A former Israeli ambassador to the US on Monday slammed as “fake news” claims by Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau that 85 percent of American Jews had never visited Israel.
“Three times as many Jews have visited as Rabbi Lau claims,” Michael Oren told The Times of Israel.
“The most recent comprehensive study of American Jewish life — the 2013 Pew study — shows that 43% of American Jews have visited Israel, and that number is increasing over time.
“Talk about fake news!” Oren continued. “Rabbi Lau’s comments are symptomatic of the condescending and dismissive attitudes that some Israelis have toward American Jews.”
He added, “It’s that kind of lack of understanding of each other that underlies the Western Wall controversy.”
Oren was referring to a cabinet decision late last month to suspend a government-approved plan for a pluralistic prayer pavilion at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, following calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal.
The decision sent shock waves through the world’s non-Orthodox Jewish community, particularly in the US, with community leaders declaring that the decision had hurt Israel-Diaspora relations in an unprecedented way.
Lau — the Ashkenazi chief rabbi — had on Sunday dismissed reports of an Israel-Diaspora schism as “fake news,” claiming that the vast majority of American Jews had never set foot in Israel anyway.
Speaking at a conference organized by the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia, Lau said that the biggest issue facing US Jews was not the Western Wall, but intermarriage and apathy about the Jewish state.
“In the past two weeks we have been exposed to lies, that American Jews are tearing themselves away from Israel,” said Lau. “Eighty-five percent of American Jews have never set foot in Israel.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.