‘I’m very sorry,’ Israel’s deputy FM tells US Jews, but stands by her statement

“The reality of life in Israel and the reality of life in the US is a very different reality, but it should not break the bond and the dialogue that must exist between us,” Tzipi Hotovely said in an apology regarding earlier remarks that were deemed offensive.

By: Adina Katz, World Israel News

After an uproar that resulted from Tzipi Hotovely’s comments during an interview Wednesday, in which she said that “American Jews live comfortably and do not understand the reality in Israel,” Israel’s deputy foreign minister apologized, saying she meant no offense but standing by her original statement.

“I apologize from the depths of my heart if someone was upset by my words,” she said in an interview Thursday on Israel’s Channel 1. “If someone was hurt by my words, I’m very sorry.”

In her remarks Wednesday on i24 news that drew media criticism and rebuke from Israeli politicians from the opposition as well as from members of the ruling Likud party, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hotovely said that American Jews do not understand “the complexity of the region.”

“People that never send their children to fight for their country, most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines and going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”

She added that one of her goals is to “bring American Jews closer to Israel… This is the home of all Jews, from all streams [of Judaism]. Everyone is welcome to come here to influence Israeli politics.”

The remarks were made with regard to her recent talk at Princeton University, where Hillel, the mainstream Jewish student organization, canceled a scheduled lecture at the 11th hour due to protests by Jewish students who oppose Israeli government policy. The Chabad organization hosted her instead.

Netanyahu: ‘No Place for Such Attacks’

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemns Tzipi Hotovely’s offensive remarks regarding the American Jewish community,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office read. “The Jews of the Diaspora are dear to us and are an inseparable part of our people. There is no place for such attacks, and her remarks do not reflect the position of the State of Israel.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called for her resignation.

According to a statement from Hotovely’s office Thursday, “Despite the fact that only a small part of the full interview was distributed, it is important to say that most of the interview spoke about the importance that Minister Tzipi Hotovely sees in the connection between us and American Jewry and that Israel is the home of all the world’s Jews. It’s a shame that this part was left out of what was published on the Internet.”

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‘Diaspora Jewry is Dear to Us’

“Diaspora Jewry is dear to us all… it pains us that lots of people don’t understand that we are fighting a war of self-defense, not a war for territorial expansion or a war to harm other people,” Hotovely clarified Thursday.

“To all those Americans who are lone soldiers, or those who have grandparents who fought in World War II, I salute you all,” she declared. “When I was 18, I spent a year in Atlanta as part of my national service in the Jewish community. For the past 20 years the topic of the Jewish community in the US has concerned me and I truly feel that we are part of a family.”

Her “single point,” she stressed, is that “the reality of life in Israel and the reality of life in the United States is a very different reality, but it should not break the bond and the dialogue that must exist between us.”

Despite the overwhelming negative press and rebuke in the Knesset, many comments on social media defended Hotovely.

“One may argue about the timing of Tzipi Hotovely’s comments, but is very hard to argue on substance of her remarks,” one perso, tweeted.

“’Most of the Jews [in America] don’t have children serving as soldiers.’ Is that a false statement?” wrote another.

Hotovely ‘Held Up a Mirror to American Jewry’

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), an American organization, also agreed with Hotovely.

“What she said is uncontroversial,” stated Rabbi Pesach Lerner, CJV president. “The typical Israeli is both more involved in Judaism and Jewish tradition, and faces daily challenges unknown to American Jews. Israelis must worry about incoming rockets and the terrorist who may be on the bus or in the shopping mall.”

“Words of truth are often difficult to accept,” said Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, CJV East Coast Regional Vice President and Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey. “She held up a mirror to much of American Jewry, and some of their self-appointed leaders do not like what they see. Instead of attacking the messenger, they should do some soul-searching, and bring their followers to the love and support of Israel that should be natural for every Jew.”