As Israel’s cease-fire with Hamas enters its third week, the war is just beginning on college campuses across North America. With classes barely underway, we are learning of isolated incidents reflecting angry reaction to the summer war in Gaza. A Jewish student at Temple University is punched in the face and subjected to anti-Semitic slurs. A professor at Binghamton writes an opinion piece titled “Renounce, Divest and Sanction Israel.” A senior at Brandeis is confronted by a Palestinian flag in the common area of her suite (it was subsequently taken down.)
In 1903 the British offered Zionists a Jewish state — in Uganda. At a time of pogroms and persecution, Uganda could be a needed refuge. After much debate, the offer was rejected. After all, Zionism was not just a political dream but also a spiritual state of mind, a yearning for a return to our indigenous, biblical, spiritual home.
Soon after the second intifada broke out in September 2000, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in Gaza, crouching in fear against a wall with his father, was reportedly killed during gunfire exchange between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. A French news video of the incident was seen around the world, and Israel was accused widely of the killing.
After more than a decade of war overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, with limited results at best, Americans are deeply wary of additional military encounters. The Middle East is a mess. Hamas has attacked Israel, Syria has imploded, Egypt’s attempt at democracy is a failure, ISIS seeks to conquer wide swaths of the region, killing anyone and everyone in their way, and the list goes on.
Leonard (Leibel) Fein, who died Aug. 14 at the age of 80, was a passionate and articulate voice for social justice in American Jewish life for decades. In his prolific writing, his lectures and his organizational creativity, he preached an ancient and contemporary message: “To be a Jew,” he wrote, “is to know that you are bound somehow, to help repair this world.” (See Appreciation on page 12.)