If Only Those Tracks Could Speak

Tracks3A friend of mine is making aliyah. He’s one of those smart, thoughtful, sensitive and deeply committed people whose addition to Israeli society bodes well for all of us who live here. So we took a walk on the relatively new train-tracks-converted-into-apathway a couple of weeks ago, when he was in Jerusalem, to chat about his family’s choice of neighborhoods, schools for his kids, and in essence, the immensity of the move. It was going to be great, I told him – for Israel, and for them.

“I hope so,” he said, but he actually didn’t sound very convinced. So I pushed a bit. After all, he was choosing to come,

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It’s OK to be Depressed (Jerusalem Post)

Depressed3A few weeks ago, Jeremy Ben- Ami of J Street and I debated each other in Atlanta. It was labeled a “conversation,” but it was really a debate. Very civil, more than a bit of humor, rather conversational and all that, but still a debate.

Ben-Ami made his points, I made mine. Mine were very simple: He and I both want the same thing. He wants (I was willing to assume for the sake of the argument) a secure and Jewish State of Israel. So do I. He wants (no question about this one) a Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I would be happy to see such

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Give Peace a Chance?

Peace1In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s main character Von Humboldt Fleisher is the consummate American. He cares about America more than anything else. He also reads voraciously, but the more he reads, the more despondent he becomes – because he’s not seeking that sort of complexity. He wants a simpler universe. “History,” Bellow says of Humboldt the American, “was a nightmare during which he was trying to get a good night’s sleep.”   Fifty years before Bellow’s novel, in 1907, Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote his third and final play, A Strange Land. In it, he ...

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A Tale of Too Many Certainties

certain1Two opposing truths characterize this increasingly dangerous world we inhabit. First, many of us are certain that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no closer to being resolved than it ever has been. And second, much of the world is certain that it is. The test of the Jewish people’s leadership – a test that it seems poised to fail – will hinge on whether it is sufficiently deft and nimble to navigate these competing certainties.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unlikely be resolved, now or at any time in the foreseeable future, because there is no solution possible if the Palestinians do not both recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and give up

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What If Israel Were a Jewish State? (Jerusalem Post)

Atzum4The negotiations with the Palestinians appear hopelessly stuck. No great surprise there, of course.

I happen to agree with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state – which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says is out of the question – matters. It would be the first indication from the Palestinians that Jews are not interlopers in the Middle East, that our national aspirations here are legitimate. If the Palestinians cannot call us a Jewish state, they have no intention of ending the conflict. So why pretend we have a deal when we don’t? And without recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, what moral basis could there

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Universal Jewish Service: An Idea for the New Year

Mormon2I was at a simcha in the States recently – one of those wonderful, lavish but deeply tasteful events, with hundreds of committed Jews, many religious and many not, celebrating in the best of ways. It was so pretty, so joyous, so elegant, that I picked up my phone to take a picture for my kids. As I held up the phone and pointed it, though, it pinged.

Before I could even focus on taking the photo, an alert on the screen blurted: “Israeli soldier killed on northern border by shots fired from Lebanon.”

Stunned, I simply sat down. I was stunned not by the fact that such things happen in Israel, because

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Zionism, Between the Real and the Ideal

shavit3It’s in that painful gap between the real and the ideal that life is truly lived. In our marriages, in our relationships with our children and our parents, the chasm between being the people we are and the people we would like to be plays host to life’s most painful – but also most productive – moments. It is when great expectation confronts disappointment, when love is hamstrung by betrayal and yearning, that we learn that real commitment is tested in the crucible of heartache, in the desperate wish that things had been different, or still could be.
Zionism is actually no different. For those of us raised on stories of

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Ever-Dying or Never-Dying

SR1The 20th-century Jewish thinker and writer Simon Rawidowicz (1897- 1957) is perhaps best known not for his major academic works, but for a rather playful article that he penned titled “Israel – The Ever-Dying People.” Rawidowicz’s point was simple: virtually every generation of Jews has feared that it was the last. As early as the Mishna and as late as early-modern Europe, he found numerous examples of Jews who were convinced that, as Chicken Little put it, “the sky was falling.”

In the Mishna, Rawidowicz noted, the Tractate Sota concluded: “When Rabbi Joshua died, goodness departed from the world. When Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai died, the splendor of wisdom left the world.” And

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We Didn’t Listen

YKH1This is the sort of region that periodically forces us to ask ourselves probing questions about our condition and how things got to be the way that they did. Did we intend to get where we are? In what direction would we now head if we were wise? Is change necessary? Is it still possible?

It is those sorts of questions that lie at the heart of Yossi Klein Halevi’s new book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who United Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. Klein Halevi, long among Israel’s most thoughtful, penetrating, honest and compassionate writers, has now written his magnum opus. Many books in one, Like Dreamers is, on the surface,

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For the sins we have committed

sins1For the sin we have committed by imagining that Jewish life as we know it could survive without a Jewish state, and for the sin we have committed by being certain that it could not.

For the sin we have committed in believing that every problem has a solution, and for the sin we have committed in failing to try harder to find solutions no matter how elusive.

For the sin we have committed in not loving the Jewish state with sufficient passion, and for the sin we have committed in not being sufficiently ashamed of its shortcomings.

For the sin we have committed in electing consecutive leaders who fail to communicate even a

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