On Monday evening, over 225 community members came together to show their solidarity with the people of Israel. The program included: a spirited rally by Jewish teenagers outside the Mittleman Jewish Community Center showing their public support for Israel, a prayer for the State of Israel, and comments from Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. Congresswoman Bonamici proclaimed her support for Israel’s right to defend herself. In addition, she shared her pride in and commitment to the Iron Dome defense system developed jointly by Israel and the United States. We also received statements from many of our area’s elected officials who could not be in attendance sharing their thoughts about the crisis.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Andy David, the new Israel Consul-General for the Pacific Northwest (he has been in his position for four months). Dr. David is actually a former dentist. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin seventeen years ago, Dr. David decided on a dramatic career change to enter the diplomatic corps (at the age of 27 and only three years following graduation from dental school) to serve his country.
Dr. David shared his thoughts on what had transpired during the recent hostilities and went through what he believes are the “five stages of the struggle” from Israel’s point of view (understanding there are others):
1. First, there is the actual fighting (rocket fire, guns, etc.). Certainly not what people want, but it is a reality of the conflict. This, he feels, is less of an issue for Israel due to its strong military and ability to defend herself.
2. The “endurance of the society.” There is trauma from the constant rocket fire, sirens going off, and living in bomb shelters. Over the course of three years, Israel has endured over 3000 rockets (2,200 this year alone) from Gaza. But through a supportive global Jewish community and a strong will, the people of Israel are able to persevere.
3. The “struggle for the legitimacy of leadership.” Dr. David described Israel as the “republic of argumentative people.” The “discussions” among Israelis are not focused on the actions of the government, since history will be the judge of whether the decisions made were right or wrong. Instead, the “conversations” are about moral values and the important role they play in how Israel deals with the situation.
4. The “legitimacy of actions.” Israel’s actions seem to be judged by a different/higher standard – and much of that is based on what Israel expects of herself. Dr. David believes there will always be a gap between what is best for Israel itself and moral/Jewish values on what actions to take.
5. The “struggle for public opinion.” People get tired of hearing about the conflict in the Middle East. It, unfortunately, sounds so routine. Therefore, Dr. David feels news agencies look for the potential sensationalized story to draw in readers and viewers, with less focus on the full set of facts. Just yesterday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, wrote an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post on this very issue.
While we pray for an end to the above “struggles,” we understand that serious and difficult negotiations must take place between all parties. Yesterday the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine to a non-member observer state. This occurred 65 years to the day after United Nations Resolution 181 partitioned Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
The United States and Israel (and other countries) have remained steadfast in their opposition to yesterday’s United Nations decision, saying the move will not advance the cause for Middle East peace. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said American leaders could not support a measure that circumvents direct talks and cautioned that Thursday's decision did "not establish Palestine as a state." Ambassador Rice urged both sides to resume direct negotiations without preconditions so they can work toward a two-state solution that guarantees safe and defensible borders for Israel and a viable Palestinian state.
Next week, Michael Weiner, Chairman of the Board of Federation, and I will be traveling to Israel for a 75-hour solidarity mission with other Federation leaders from around the country. Our program will include site visits to areas impacted by the rocket fire and meetings with individuals and families affected. We will also hear directly from leading government officials about the current situation.
Earlier this week I had the honor of having lunch with Rabbi Joshua Stampfer. Rabbi Stampfer was speaking to his son in Israel and mentioned that I would be traveling there. With the ceasefire in place, Rabbi Stampfer was curious about the need for such a solidarity mission. His son replied, “Now is THE time to visit.” Just because the rockets have stopped does not mean the trauma has ended. We must provide a comforting and supportive shoulder not only when our mishpocha in Israel is in crisis but also during times of quiet.
I will do my best to send correspondence about our experiences next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So please be on the lookout for Marc’s Remarks from Israel throughout the latter part of next week.
Finally, on Tuesday, my wife, Sarah, and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary (amazing how time flies). I am truly blessed to have such a loving, supportive, and beautiful wife and partner!