Someone asked what I think about Gaza and the US Embassy move to Jerusalem

I am far from a political analyst or expert on such matters.  But if you are looking for the Reform-rabbi-on-the street thought about the major events in Israel yesterday, here it is:

I am appalled by the unnatural loss of life in any corner of the world.  I am saddened that Israel has to exist in a state of war from the day of its establishment until today, 70 years later.  From what I understand in following the media and speaking with liberal, humanitarian people who  understand this situation much better than I, there is violence on the Palestinian side of the border between Gaza and Israel.  There are “fire kites” being sent over.  There is a multitude pressing to burst through the border and enter Israel.  The acts of the soldiers of the IDF are defense.  It doesn’t make the loss of life less sad.  Hamas, the ruling party of Gaza, is not a potential negotiating partner for peace.  Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel.  The IDF is defending a border with an enemy. I feel very sad for the suffering people in Gaza.  And I would urge the person-on-the-street to work to choose another way to assert their cry for freedom.

The opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem – I believe this is not very significant in terms of the current prospects for peace with the Palestinians. I believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  I don’t agree that my children are registered on their American birth certificate as being born in Jerusalem without the signifier “Israel” following it.  I believe that the nations of the world ought to have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1948.  I hope they will follow and move their embassies to Jerusalem. Perhaps this can also help to encourage a more moderate atmosphere which Jerusalem so desperately needs – Jerusalem needs not to be a city of religious extremism or any other extremism.  Diplomatic presence might help.  Don’t worry guys, the beach is only an hour drive away.

Regarding the religious overtones of the ceremony:  I’m not sure how this is different from other major ceremonies in the US which also have Christian pastors. As much as people boast the US has “separation of church and state”, we all know that isn’t the total reality – the Judeo-Christian ethos, etc.  I actually thought that the religious leaders spoke well.  Every single one, as well as the political leaders, quoted  Psalm 122 “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.  For the sake of my family and friends I will say Peace be within you.”

The current Israeli government has not, as far as can be seen from my place, made any serious overtures to advance a peace process with the Palestinian Authority.  Negotiations are done between governing parties.   Maybe the US can be a broker of a peace agreement, maybe not. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the Israeli government and the Palestinian government to make an agreement.  The current Israeli government ideologically believes that Judea and Samaria ought to be part of the State of Israel and are not willing to give it up – or have not found an incentive great enough to be willing to give up things and make peace.

From a practical person-on-the-street view, whether there is a Palestinian country next to Israel or not, Jews and Palestinians are still going to be neighbors and live in close proximity to one another.  I want there to be a State of Israel – I want to tell my Palestinian neighbors that we don’t have plans to go away.  And I want Israelis and my government to recognize that there is a people that lived here when our ancestors came.  Their presence was and continues to be a challenge to the existence of  Jewish state, but that doesn’t make their lives worthless or their humanity worth less than ours. I have always said that we have the right to a State here only if we live by the utmost of human and Jewish values and we have a clear obligation outlined in our tradition – much clearer than many other obligations – to treat the resident/stranger/non-Jew in the land with equal rights and to care for him/her just as our brother.  If we treat the Palestinians as sub-human, we are not deserving of sovereignty.

Israelis have a nickname when they want to speak about Arabs.  They call them “b’nai dodim” – the cousins.   This phrase, which perhaps on the face of things has a derogatory connotation, is actually the recognition that we are family. We are all the children of Abraham.

When I lead a prayer service at the Western Wall, we finish the Amidah prayer (the prayer of supplication) with  the prayer for peace.  A Jew always concludes his/her prayerful requests with the request for peace.  At this time, I speak about Jerusalem.  Yerushalayim. The name has in it the root of the word shalom, peace. Also, the beginning sounds like the word yerusha, inheritance/legacy.   I believe that Jerusalem is meant to be an inheritance of peace.  Why is the Dome of the Rock, holy to Muslims, found on the same site as where stood the Holy Temple, holy to Jews?  And very close by is the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, holy to Christians?  Perhaps because we were given a mission to make peace.  It is a most difficult mission.  But if we can make peace here, there is hope for peace everywhere.

We are all a part of that peace.  We as Jews need to work to increase the peace among ourselves and our multiple approaches and understandings of our heritage and our mission.  We as people of different faiths need to work to increase the peace among ourselves and remember that we are all part of one family of humanity.  Every single person needs to be a part of it, wherever he or she is. It is not easy, but we must work.  Or as is written in the tractate Avot of the MIshna, “You are not obligated to finish the work, nor are you free to abstain from it.”

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One Response to “Someone asked what I think about Gaza and the US Embassy move to Jerusalem”

  1. Peter Rothholz Says:

    Kol hakavod,Stacy! Such wisdom from one so young.

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