by Daniel Belasco
Special To The Jewish Week
Vacationing in Israel two years ago, my family went on a two-day tour of Jordan, our first venture to an Arab nation. Our guide hustled us from site to site, but I had a moment of solitary reflection while on the Citadel in Amman, overlooking the white expanse of the stone city clinging to the hills below, so reminiscent of Jerusalem. The noises of the city were muffled by the arid air and summer heat. For the first time, the seal in my mind between Israel and the rest of the Middle East was punctured, and a question seeped through: What is this world beyond? But the moment was fleeting.
As the last of the Israeli troops in southern Lebanon hurriedly completed their withdrawal Tuesday night — just 48 hours after they began — Baruch Peretz and his four young daughters slept in their bomb shelter in Kiryat Shemona while their mother in Manhattan worried whether they were right to move to the northern Israeli town four months ago.
“I have horrible thoughts,” said Tami Peretz. “Is it correct to raise kids there? Just 10 minutes away from Kiryat Shemona kids are not suffering.”
Modern changes suddenly are afoot at Jerusalem’s ancient Western Wall. Two developments this week signal greater access for Jews who seek to pray in their own way at the 2,000-year-old surviving outer retaining wall of the Second Temple, Judaism’s holiest site.
In a landmark decision, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled Monday that women can hold group prayer services at the Wall, wear prayer shawls, read aloud from the Torah — and must be provided police protection.
As Ehud Barak flies to the U.S. this weekend for meetings with President Clinton and American Jewish leaders, the Israeli prime minister leaves behind a tumultuous series of events that underscore the surreal quality of the peace process.
As Israelis honored their war dead Tuesday and celebrated their independence the next day, the bitter divisions that have pitted Israelis against Arabs, and Israelis against each other, continued to surface.
With increasing attention being paid to the anti-Israel nastiness of Palestinian textbooks, and amid demands that the curriculum be overhauled, consider the following comments about Israel from a prominent academic: “the garbage heap of Europe,” a “site of experiments … in ethnic cleansing,” and “a regime that produces and distributes evil systematically.”