Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian’

Has there ever been a more contentious time in Jerusalem than now? Or is that a joke? It has always been the most contentious time in Jerusalem: invaders, occupants, takeovers, fences, walls, barbed wire, combat, fire, and more are in the earthly history of Jerusalem.

Yet now, while we hope and pray there is never again a shooting war in Jerusalem, is a particularly contentious time where the future of Jerusalem as an earthly and spiritual city, as well as the capital(s?) of state(s?) is under heated discussion. It seems that every apartment built, every synagogue reopened, every road/street repair causes someone to get agitated, from the President of the United States to the lowliest local resident. I do not mean to equate all of these concerns; some are clearly more serious on a global, political, and spiritual basis than others. But it does make for lively discussion when the city’s Mayor is snubbed by the White House and the Interior Minister is invited.

Herein, then, in advance of this year’s Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day – May 12, 2010)  are several articles and essays by Hartman Institute scholars on this city of many faiths, many constituents, and residents:

One Mount, Two Religions, Three Proposals

A set of surprising suggestions and recommendations for how to address perhaps the most argued over spot on Earth: the Temple Mount/Har Habayit/Haram Ash-Sharif/Mount Moriah/Noble Sanctuary from Hartman Institute’s Menachem Fisch, Israel Knohl, and Elhanan Reiner.

Professor Israel Knohl relates to the partial fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s vision; Professor Elhanan Reiner explains the idea behind aliyah le’regel; and Professor Menachem Fisch explains that the holiness of place is not connected to ownership.

Donniel Hartman: Divide Jerusalem to unite it

Jerusalem must be a divided city – divided among all aspects and ideologies of Israeli society, for only as a divided city can it be united as the capital of all Israelis. Jerusalem must be a safe city – safe for all expressions of Jewishness.

Jerusalem will achieve this only when we recognize that the city is no one’s unless it is all of ours, and when there is a new spirit in which we all actively pursue public policies that give room and respect for us all, not only our personal agendas.

Donniel Hartman: This summer in Jerusalem – heat and holiness

Jerusalem is not just the place where we convene; it is the place that enables the convention. It is in this capacity that I experienced the holiness of Jerusalem, a holiness which fosters respect, loyalty, and mutual consideration. May this be the Jerusalem we all get to experience, for this is when Jerusalem is truly a city of gold.

Rani Yaeger: Heavenly Jerusalem, Earthly Jerusalem

Forty one years after the reunification of the city’s east and west, it is time to unify heavenly Jerusalem and earthly Jerusalem. We must temper our veneration with criticism, and our criticism with veneration, neither glorifying the city so much we cannot see her flaws, nor deploring her so much we have no desire to correct them. Only once we stop loving Jerusalem from afar, once we eradicate the barriers of idealized images and disappointed dreams, will the 2,000-year exile from the city really come to an end. Only then will Jerusalem become our home.

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President Obama’s speech in Cairo occurred more than a week ago, and Donniel Hartman’s commentary on the speech (“Are Jews Ready for Obama?“) also has been online for more than a week, but the debate – about the speech, and about Donniel’s commentary has yet to die down.

Several dozen comments have been published (and a few better left unpublished) taking all sides in the matter – from fervent support, to wishful commentary, to outright opposition. For example, one critic of Donniel’s wrote:

Donniel Hartman has posed a serious question. However, the answer in his article leads into the wrong direction. To begin with, the headline of the article should be phrased differently. It ought to be ” Is Israel ready for Obama?” – which is not the same.

However, many correspondents praised Donniel’s call for a new vision:

Great article. If embattled Israel can extend the hand of peace perhaps there is hope for all humanity!!! No it won`t be easy and there will be setbacks but it is our duty to keep working…

And then there was this one:

As a Jew and as an American I am ready for Barack Obama to lead not only our nation but the world in achieving peace. We need to look at ourselves not as separate entities but as a global community. I for one love life. It is disturbing to read some of the blog entries which continue to breed hate and disdain for one another.

Go the article, scroll down to the bottom – or, better yet, read it again – and then find all the comments. And add your own!

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UPDATE: Yes, Donniel’s post is already online, and has been so for several days. Sorry it took a while to get back to this post. See Donniel’s post here: “Are Jews Ready for Obama?:

While President Obama’s speech in Cairo was also about settlements, and about the Road Map, in essence it was about neither. It was about putting forth to us all the potential for a new future. President Obama’s speech was not about policy. It was about hope and the need to place a vision of a kinder and a better world, a world in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians – and the United States and the more than 1 billion Muslims of the world – will begin to see each other as partners who inhabit this world and not as enemies engaged in Armageddon. It was about remembering what we want for ourselves and our children and then thinking about what we need to do to fulfill these aspirations.

Here’s what President Obama said on Jews, Israel, Palestinians, two states and peace:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

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Did Barack Obama read a letter from Donniel Hartman?

Did Barack Obama read a letter from Donniel Hartman?

Last November, a few days before the 2008 election that brought Barack Obama into the White House as the 44th US President, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman wrote what we called a “Letter to the new American President.” We didn’t know who would be elected, Obama or Sen. John McCain, but Donniel wanted to write the note to whichever of them won the election. In it, however, Donniel placed a sentence that makes me wonder, at least, if the column found its way to Obama’s desk recently.

Donniel wrote:

The job of a friend is not always to support by agreeing; sometimes, it involves support that challenges, pushes, and prods. You are going to have to be that type of friend. At times I might find it painful and disagree with you, but I will never question your motives.

To me, that sounds a lot like the so-called “tough love” Obama was indicating in an interview he gave to National Public Radio in Washington a few days ago, just before his trip to the Arab Middle East, which will include stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but, pointedly, none (scheduled, at least) to Israel. Here’s what President Obama said:

Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.

Both NPR and the New York Times, as well as many other news media outlets in the U.S, Europe, and Israel repeated the “tough love” phrase (which the President did not use himself, by the way).

You should know that we sent the column to several people we were assured had access to then President-elect Obama. I’m sure the man was bombarded in the days after the election, and I never heard back from anyone about whether he was shown the column. But it sure seems that way, doesn’t it?

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A  survey published on Ynet last week and recounted in the Jerusalem Post said 58 percent of Israeli Jews believe that “two states for two peoples” should be the basis of any agreement with the Palestinians. Thirty-seven percent disagreed, and 5 percent said they didn’t know.

So, there is a majority support for a two-state solution. Unfortunately, the article didn’t indicate if that tally is any changed from previous surveys – if such have been taken. So, we don’t know just how the public mood is changing.

The poll showed a gap between religious and secular Jews: 73 percent of the secular population favor idea, while 70 percent of the national-religious and haredi populations opposed. So far as I can see, the secular-religious split doesn’t tell us anything nothing new. But significant percentages of each group actually agree with the other. There are 30 percent minorities – significant numbers, really – of religious who believe in a two-state solution and vice versa for those opposed. Could these findings suggest new political alliances for creative thinkers?

Rabbi Donniel Hartman made an eloquent case for the moral rightness of the two-state solution in his recent column:

It is obviously questionable whether Oslo has produced a beneficial peace process; what is not questionable is its profound contribution to the Jewish moral political discourse of modern Israel….

What I am arguing, however, is for the continually proud and vocal adoption of the two-state solution as our only political horizon. To do so is to maintain the quality of Jewish values in our political horizon. To fail to do so is to seriously damage the moral and Jewish fiber of Israeli society. Read the full column here.

There was also a wide difference depending on age groups, with 53 percent of survey respondents under 30 being opposed to the idea, and 63 percent of those over 50 agreeing with it.

I found that youth-age split more surprising and interesting. Does this suggest a narrowing window of time: that is, the longer this stalemate lasts, is there less likelihood of a solution as the younger generation has less interest or belief in a two-state solution? Is it because of a larger religious component among younger Israelis prompted by high religious birthrates? Is it a generation radicalized by the Palestinian terror war of the early 2000s and that has already fought two wars in the last three years?

There are many efforts of young people aimed at a two-state solution. One Voice is perhaps the leading group. But is that group a minority effort? Can it overcome the mass feelings of cynicism and anger against the Palestinians? Is a two-state solution – the morally correct one, as Rabbi Hartman says – in danger of falling out of our grasp?

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We don’t get enough of David Hartman on our main website (mea culpa). But we have a new and, as usual, provocative, piece from Rabbi David on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He says it far better than I can.

If we allow the God of Creation to channel our particular religious traditions, the future need not be buried by the past. We must never be discouraged by the obstacles encountered in our search for peace. The anger and bitterness of the past must not inhibit new thinking and bold initiatives. Our total commitment to resolve the tragic conflict with the Palestinians will be the finest expression of our loyalty to a tradition which seeks to unify solidarity with all of humanity and gratitude for the gift of Judaic particularity.

Read his entire piece here – and be better off for having done so.

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Israel’s War on Hamas in Gaza seems to be over (for now), but there is still food for thought on the Hartman Institute website on the subject, with more (related) items to come.

Donniel Hartman’s follow-up to his powerful essay on the war’s morality, Fighting a just war against Hamas justly, the succinctly titled, Gaza War: We won, we left, now what?, is drawing almost as many comments as did his first two pieces on the war. I recommend that you go back and read the comments if you already have read the articles, and not to miss the comments if you haven’t read them yet. Not reading comments on websites such as ours these days is akin to missing the credits at the end of a movie; there is almost always something of value tucked in at the end for those with the patience to go through it all.

Read Gil Troy’s two essays on the subject of living in Israel during a war, and why Israel’s democratic instincts are the right ones:

Gil Troy is not a resident Hartman Institute scholar, but he is a scholar in his own right – he is a professor at McGill University in Montreal – an author of several books, a member of the Institute’s Canadian Friends of the Shalom Hartman Institute (known in-house as, “Cafshi”), and the proud father of a Hartman High School student.

In case you missed them, here are two strong pieces by Hartman scholars, each of which uses recent Torah portions as jumping off points for their commentary:

Click on the authors’ names to get a sense of who they are. There will be more about Bill Berk and the rabbis he works with in an upcoming post, as well.

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