Yishai Fleisher, the director of Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, is coming to Congregation Or Yisrael on July 27 as part of multi-city speaking tour in the US. Fleisher, the son of Russian refusniks, was born in Israel and moved to the United States as a child. Returning to Israel for his army service, he was wounded in Lebanon by Hezballah, and then came back to America to attend Yeshiva University, and, later, Cardozo Law School before returning to Israel. He hosts the Yishai & Friends Podcast dealing with Jewish current events, Torah, and Middle East politics.
Please note: The opinions expressed here are those of the Mr. Fleisher and do not reflect the positions of JewishBoston.com.
What is the message of your radio station, Arutz Sheva?
Our message is one of positivity and truth. We offer a different perspective, one that is nationalistic and pro-Israel. We are not a “pro-government” station; we are democrats, not demagogues.
Can you give an example?
The disengagement from Gaza in 2005. We thought that the government was making a mistake, but some people thought that we were being anti-government in saying so. In the end, given what has happened in Gaza, we were completely justified and history has shown that we were right. People like to blame us nationalists for being anti-state. That’s ridiculous! We were and are in love with the state of Israel. We just know that disengagement was a bad policy.
You started the organization Kumah (“Arise” in Hebrew), which is described on your website as “dedicated to revitalizing Israel’s sense of Jewish pride and instilling the Jewish nation with a love of the land and a feeling of unity.” Can you speak a little about its message?
Israel is the central place of the Jewish people, and has been for the past 2,000 years. Not just in a religious way, but in a nationalistic way. This is our country and our people’s project. I want people to think, “How can I be involved in it as much as possible?” Kumah has become more than just a push for aliyah. Kuma is about a renewal of Zionism, a second phase of the Zionist project. Now that we have a nation, how do we bring the country out of the malaise that it has sunken into? In practical terms, what we all do about it?
Zionism is a complicated word. What kind of Zionism do you believe in?
I want to bridge religious Zionist ideals with secular Zionist action orientation. Action is the key to existence in the land of Israel. We can’t get stuck in a religious-prayer mentality; we have to do something.
Talk about the law you wrote for the Knesset.
I just wrote a law for the Knesset and it has already passed two committees. I want to create a National Aliyah Day, a day which will be celebrated in schools, by the media, and in the Knesset, reminding people to get up and talk about where their families have come from. We can’t just celebrate the sad events like the Holocaust and our fallen soldiers. Let’s celebrate the success of aliyah and the Zionist dream.
You made aliyah and really believe that Jews should move to Israel. What is your message for American Jews who are happy here and aren’t going to make aliyah?
At some point everyone should think about making aliyah. I think that parents, if they aren’t going to do it, should at the very least not discourage their children from doing so. Also, for American Jews who are going to stay in America, they have a very important role and responsibility. They have a duty to be a moral barometer for society. Jews, like it or not, have to help America rediscover its moral compass. American Jews right now also have a great mission in stopping the consensus push for a Palestinian state; this is dangerous for Israel. It is in everyone’s interest — Jews, Americans, Arabs, the world — to work for a strong Israel, not a tiny land bifurcated into two.
You use the term “unity” in your materials. Discuss your vision for unity about Israel.
Unity is the will not to debase and delegitimize an opinion. If I meet an animated opponent, I will say to myself, “At least you care, and that’s good.” In America, since Israel has been portrayed as distasteful, there is not a unity of care around the issue. People have delegitimized the nationalistic perspective. The rational thing is to be strong and not allow our enemies to overrun us.
You have appeared on Al Jazeera, defending your nationalist/Zionist perspective. What was your message for their viewers?
What I wanted to get across to them was emotional and visceral. I wanted them to know that there are Jews who are tough and connected to the land of Israel. I wanted to send a message that the Jewish people are not pushovers and that the land is not meaningless to us, and, most importantly, that we have not lost our sense of nationalism. We always have our Alan Dershowitzes to give the legal, Talmudic answers to questions about Israel. I wanted to give an emotive answer; there are people who care.
What is your vision for your upcoming speaking tour?
I am excited to speak with Jews, non-Jews, and people of all backgrounds. I want to help to dispel the lies about Israel that are out there and get people excited about fighting for and defending Israel. I want to uncover the lie that focuses all of the problems on the issue of settlements. People need to understand that giving away land has never worked, and that any push for a Palestinian State within the borders of the Land of Israel is the set-up for the next war.
What do American Jews not realize about Israel?
Israel is not a sure thing. I mean that it’s not a sure thing that we are not going to lose it. We cannot abdicate this serious moment and this serious opportunity. People don’t realize that Israel is in a tough strategic situation, and that Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran really, truly want to destroy Israel. People really don’t appreciate what it means to be delegitimized. We can’t take the miracle that is Israel for granted.
To hear more from Fleisher, check out this event from Congregation Or Yisrael on July 27.