Ari Shavit, a senior editorial correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, visited the University of Massachusetts on Wednesday evening to discuss the movements that have shaped Israel and consider Israel’s survival today and in the future.
Shavit was born in Israel, served as a paratrooper in the IDF and studied philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jersualem. He began his career as a journalist in the 1980s. In 2013 he published a book titled, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” which became a New York Times bestseller.
UMass Hillel set up the “accidental ambassador for a different Israel,” as Shavit described himself, to speak to a room in the Integrative Learning Center predominately filled with Jewish adults and students.
“I make a point of making everybody angry, not just right, but people on the left” Shavit said before he began his speech, setting up the room for his ideas that he classified as universal.
Shavit spoke about how many talks on Israel become “so polarized, so aggressive and so uncivilized” and that he strived “to facilitate a somewhat better conversation about Israel than what you’re used to.” His focus was on honest and fearless conversation.
Shavit claimed “I’m no pessimist,” but he warned that if no changes in action were made, in 10 years the hope for a peaceful two-state solution will be lost and “Israel will be tyrannical.”
The necessary change he outlined was threefold. According to Shavit, Israel needs a new concept of peace, a more unified national identity, and a stronger relationship between Israeli Jews and Jews of the diaspora.
His last point was the most stressed and the reason for his tour to American universities. He said he sees the difference in the orthodox and reform, the Israeli and the diaspora, and the young and the old as incredible and dangerous.
“I’ve become obsessed with millennials,” he admitted, and recognized the large gap in thought between the older generation of Jews and the younger. He said the weight of the future of Israel rests on the young generation.
Shavit ended on a positive note, describing Israel as full of “warmth, sensuality, and invigorating culture.” He called for the flowing of Israel’s positivity into the broken political system and left the audience with hope.
Lily Abrahams can be reached at [email protected].