J Street Israel CEO visits St. Louis with update on what’s ‘happening on the ground’ in Israel


Nadav Tamir. Photo by Bill Motchan.

Bill Motchan, Special To The Jewish Light

Nadav Tamir, the executive director of J Street Israel, visited St. Louis on June 13 to speak on the topic of “Israel at a Crossroads.” Tamir was previously Israeli consulate general to New England and advisor to the late Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Before his presentation, Tamir sat down with the Jewish Light to offer his perspective on the political climate in Israel.

What brings you to St. Louis?

I’m based in Israel and a few times a year they bring me here to tell people what’s happening on the ground and to get people to support J Street. We’re trying to have presence all over the United States. I started this tour in Houston, then I was in Atlanta, Maryland and Boston. Tomorrow I’m going to Chicago. I’m also going to Philadelphia and in Denver.

What kind of responses have you received from the audiences you’ve met with?

Many people were very affected by the way J Street has been attacked as an anti-Israeli organization. And now they’ve come to realize that we are the answer when they see this awful government that we have, and they see the people protesting in the streets and they understand. I find much more openness also in people that for years were supporting the more mainstream Jewish organizations because they thought they had no right to criticize. Now they understand it’s not only their right, it’s their duty, and it’s the way for them to do tikkun olam as Americans.

Do you believe most Israelis are committed to a democratic state?

We know from surveys and polls that the majority of Israelis are liberal. When you ask them about their positions on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, when you ask them about their positions on the separation between state and religion, about gay rights, about so many things, they are liberal. But for many years this liberal majority was asleep, not active politically. They were waiting for the next startup and enjoying the great culinary scene of Tel Aviv and ignoring politics and in denial. And now they’re out on the streets. 

What can Jews in America do to stay informed about the political events in Israel?

I think that the reason why I’m in J Street after being an Israeli diplomat and an advisor to the president. For too long, Jews in America were told that the only way to support Israel is to agree with the Israeli government. And sometimes it makes sense to agree with them. But sometimes no, just like the U.S. And if we want to keep American Jews connected in Israel and find a way to balance between their love for Israel and their Zionism with their liberal values, we have to create a space where they can do that.

Is it accurate to say that the protests are unprecedented in the history of the state of Israel?

Absolutely. And it’s their constitutional right. It’s a free state and I think that Americans by and large support Israel. And the goal of J Street is to keep Israel a homeland for the Jewish people, we need an active foreign policy by the American administration. And this is exactly what J Street is trying to do.