This week the Jewish state underwent a unique annual ritual, blending its most solemn and joyous national holidays. Throughout the country Israelis mourned the loss of more than 25,000 soldiers, on Yom HaZikaron this past Monday — and then celebrated the 66th anniversary of statehood on Yom Ha’Atzmaut the very next day. That rhythm represents a striking reminder of the Jewish tradition of balancing opposite emotions and, sometimes, realities — seemingly a requirement in a society that has achieved remarkable social and economic stability while facing existential threats from its enemies.
Taking stock as the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations deadline passes this week, one can ask whether the two sides are any closer to peace than they were when Secretary of State Kerry launched the energetic initiative last summer. The good news is that despite the endless recriminations and implied threats — like Mahmoud Abbas saying he may dissolve the Palestinian Authority and Benjamin Netanyahu talking of withholding funds for the PA — the Israeli homeland has remained secure, with few acts of terror.
The recent Chag HaSemicha (holiday of ordination) in Washington Heights, with 230 rabbinic graduates of Yeshiva University (classes 2011-14) taking center stage, was a much-needed shot in the arm for an embattled institution, and a reminder of its vitality and importance in the American Jewish community.
The fact that the current Mideast peace talks are over — but for the bickering over who is to blame — is a shame, if not a tragedy. But it is certainly not a surprise. For all of Secretary of State Kerry’s energetic efforts since last summer in trying to revive a comatose situation, the fact remains that while Israel was, and is, prepared to make major compromises for peace, the Palestinian leadership is not.
The annual Celebrate Israel parade, the largest of its kind anywhere, is intended to unify our community under the umbrella of pride in the Jewish state and send that message to Israel and the world. But life is not simple, certainly not Jewish life, and the fissures that create tensions within our community over Israel have come to the surface once again in the weeks leading up to parade, which this year will mark its 50th anniversary and be held in midtown on Sunday, June 1. (See story on page 16.)
The new Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, ended Sam Kellner’s three-year legal ordeal last month, dismissing his criminal case after a six-week investigation concluded that the witnesses against him “lacked credibility to such a degree” that the case could not be prosecuted. Kellner is the whistleblower from a chasidic community who pressed charges against Baruch Lebovits for alleged sexual abuse against Kellner’s young son. That brave act turned into a nightmare when Kellner himself was later charged with perjury and extortion.