Friday, September 16, 2011

All Things Israel

Welcome back!  After our customary summer hiatus, I'm pleased to be back online with the first posting of the new school year.  As always: I welcome your feedback - especially publicly!  What do we have to do to start getting you to be comfortable posting your feedback online for the world to see (and respond to)?  It is amazing when I get your private emails with your incredible thoughts, questions, and responses.  But this is a blog...It is begging for your public participation!  If you have any questions about how to post your thoughts online, email or call me and I'd be happy to walk you through it.

In the meantime, the news is abuzz with items related to Israel.  If you have been tuning Israel news out during the summer, then you missed the unbelievable expressions of democracy that have been sprouting up all over the place!  Some of the rallies featured more than 450,000 Israelis, peacefully gathering and demonstrating for social justice and economic reforms. Check out video of the protests here.

There are two other Israel-related things things that should be on your radar screen right now.  The first has to do with the fact that the Palestinians (who do not have an officially recognized state of their own) have decided that, instead of pursuing bilateral peace negotiations with Israel, that they will instead be approaching the United Nations in the next few days for official status recognition.  Today's New York Times coverage of the story can be found here.  Nearly every Jewish organization has positioned itself as opposing the Palestinian action, including our own Reform movement.  Learn about the Reform position and sign ARZA's (the Israel advocacy arm of Reform Judaism's) petition here.  For those like myself who sometimes situate ourselves on the left-leaning side of the Israel political spectrum, it is important to note that even J Street has declared itself as opposing the Palestinians' UN maneuvering.  In the spirit of dialogue, you might be interested in reading the article here for an impassioned argument in favoring of utilizing the UN to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (though I respectfully disagree with it).

Beyond all things UN-related, there has been a parallel conversation unfolding online about the current younger generation of American Jews, and their connection to/attitudes toward Israel.  Some months ago, Rabbi Daniel Gordis (a widely-read commentator on all things Israel - you should subscribe to his email list even if you don't agree with him!) wrote a provocative version of it was published in Commentary Magazine.  It's a long piece, but well worth reading.  Basically, he makes a number of observations surrounding the fact that younger Jews today care less about Israel/are less connected.  Nothing about his piece is surprising...there have been plenty of demographic/population studies that have been telling us this for quite some time.  But Gordis is a talented writer.  And the way that he addressed the situation got a lot of attention, and raised a number of thought provoking questions/responses.  Some of them were just published in Commentary's September issue.  These are also well worth reading.

I share all of this material by way of turning to all of you...and in particular our college students on this welcome you to the conversation.  Your opinion on Israel matters!  (And for our purposes in this setting, all views and perspectives are welcome, so long as they conveyed in an appropriate and respectful tone.)  I would love to hear from you: what do you think about what is going on in Israel right now?  How do you feel about the Palestinians, and what is the best/most reasonable way for Israel to deal justly with them, and protect itself in the process?  And how do you relate to Israel?  What role (if any) does the Land or her people play in your life? 

What I would beg you to avoid is apathy....for it would literally break my heart if you felt so little connection to Israel, that you weren't even motivated to have an opinion about it.  That would be a great tragedy for the Jewish world, and for you as well.  (If you don't have an opinion about Israel - let today be the beginning of a change in that department!)

These are exciting and important and controversial times that we are living in.  I hope this forum can be a place where you will feel comfortable coming to learn, to ask, and to share your thoughts on how you can contribute to the great (Jewish) debates of our day.

Shabbat Shalom.

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