Message from ICCI about Gaza

I’ve been getting lots of emails from both the right and left about how to handle the Gaza situation. I thought I would share with you Rabbi Ron Kronish’s letter from the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel’s monthly newsletter. I highlight this organization because it’s one that you may not know about, I used to work there, and it is working here on the ground in Israel on interfaith dialogue–a difficult task to accomplish in a climate of war. I always enjoy catching up with the work of this organization and hearing Ron’s eloquent words.

Dear friends,

I write this monthly message to you in the midst of the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.  This is a very delicate and dangerous time in Israel and the region.

On the one hand, the state of Israel needs to protect its citizens, as any other state would have the responsibility to do the same. When Hamas sends rockets and missiles to Israeli communities all over the southern part of the country, with almost one million Israeli citizens in danger, the leaders of the state cannot refrain forever from some defensive action.

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More Thoughts on Gaza

The ground offensive in Gaza commenced this past weekend.

I feel pretty torn. Sometimes I feel supportive, and sometimes I am reserved and concerned about the operation.

At this moment in time I am worried about the long-term effects of the incursion. The humanitarian problems plaguing Gaza are disturbing to me. And the inevitable civilian casualty loss is rising.

Moreover, I am worried these attacks will only weaken any peace process (if there were even a chance of having one before this started). I don’t think the attacks will ‘teach Hamas a lesson’ or obliterate this terror organization. If nothing else, they will use the attacks to justify more attacks against Israelis. Palestinians in general will use the attacks to justify resistance–as opposed to nonviolent protests. I fear, moreover, that the more Israel attacks Hamas, the more sympathy they will get from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank–which is a problem for Fatah. Its as if Hamas wanted these attacks to take place so they could justify continued armed struggle and strengthen their political base. Israeli actions will only entrench Palestinian tendency toward self-destructive ideology and actions. Cycle of violence anyone?

But what are the alternatives? If we live and let live would Hamas continue arming itself with rockets that reached farther and farther distances? I am all for opening the passages, but I fear Hamas will only take advantage of any literal and figurative openings that Israel offers to smuggle in more weapons and strengthen their base. We’re not fighting the Palestinian civilians. We’re fighting a terror organization that wants to destroy the state of Israel and doesn’t care how much violence it takes to achieve its goal. Perhaps that is just simplistic and painting things in black and white–feel free to offer more nuanced ideas.

So as far as I can see Israelis find themselves in the unenviable position of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t.’ I don’t see any endgame in sight.

I’m Growing a Sabra

Hullo readers,

I’ve been holding back some very crucial, personal information for the last four months. Well first it was because I wanted to wait until I had passed the ‘danger zone.’ Then it was because I just didn’t feel ready to publicize it to the world and everytime I did end up writing a blog entry, I found myself writing about something else that wasn’t as important like my statistics class. Perhaps I was just trying to find the right moment to announce the news.

Anyway, enough of the hinting. I’m pregnant!

And yes, as the title hints, it will be the first Sabra in our immediate family, which is amusing and slightly intimidating because it means I am flinging my children into the throes of Israeli culture for better or worse. I don’t know how they will turn out, but with some good parenting, we’ll be able to steer them in the right direction so they can have the best of both worlds. They will probably make fun of our Hebrew when they get old enough, but if that’s the price of bilingualism, I am okay with that. Continue reading

Gaza Strike

I went online after Shabbat this evening to find that Israel went ahead with an airstrike on Gaza. I have mixed feelings about the whole situation. On the one hand, these types of military escalations can backfire and just make the Palestinians angrier. Do they really end up helping things in the long run, I wonder. Also civilian casualties, even when minimized, do result in these operations. The opposition uses these attacks as yet another propaganda weapon to show the oppressiveness and unjustness of the Occupation regime.

On the other hand, Israel has a right to protect its civilians who have been subjected to a continuing barrage of rocket fire. Some–particularly the right-wing–have been critical for its slow response to the Qassams as opposed to its aggressiveness towards the Palestinians. Also I can’t deny that I have misgivings about Hamas’ trustworthiness given its ideological bent and seeming efforts to take advantage of any openings on the Israeli side to inflict pain.

Surely the Gaza blockade and the military strikes create suffering for the Palestinians, but what are the options in terms of preventing the other side from augmenting its instruments of terror? If you allow everything to go into Gaza and if you don’t have incursions, how do you prevent weapons from being smuggled in. How do you know that the other side is just building up its resources until it can launch an even bigger attack?

And yet, how do you protect civilians without sabotaging efforts to create a lasting peace? Is it possible to reach a compromise or will each side find just one more thing, one more justification for continuing its actions? Will each side demand just one more thing in order to gain the upper hand?

If anyone happens to stumble upon this blog, I welcome comments. But please no rants. I am actually looking for observant, insightful and thoughtful comments which actually have evidence to back them up. Otherwise I just won’t post them.

Fury over Madoff

I cannot tell you how angry I am at Madoff. In my book what he did is one of the most despicable acts that any human being could do. To basically raid philanthropic organizations for his own personal gain, rob the poor to feed himself, to make a mockery of Jewish morality and values–there is not enough that can be said to condemn this man. The fact that he was a Jew and betrayed his own people, and that he used his personal connections to deceive everybody adds more bitterness to the episode.

Many organizations I know were affected by the scandal including the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Yad Sarah. Several of them have to close doors because of what this man did. As if it wasn’t enough that these organizations were metaphorically robbed by an economic crisis that was also spurred by greed and short-term, self-interest.

The best thing the Jewish community can do now is to come together and stand for everything that this low life scorned. To give and give again to those in need and to uphold the values that make us better Jews and better people–which is what my rabbi from D.C. suggests in a sermon he is giving this Shabbat about the Madoff crisis.

I think that both the economic crisis and the Madoff case should be a wake up call to our community to see how our values have been corrupted, and how we have sacrificed ethics for success at all costs. The Gilded Age is over. It’s time to refocus our priorities.

Still, I wish there was a way for Madoff to be punished severely for what he did. What do I see as the best punishment for him? Getting him to pay back every single cent that he stole from us. With interest.

Americans Don’t Know Crap about Israelis and other observations

Eric alerted me to two articles this past week that complement last week’s Jerusalem Post article about the UJC GA in Israel.

The first one is actually a response from a piqued Israeli reporter, Anshel Pfeffer’s pointing out that Americans don’t know much about Israelis.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1041903.html

The second one is a thoughtful analysis by Michael Oren that explores the gap between American and Israeli Jews.

http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=472

I think there was something else in the Jpost recently as well, although it slipped through my fingers Continue reading

Graduate School

Ever since graduate school started my free time has shrunk considerably. Even when I do have free time, I’m either reading my coursework, doing errands, panicking about my courses or resting my brain.My brain is very, very tired. Especially after sitting through several lectures a day–in Hebrew.

Did you ever have nightmares about school? Like those nightmares about suddenly finding out that you were in a certain class and that the final just happened to be in another week and you hadn’t done any of the reading for it? That’s the feeling that I get when I’m in school sometimes. Especially when I’m sitting in a lecture where the professor’s Hebrew is especially hard to follow. The feeling of not knowing what is going on and of feeling left out is an anxiety inducing sensation. It stinks. Continue reading