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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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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A Requiem for Peoplehood?

Nov. 26, 2009

DANIEL GORDIS , THE JERUSALEM POST

‘It never even occurred to me that the Jews were a people.” I had just finished speaking on Shabbat morning at a traditional shul on Long Island. The talk had been about the nation-state and its roots in the Book of Genesis. Along the way, I’d made some comments about the changing nature of American Jewish life today, and the much-reduced role that peoplehood now plays in American Jews’ sense of self.TheSecret

After services, someone told me that members of the liberal synagogue across the street had come to hear the talk. Ouch. I’d been rather direct about the

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A Strategically Senseless Swap (A New York Times Column)

Room for Debate - A New York Times Blog

From a strategic perspective, freeing Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians makes no sense. The hundreds of prisoners now in Israeli prison were captured in dangerous operations, many of them at a cost of other Israeli casualties.

Despite security considerations, it’s almost unimaginable that Israel would turn down a deal for Shalit.

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What Obama Said, What the Mideast Heard

nytlogo153x23While President Obama’s speech was addressed to the Arab world, it had been nervously anticipated in Israel, as well. In its aftermath, some Israelis are quibbling with word choices or wondering whether he is naïve in believing that Hamas might renounce terror or that Iranians can be entrusted with civilian nuclear capacity. Others are assailing his comments about settlements.

obamacairoBut the real news is that contrary to what many expected, or feared, President Obama assumed positions virtually identical to those of Israel’s political center — namely, that the Palestinians must renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, while Israel must cease settlement building and

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The House on Graetz Street

This may be the week to pick up a correspondence I inadvertently dropped.  It all started with a note from a friend who lives on Graetz street.  “This is probably up your alley,” he wrote.  “If you want to answer him, you can.”

Attached was a note from Munir K., who had written to my friend asking for information about his erstwhile home on Graetz.  Dr. K., now a physician in the States, had lived on Graetz Street in the 1930’s and 40’s, and was wondering what had happened to his house. (For the record, Dr. K. gave me explicit, written permission to use both his letter and his name any way I wished.  I’ve used only

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