Home January 2020 Fulfilling the Dream

Fulfilling the Dream

0120_OC_COVER_FEATURE_BANNERIn 1967, three weeks before the Six Day War in Israel, the Jewish Agency sent telegrams to concerned Jewish groups around the world. Paul Liptz, who had been involved in Jewish youth movements in his native Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), decided that Israel was “surrounded by undefeatable enemies” and wanted to help.

While his contributions during the war were limited, Liptz was part of a historic group of immigrants who made Aliyah a significant trend and brought a distinctive influence to Israel. He found “a special vibrancy” and a sense of comfort in Israel, met the woman who would become his wife and brought his relatives to the country. Perceiving instability in Africa, he was ready to take the leap.
“Conditions were excellent, and having family and friends in Israel made it easier to adjust,” Liptz said. “New immigrants got to study at low prices, buy a car and electronic equipment without paying taxes and find work easily.”
Liptz, who will be the 19th One Month Scholar in the Orange County Community Scholar Program in January, is a social historian who served on the Tel Aviv University faculty for 40 years, taught graduate students at the Hebrew Union College for 25 years and taught classes at the Conservative movement seminary in Jerusalem, dealing with modern Jewish history, Israeli society and the contemporary Middle East. He has also lectured in the Israeli army reserves, lectured and conducted workshops in some twenty countries and been a visiting scholar with many American groups in Central and Eastern Europe. His primary interests are History of the Yishuv [Pre-State], the Modern State of Israel and Arab Women and Nationalism in the Middle East.
According to Liptz, “Israel is a country of immigrants since Abraham and Moses. Each group of immigrants has given Israel new nuances.”
He explained that Anglo-Saxons came into a country that was socialist and affected by East Europeans who had made aliyah after World War II. Although considered “soft” by Israelis in the 1960s, Anglo-Saxons represented an important immigrant group that brought contributions to medicine and academia to the young nation.
The next wave of immigrants to Israel came from Russia. Initially, there were negative stereotypes of these immigrants, according to Liptz. While the older people found it difficult to adjust, the younger generation eventually found work in technical fields and assumed leadership roles in the “startup nation” that Israel has become.
More than 150,000 people have emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel, with more research per capita being spent on this ethnic group than any other, Liptz said. Early Ethiopian Jews who came to Israel were well educated, but many of the others have needed to make adjustments to Israeli society.
“Any group or subgroup that becomes part of the middle class goes through acculturation,” Liptz explained. “Those left behind tend to be stereotyped in a negative way. There is xenophobia in all societies, and there are global norms that affect Israel as well. ”
Liptz said that the Arab population in Israel is “torn between its identity and loyalty to the Palestinians while at the same time being Israeli citizens.” There are doctors, pharmacists and other professionals with upward mobility, especially for women. Subsections of the Arab population, notably the Druze and the Christian Arabs, are doing particularly well. In a 2018 survey of education, a Muslim and a Druze school were among the most successful, but many Arab schools were highly unsuccessful.
“Arabs are a minority group, and politics always get in the way, but we’re seeing some change, even in a divided society,” Liptz said. “Living in an insecure Middle East causes societal problems. Israel is in the toughest neighborhood in the world.”
Religious tensions are also a societal problem. Various concepts of religiosity exist among all groups in Israel, Liptz said.

There are economic issues, with a huge and growing gap between the top 10 percent and the bottom 20 percent of the population, according to Liptz. As the country moved away from socialism, some people began to resent the economic differentiation, he added.
“Where you live is important in Israel, just as it is in the U.S.,” he added. “The center of the country is looked at differently from the marginal areas. This might be solved in the future by railways, so that marginalization becomes less marginal. Someone can live in Beersheva and work in Tel Aviv or vice versa. Living on the periphery will become less of a problem. The railway system has made the commute from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport only 28 minutes, and Eilat will eventually be connected to the center of the country by trains.”
Liptz, who will present 31 sessions on 26 topics when he visits Orange County, has seen the rise and fall of several charismatic leaders in Israel. Of Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment, he said, “Bibi was in power for 11 years and seemed to be a leader who couldn’t be defeated. When the aura is lost from a charismatic leader, it has a tremendous effect on the person and the country.”
Regardless, Liptiz is optimistic about Israel’s future. He concluded, “Problems can be worked out, especially technological problems. Israelis are very confident of that.

Orange County Community Scholar Program
One-Month Scholar Prof. Paul Liptz January 5-30, 2020

Fulfilling the Dream:
The Fascinating Story of Modern Israel
The program is supported by an Impact Grant from Jewish Federation & Family Services made possible by the Leon Ninburg Estate. It is partially funded by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County, and it is honoring Roz and Elliot Vogelfanger. Topics and sessions include:
Opening Lecture:
Fulfilling the Dream: Living in a Fascinating World
Co-sponsored by the Merage JCC
Date: Sunday Night, January 5, 2020
Time: 7:00 PM reception, presentation starts at 7:30 PM

Location: Merage JCC, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA

Tuesday Brown Bag Lunch Series: Creating A Nation
Dates: January 7, 14, 21 & 28
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Merage JCC, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA

Wednesday Evening Series: Politics and Politicians
Dates: January 8, 15, 22 & 29
Time: 7:15 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: Merage JCC, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA

Thursday Brown Bag Lunch Series: Israel’s Neighbors:
Nationalism and Religion in a Complex Region
Dates: January 9, 16 & 23
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Location: Merage JCC, 1 Federation Way, Irvine, CA

Private Patron/Legacy Event: 53 Years in Israel:
A Personal Story
Date: Saturday Night January 18, 2020
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: private event please contact akatz@occsp.org
Closing Lecture: Looking Back to the Future:
What Must We Do Now?
Date: Thursday Night January 30, 2020
Time: 7:00 PM reception, presentation starts at 7:30 PM
Location: Las Lomas Community Center Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92612

For more information or to register for the programs, contact CSP at (949) 682-4040 or www.occsp.org.

ILENE SCHNEIDER IS a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.

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