The land of milk and honey

Republican Jewish Coalition
September 20, 2008, 1:50 pm
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I saw a disturbing ad today on Ha’aretz: “Pat Buchanan supports Barack Obama’s dangerous views on Israel”, it read. It showed an image of Buchanan giving a thumbs up to Obama (obviously in two unrelated photographs). The ad, sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, is one more outrageous and destructive attempt by Republicans to scare Jews into voting for John McCain. Their claims are based on nothing but rumors. No one ever points to a speech or vote by Obama that rings “anti-Israel.” It’s always and solely, “He’s a Muslim.”

Obama has received a 100 percent approval rating from AIPAC. Whether he were Muslim or not doesn’t make a difference.

The Republican Jewish Coalition does not scare me because I know Jews, and Americans in general, won’t be fooled by their baseless statements.

With Tzipi Livni becoming a very likely contender for the office of Israeli Prime Minister, we could be very close to an actual peace agreement with Abbas.

I look forward to new administrations in Israel and America, and the calm I hope they will bring.


The world is finished
September 20, 2008, 1:40 pm
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I was struck by a comment made by a worker at the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad, just moments after the horrific explosion there today: “I don’t understand what it was, but it was like the world is finished,” he said.

I wish we had real answers for this violence–for as many commentators and analysts who claim to know the roots of terrorism, their reasons always ring hollow and vacant to me. The shame the Muslim world feels for falling behind the West technologically and economically has led many to embrace fundamentalist Islam as the way to regain their sense of pride; the lack of educational, employment and economic opportunity in these countries leads to those left out of society to embrace terrorism; The inability of Western-backed governments to meet the socioeconomic needs of its citizens; The Muslim world’s stranglehold on oil; If Israel would only give up on the West Bank and its policies regarding the Palestinians, then there could be peace in the Middle East and Muslim world. The list of “reasons” why terrorism exists is endless.

This list matters little when it just feels like the world is ending.

August 28, 2008, 12:26 pm
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I called the Aliyah Center at the Jewish Federation and made it official. I opened a tik so now the Aliyah Center knows who I am and will have my information on file. The man on the phone asked me many questions. “Where will you live?”

Me: “I’m not sure yet.”

Aliyah man: “What will you do there?”

Me: “I don’t know. Work for a museum; go to school; work for a youth program; live on a kibbutz.”

Aliyah man: “Ehhh. hmm.”

So I guess I have a lot to figure out. A lot of plans and decisions to make. I’m not frightened yet, but I can sense feeling overwhelmed relatively soon. I asked about taking a Hebrew class here before leaving. The Aliyah man said the only option is online ulpan. I find that hard to believe since there are a ton of universities and synagogues here.

I hope I’m happy and in control and just able to speak Hebrew competently.

August 24, 2008, 3:02 pm
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I think I’m going to take the plunge. I’m going to make aliyah. Not now. In a year or two. I love Israel and I’m so comfortable being there. It feels right. I believe in the necessity of a Jewish state and I believe I can contribute to it. I’m not afraid. I believe in the Zionist dream and I love and accept Israel for the mess of a reality it is.  IE Why does the Knesset think freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners will move the peace process forward? Maybe it will boost Abbas in the Palestinians’ eyes, but won’t they only expect him to keep delivering their murderers back to them? These deals make Israel look weak. Israel should look peaceful but strong. That’s the right image.

Making aliyah is not an easy decision. It requires tremendous preparation and bravery. Building a life in a new country means finishing my education, getting a job and apartment and making new friends all in Israel. I won’t be starting completely from scratch, but it’s still an enormous undertaking; especially doing it alone. I’m still optimistic.

For now, I love California. I am excited to start my new job and spend time with my family.

Two paths
July 28, 2008, 8:40 am
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I visited the Kotel the other day with a good friend of mine. I’m working on an Israeli advocacy program for teenagers and she’s working in Nablus with Palestinian youth who live in refugee camps. She helps run enrichment programs in health, art and computers for kids ages 7-17.  She calls her kids “change-makers.” I find much of what she says about Israeli-Palestinian relations and Israeli history troubling and riddled with lies. She’s been brainwashed to believe one narrative. And she would say the same thing about me.

We are both doing what we believe in. She grew up in USY in a liberal Conservative home; I grew up in NFTY in a traditional Reform household.  As a teenager she attended Seeds of Peace camp; I went to Jewish summer camp from the age of 8 to the age of 20. We were both raised on Zionism. We were both taught about the holocaust and told to never forget. We learned classic Zionist arguments and how the holocaust gave the cause a greater sense of urgency.

We both majored in Islamic studies. She studied abroad in Egypt and volunteered in Ramallah; I studied at the University of Haifa after high school and visited Israel whenever possible in college. Today I hope to make aliyah; she hopes to fulfill that dream for Palestinians, to give the Palestinians the right of return to Israel. That is unimaginable to me. She considers living in Egypt or Nablus.

I believe in the security barrier because it has kept thousands of terrorists out of Israel; she views this apartheid fence/wall as a weapon of destruction against Palestinian lands and villages.

I believe in a two-state solution; she believes in a one-state federation for Israelis and Palestinians. We both desire coexistence. Her vision would turn Israel into a Muslim state with terrorists running the government. A uniquely Palestinian state would allow Palestinians to develop an economy, infrastructure, neighborhoods, schools, security. It could also just be another violent Political Islamist state. Until Palestinians are united by something other than their hatred for Israel and Jews, they will never progress, and Israel will never have peace. My friend believes my vision is racist and hateful. I think I’m practical and scared, but occasionally hopeful.

Hand in hand we approached the wall. We became emotional and teared up as we caressed the Jerusalem stone. We are both committed Jews. We are taking two different paths that I know will continue to cross.

Khalid Abu Toameh
July 22, 2008, 12:45 am
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I was impressed by self-described “Arab-Israeli-Muslim-Palestinian” journalist Khalid Abu Toameh’s lecture last night. He came across as honest, well spoken and genuine. It was only tempered by the Hummer he drove to the event. He used to write for a PLO newspaper and for the last seven years he has covered Gaza and the West Bank for the Jerusalem Post. He compared the two experiences. Writing for the PLO meant he couldn’t write what he actually saw and heard, but instead was forced to print the PLO’s lies and canned statements. The Israeli media, he said, is open and free, and he is never told what he can and cannot write.

Toameh said he is not “pro” anything, in answer to a question about whether he is pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. He said he cares only about the truth and the facts. Toameh sounded like an ethical journalist to me. His articles are well written, clear and objective.

While he was pretty pessimistic, saying there is zero chance for peace with either Hamas or Fatah, he restored some of my faith in journalism. With decent reporters like him in the crazy Middle Eastern field, I feel I can believe some of what is written.  

He made an excellent point, strongly criticizing the mainstream, international media for reducing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a David and Goliath story. Feeling sorry for the Palestinians is the tip of the iceberg. Yes, the people deserve our sympathy and to be treated with dignity and respect. But none of their leaders are legitimate or concerned with peace or Israel’s right to exist in safety. Israel has suffered a great deal from this conflict. This country is hardly a Goliath figure. Israel has offered the olive branch time and time again. Once democracy and civility are valued in the Palestinian territories, the violence will end and two states (or three?) can be achieved.

The latest trade
July 22, 2008, 12:18 am
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Israel’s latest trade with Hezbollah for the bodies of kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser has left a bitter taste in my mouth. When Hezbollah kidnapped the soldiers in 2006, a month-long war between Israel and the terrorist group in Southern Lebanon was ignited. Now that their bodies have been returned and buried at home, many say the families of these young men have closure. Judaism places the highest value on human life and saving a life, pikuach nefesh. While the IDF wasn’t able to save Regev and Goldwasser, the Israeli government showed honor and respect by buring them properly. Regev and Goldwasser were brought home to show other soldiers that Israel does not forget about any soldier. Your life is meaningful until the end and should be treated with dignity.

On the other hand, I’ve heard and read some Israelis question the price they just paid for a couple of dead bodies. Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese perpetrator of five despicable murders in Naharia in 1979, was let out of prison and returned to a hero’s welcome in Lebanon. Israel also gave back five Hezbollah terrorists and nearly 200 dead Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists.

For the overall well being and mood of the country, was this trade a wise one? Now Hezbollah is asking Israel to free hundreds of their terrorists in exchange for one of Hezbollah’s remaining chips, kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is believed to still be alive. This trade was neither good nor bad; it was sheer madness. It has nothing to do with ending terrorism or building peace in the region. Totally undeserved, Hezbollah comes out looking like the clear winner. Israel should develop a policy on how to deal with kidnapped soldiers. How much is too much? How much does it value burying its sons and daughters in eretz yisrael?  There are no easy answers. The whole situation is troubling and deeply depressing.