From Daniel Gordis's This Place Called Hope:
The tragedy of today’s situation is that you ask young American Jews to free associate with the word “Israel,” the first thing you’re likely to hear is “Palestinians,” or “war,” or “fence.” But the State wasn’t created for any of these things. Most young Jews, both in Israel and outside, can’t say an intelligent word about why the State was created. They might mention the Shoah. Or the refuge issue. But they’ll miss the major point — that the purpose of Israel was not Statehood. It was hope.
They don’t know, anymore, that the Zionist movement, and then the State, took as its national anthem a poem called “The Hope.” They know the melody, and Israelis know the words. But they have no idea what it’s about. They can’t begin to articulate the notion that Israel represented to Jews across the globe, after the worst century we’d known, life over death. Continuity instead of extermination. A homeland instead of exile. Rebirth instead of extinction.
They’re so consumed with the plight of the Palestinians (a horrific plight, obviously, that has to be addressed — as soon as the Palestinians make that their priority) that they don’t resonate at all to the pride Jews once felt about the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, or the rescue at Entebbe, or the technological prowess of Israeli companies, or by the now stereotypical tanned and hardened Israeli youth, stark contrasts to the common portrayal of Europe’s Jews as pale and passive. They don’t understand that it’s because hope — life over death — was at the core of this country that explains why there are still huge book fairs in this country, celebrating the mere simple fact that thousands of books are published each year in a language that 150 years ago, virtually no one in the world spoke. It was why dance became an integral part of this culture, and why Jews got excited about a song celebrating a sprinkler, written when the National Water Carrier project was completed. What person in their right mind sings about a sprinkler? Who dances to the idea of a sprinkler? Jews did, and do, when the sprinkler brings water from the north to the south, when it bring life to the desert, when it bespeaks not just the flow of water, but the possibility of hope when there could have been nothing but despair.