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Yossi Klein Lalevi - July 15, 2014

07/16/2014 05:33:23 PM


I have had a full day in Jerusalem. I have visited Mevakshei Derech the Reconstructionist synagogue of Jerusalem founded in 1962. I studied at the Hartman Institute with Yossi Klein Halivni. Studied with MK Ruth Calderon a Bnai Keshet friend in the Knesset Bet Midrash. I heard from Rabbi Andy Sacks about work he is doing here with the Mesorti - Israeli Conservative movement and Rabbi Joel Osseran of the World Union of Progressive Judaism of which the Reconstructionist Movement is a member. I have also been participating in the fast for the 17th of Tammuz along with many other Jews and Muslims who called for this as an effort towards peace. We ended the day and with an interfaith break fast just outside the Old City and an amazing night of singing.
Not being able to focus on all of this I want to share a few insights from the time we spent with Yossi Klein Halevi. He is a journalist and a self-described Centerist. I will not do justice to his talk but encourage you to read his book, Like Dreamers.
I'll share a few of the thoughts that most stuck with me:
Yossi Klein Halevi believes that while we must eventually end the occupation, not for peace, but for Israel's own good. However, he believes there is no chance that this will happen in the next couple of years. What should Israel do for next few years with no possibility of an agreement?
First, he says, don't make things worse. There should be no more development of settlements. This is not because it will make peace possible, but because Israel shouldn't make it any more difficult to withdraw in future.
Second, Israel must not make things worse with the 20% of Arab population in Israel. He said that Israel is failing and institutionalizing discrimination. But it should go without saying that a commitment to basic human decency can happen here. He pointed out that this is something Israel can do now. That it doesn't require Hammas or a peace partner. He said we must begin to ask what does it mean to be a legitimate Arab/Palestinian Israeli?
Regarding Americans, he believed we should be welcomed to participate in this conversation. Zionism is the ideology of the Jewish people not only of Israel and Israel has several responsibilities to Jewish people. However, too many of (mostly Orthodox) live in a world before the fist Intifada that does not recognize the occupation and assumes that Israel need only be resolute. Many of the rest of us live in a world that does not recognize the damage of the second Intifada and imagine that finding a path to peace is simply a matter of will on the part of the Israelis.
Israel must be responsible to other Jews first to actively support all forms of Judaism, not just Orthodox Judaism and second to support the engagement of all Jews in the dialogue about Israel.
He said that part of what Americans no longer understand is that now 70% of Israelis are in the center. This center believes that the creation of a Palestinian state is an existential need, but that the same 70% see it also as an existential threat. He taught that still many are caught in two fundamental commandments that drive the left and the right.
"Remember you weren't strangers in the land of Egypt - Don't do to others what was done to you." And the other is "Remember Amalek!" and that there are real genocidal threats. He says that too many of us see Israel and Judaism only through one of these commandments.I find myself wondering what other commandments might be more relevant to the current realities of Israel?
Regarding how to  make American Jews more effective in discussions about Israel and at influencing Israelis, he argued that focusing on settlements is important because it allows for peace in the future. He asked that we make certain to communicate an understanding of the trauma that Israelis experience. He also said that Israel has a responsibility to not make other Jews ashamed.
I was very interested in these obligations that he demanded of Israel. It made me begin to wonder what  might be the obligations of American Jews to Israel? What does it mean for our actions to not make other Jews ashamed.
More to come. Tomorrow we visit Yesha, the representatives of the settler movement in Gush Etzion. I will also go on hike with some of your children on the Camp JRF trip to Israel.
Tue, June 2 2020 10 Sivan 5780