When Israel announced its latest round of settlement construction in East Jerusalem, American Jewish leaders should have expected criticism of the action from the United States government. Such criticism reflects a 40-year U.S. policy stance that remains central to US-Israeli diplomacy, in addition to unprecedented military and material support for the Jewish state.
Feeling can't stop at Israel’s border; it's necessary, if we are to try to assuage the suffering on both sides.
Special To The Jewish Week
As I sat in an office in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago refreshing live updates of the most recent escalation in Gaza, I felt a wave of déjà vu. The last time I had read similar updates this obsessively, they had been more intensely relevant to my own life. When I decided to volunteer in Tel Aviv in 2012 before beginning college I had not expected a war, although I knew it was an ever-present possibility in Israel. And yet there I was: jumping at sirens, running for shelter with my roommates, and waiting for the boom and smoke in the sky which signaled the Iron Dome’s success in meeting a missile mid-air. The Tel Aviv bubble had been broken, and a city I had come to know and love was tinged with fear. Dusty bomb shelters were reopened and people ran for those shelters, or whatever covering they could find, when the air raid sirens wailed. I vividly remember attempting to walk my usual route to work in a defiant attempt at normalcy – it failed, because I spent the entire time scanning every block for potential shelter in case of a siren.
When Israel is under attack, it is natural and necessary that our community should come together. Calls for unity and solidarity have traditionally taken the form of rallies, as they have these past weeks in Jewish community organized gatherings across the United States. We turn to each other and raise our voices in support of our family and friends in Israel who are exposed to random and deadly rocket fire, called up to defend their country.
Our community has seen astonishing shifts around what kind of conversation is “allowed” when we talk about Israel. Last month, over 300 students gathered at the first ever J Street U Student Town Hall to discuss this shifting landscape. We invited Eric Fingerhut, Hillel International’s CEO, to join us. Though he originally committed to attending, he canceled due to scheduling issues.
Students here and across the Jewish world are fighting for an honest conversation about the Green Line, the armistice line that serves as the basis for any talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. If we bury our heads in the sand, we become all the more vulnerable to Israel’s real enemies.
J Street U student leaders across the country have all had “the conversation.” It’s the moment when your Hillel director calls you into her office and tells you like it is: “If I support the work you’re doing around Israel, we could lose a major funder. It’s either you or $50,000 that will benefit all your peers.”
Centrist players now calling for more open, critical approach to teaching about Jewish state.
Two years ago, when the Gaza war began, Moriel Rothman felt caught in the middle.
Then a sophomore at Middlebury College, he was distressed by what he saw as the “disproportionate” number of Palestinians killed.
“The statements coming from Israel advocacy groups weren’t resonating for me,” he recalled. At the same time, the pro-Palestinian rhetoric was “falling flat,” with its claims that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians.