, but Max wasn’t interested.
“Max didn’t want to go at first,” his mother said in an interview Monday, adding that when her son made up his mind about something, it was usually hard to convince him otherwise.
Still, the family tried; it was a free trip to Israel, relatives told him, so why not go? Eventually, he changed his mind — and his life would never be the same.
By the fall of 2012, Steinberg would move to Israel and become a sharpshooter in one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most elite units, the Golani Brigade. On Sunday, he was killed — one of two Americans to die on the deadliest day of the ongoing Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Evie and Stuart Steinberg, his parents, are now preparing to take their own first trip to Israel, in some ways retracing their son’s steps.
Steinberg was honored in Israel, as tens of thousands of Israelis joined his parents in mourning his death:
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 23, 2014
— Simone Wilson (@simone_electra) July 23, 2014
Paid a shiva call to the Steinberg family to remember their son Max, an American citizen who died serving in the IDF pic.twitter.com/xnM30SM7Pv
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) July 23, 2014
Israeli lone soldier Sean Carmeli received a similar outpouring of support at his funeral in Israel.
But Benedikt couldn’t leave it alone, couldn’t let the family grieve. She had to take her childhood Zionist regrets out on him in a hideous article at Slate, blaming Birthright for brainwashing a supposedly lost and misguided young man:
There are many people to blame for Steinberg’s death. There is the Hamas fighter behind the weapon that actually killed him. There are the leaders, on both sides, who put him in Gaza, and the leaders behind all of the wars between Israel and the Palestinians. I can trace it back to 1948, or 1917, or whatever date suits you and still never find all the parties who are responsible. But I have no doubt in my mind that along with all of them, Birthright shares some measure of the blame….
What makes an American kid with shaky Hebrew and no ties to the state of Israel suddenly decide he is ready to make this sacrifice? Maybe Max was especially lost, or especially susceptible, or maybe he was just looking to do some good and became convinced by his Birthright experience that putting on an IDF uniform and grabbing a gun was the way to do it. That serving and protecting the Jewish people was the moral thing to do, and that the best way to accomplish it was to go fight for the Jewish state. It turns out that it’s not that hard to persuade young people to see the world a certain way and that Birthright is very good at doing it. You spend hundreds of millions of dollars to convince young Jews that they are deeply connected to a country that desperately needs their support? This is what you get.
Haviv Gur at The Times of Israel dissects Benedikt’s arguments and numbers about Birthright.
Benedikt doesn’t need a statistics lesson. She needs to examine what it is in her that makes her take her frustrations out on a dead Israeli lone soldier.
Steinberg, and people like him, are what stands between the Jewish people and mobs who shout for the death of Jews.
Lone soldiers like Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli are of blessed memory.
When Benedikt wrote her original Zionist transition narrative, Jeffrey Goldberg noted:
This is actually a very sad little essay that says more about the writer, who seems to have exchanged one simplistic narrative for another, than it does about Zionism or Israel.
Still true, still true.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.