The Jews of Austria and Israel
"Israel is the center, the sun, while the Diaspora is the periphery, circling around the sun. Now the Jewish people is no longer split and inhibited, it has gained its "general awareness" – Israel is the rebirth of the Jewish people".
"Die Gemeinde", the official organ of the Jewish Community, 1948
For some Austrian Jewish officials, Israel was sheer paradise, a state committed to the highest ideals of mankind; others took it as some kind of compensation of fate for the catastrophe of the Holocaust, or secular Jews would find a new kind of religion in it.
This unanimous enthusiasm faded in the 1950s, when the uneven relationship between Israel and the Diaspora communities led to many conflicts. Most Jews living in Vienna would acknowledge the existence of the State of Israel, but could not warm themselves for Zionism and did not wish to be represented by Israel. The existence of a Jewish state confronted Austrian Jews and Jewish organizations with the problem of "dual loyalty" and they would typically play the Austrian anthem and the "Hatikvah" and put the Israeli flag next to the Austrian one at official occasions. Austrian Jews who wanted to be defined as Austrians even after the Holocaust faced the problem of acknowledging Israel as a legitimate Jewish state without having their Austrian loyalty put into question.
Zionists living in the Diaspora experienced a kind of identity crisis after the founding of the State of Israel. Although the existence of an independent Jewish state strengthened the self-confidence of Jews not living there and provided a haven in times of need, it also made many of them feel guilty for not living there. Zionist organizations are associated with particular Israeli political parties and not with the state per se, thus Israeli politics has a direct influence and leads to tensions within the heterogeneous IKG. Viennese Zionists were disappointed when Hungarian refugees fleeing via Austria to the West after the failed revolution in 1956, preferred the USA or Canada to Israel. The question whether Soviet Jews have the right to settle outside Israel has led to conflicts between ardent Zionists and others who hoped that the integration of Soviet Jews would provide the much needed rejuvenation of the elderly Austrian Jewish communities.
Things changed dramatically in 1967: the "Six-Day-War" had a profound influence on Jews living in the Diaspora. "Die Gemeinde", representing the opinion of the IKG, wrote:
"Resentments of earlier years were forgotten, forgotten were personal conflicts. People who had not talked to each other for years, they all worked together in the solidarity committee to support the case of Israel."
The Bund, the party dominating the IKG in 1967, had been accused by Israel in the 1950s of not donating more money to the State of Israel, but now it mortgaged its real estate and took loans in order to be able to support Israel financially. The IKG stressed, however, the necessity of Jewish communities in the Diaspora:
"It turns out that a well-led community is necessary for the State of Israel as well. The Jewish People in the Diaspora are the only allies of Israel on which it may trust fully."
Only in 1982 did the attitude towards Israel turn more critical again when Israel's actions in the Lebanon War were questioned. When uttering criticism of Israel, Austrian Jews were often concerned about triggering anti-Semitism. Similarly, today members of the community express their discontent when they feel that officials of the IKG support and defend controversial Israeli politics they do not agree with.