Tag Archives: Israel

CJP and JCRC Statement on the Murder of the Salomon Family

We are reeling from news of the murder of three members of the Salomon family in the West Bank community of Halamish.

On Friday night, Yosef and Tova Salomon sat down to Shabbat dinner with two of their children and five grandchildren. The family had gathered to celebrate the birth of a new grandson.

As the family waited for guests to join the celebration, a 19-year-old Palestinian from a nearby village entered the home armed with a knife and attacked the family members. He stabbed to death Yosef (70), his daughter Chaya Salomon (46), son Elad (36), and seriously wounded Yosef’s wife, Tova. A neighbor, an off-duty soldier, heard the screams, and rushed to the home, shooting and wounding the attacker.

Photographs of the Salomon home released by the army show the shocking savagery of the attack. Tova Salomon underwent surgery on Saturday morning and awoke to learn that her husband and two of their children were dead.

The mother of the terrorist released a video in which she says that she is “proud of her son.” Sadly, this is an all too common response; one born from the rampant anti-Israel incitement that poisons generation after generation of Palestinian children. The Salomon family, like the Fogel family and Hallel Yaffe Ariel, and Dafna Meir, and so many other innocent Israeli men and women, have paid for this hatred with their lives.

Our heart breaks knowing another Israeli family is destroyed, another community is ripped apart, and a country and its people are in mourning. As always, the people of Israel are in our hearts, our hopes, and our prayers.

On Friday, CJP issued a statement about the ongoing unrest in Israel. Since then the situation has remained volatile with four Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces, and another killed when a petrol bomb he was planning to throw exploded prematurely.

We are devastated by the loss of innocent lives and pray for reason and calm to prevail. We ask God to make true the words in Psalms, “May the Almighty grant strength to God's people; May the Almighty bless God’s people with peace.”

 

Barry Shrage                   Jeremy Burton
President, CJP               Executive Director, JCRC

Celebrating Israel’s Independence with Hope

On Monday we will commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. On Tuesday we will celebrate Yom Ha’AtzMa’ut, the 69th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Over the coming months we will mark many important anniversaries in the story of the Jewish state: in June, the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War - that moment of existential threat to Israel’s survival, the unification of Jerusalem, with consequences and complications that continue to unfold; in August, the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress; in November, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 70th anniversary of the United Nations vote to partition the Palestine Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

Among the actions taken by the First Zionist Congress was the adoption of Hatikvah (The Hope) as the anthem of the Zionist movement. Fittingly, Hatikvah became the national anthem of the nascent state, the embodiment of the hopes and longings of so many generations of Jews. In 2017, in what do we root our hopes for Israel’s future? For me, two sources immediately come to mind. First, I draw hope from my awareness of how very brief Israel’s story as a state has been, along with the realization that true nation building is a slow and arduous process, with so much potential still to be realized:

In the grand scheme of things, sixty-nine years is barely a moment in the life of a nation. We tend to forget that; living in the United States as we approach 250 years of our own independence. And for the Jewish people it is barely a blip in the heart-beat of a nation that spans over three millennia. Israel is just beginning its story as a modern state.

When we as Americans consider the project of building a constitutional liberal democracy, we return to our foundational language: “in order to form a more perfect union.” More being the essential term. Never perfect, always striving, even sometimes taking one step forward and one (or more) steps back along that journey.

For Israel as a still young nation, as for any nation, we consider both the journey and the destination. Israel’s destination remains rooted in the inspiring vision of its own declaration of independence. The words written in 1949 sing across the years with a vision and an aspiration for a state with full equality for all its inhabitants, safeguarding the holy places of all faiths, open as a refuge to Jews around the world. It is an Israel that extends a hand of peace to its neighbors and is prepared to join in common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East. It is a nation that invites the Jewish people around the world to join in the project of realizing our age old dreams.

And, second, I draw hope from the citizens of Israel who are living and building that vision every day:

I celebrate the people of Israel that I have – in my travels - come to know and to place my faith in. People like Sara Weill and Rabbi Betzalel Cohen who are working to create and advance a vision of Jerusalem’s future as a community of all its residents: Haredi and secular, Jewish and Arab, straight and LGBT. People like Dr. Dalia Fadila, dean of al-Qasemi College, who is investing in Israeli-Arab girls’ educational preparedness to succeed in a shared society. I place my hope in women like Aliza Lavie and Rachel Azaria, both of whom came to prominence as social activists and visionaries of the future of the Orthodox community and who are rising to the national stage as members of the Knesset. And I place my hope in people like Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a settler who is working with his Palestinian neighbors to foster a movement that builds understanding and respect for the lived experiences of both peoples and pursues a vision of peace for all.

Every day, these and so many other people across Israel, of all faiths and all communities, are striving to achieve a more perfect realization of the aspirations expressed sixty-nine years ago next week. I celebrate their nation’s independence and the journey we are on together. I invite you to join me in doing so.

Shabbat Shalom.

Jeremy

P.S. In the coming months there will be many opportunities to celebrate and to reflect, to honor the importance of these anniversaries and to consider the meaning of these events for us today. I encourage and invite you to participate in these activities, including this coming Wednesday when the JCC of Greater Boston and CJP’s CommUNITY Dialogue (of which JCRC is a partner) are sponsoring a discussion on Israel: 50 Years after the 1967 War including a lineup of incredible and diverse speakers.

Note: This post also appears on Times of Israel.

JCRC Statement regarding proposed MA Democratic Party Resolution

In response to press inquiries regarding the proposed resolution on peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians, JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton has offered the following statement on behalf of JCRC:

"We share the sentiment of the resolution's sponsors that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security achieved through a two-state solution. However, this resolution presents a simplistic response to a complex conflict. By offering a one-dimensional response to a multi-dimensional problem, the resolution is a failed opportunity to offer constructive guidance on how to achieve peace. We urge people of good will to support those Israelis and Palestinians on the ground who are working together to create the conditions of co-existence and mutual respect that are necessary for achieving the peace we all yearn for.

This is a time of great uncertainty in the world. Serious questions are being raised about our own governments' ability to lead. Given the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria, the challenge of North Korea, and the threats to liberal democratic institutions in Europe, among other issues, we are interested to see if the proponents will put forth a comprehensive foreign policy platform articulating American interests in the world and addressing the numerous international challenges we must face.

We share the drafters' sense of urgency that together we must address rising anti-Muslim hate in the wake of the election. We are curious why the resolution does not address the actual policies that are being advanced in Washington, such as limiting visitors to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim countries and closing our doors to immigrants and refugees from the Muslim and Arab world. We would hope that any serious response to rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Washington would address these issues as well as the increase in hate targeting our Muslim neighbors here in Massachusetts and around the country."

JCRC Urges Withdrawal or Veto of U.N. Security Council Resolution

JCRC of Greater Boston believes that, based on a review of the available draft, the resolution to be considered by the UN Security Council this afternoon presents a too broad, un-nuanced, and unproductive approach to Israel's construction and settlement beyond the Green Line.

We do not feel that this resolution - as drafted and considered in such a hasty and secretive manner - is a productive contribution to the pursuit of the negotiated two-state resolution for peace that we cherish. We urge the sponsors to withdraw the resolution, and the United States to veto it - as the Obama administration  has done in the past on similar resolutions.

Boston JCRC Statement Regarding Nomination of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel

The announcement of David Friedman as United States Ambassador-designate to Israel has been received with much discussion and diverse reactions within our community.

Many within the organized Jewish community find cause to be hopeful that the coming administration presents an opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Not least of the reasons for this optimism are President-Elect Trump’s repeated declarations of concern for Israel’s security and his valuing of Israel as a close ally of the United States. Additionally, President-Elect Trump has, on several occasions, talked of his desire to help negotiate a resolution to the conflict for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

JCRC believes that it is the prerogative of any President to appoint qualified cabinet members and ambassadors who will advance his or her priorities and agenda. Still, the expressed views and activities on a range of matters by David Friedman raise serious questions about whether he can and will effectively advance the United States’ long held commitment to a two-state resolution.

For over two decades it has been the bipartisan policy of the United States government, of the government of Israel – including the current Prime Minister – and of JCRC and our organized Jewish community to work for a two-state solution. Whether President-Elect Trump supports a two-state solution, or believes that an ambassador who does not share his commitment to same can still carry out U.S. policy, is a matter of vital concern.  We urge the Senate to clarify this issue during Mr. Friedman’s confirmation hearings.

We take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the organized Jewish community of Boston to achieving a two-state solution - to be achieved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians - as the only viable approach that will ensure Israel's security and future as a Jewish and democratic state. The realization of this goal may take time but it is dependent on keeping this option viable. JCRC will continue to devote our own efforts to expanding the potential for achieving it. JCRC will therefore oppose any change in U.S. policy that moves our nation away from support for achieving a two-state resolution.

Additionally, JCRC believes that it is intolerable that any representative of the United States - particularly one who would represent our nation to the Jewish state - could and does refer to members of our Jewish community as “worse than Kapos” or “not Jewish.” Further, we know that the Middle East is a tinderbox which can burst into flames at the slightest provocation. What is needed now is a strong, judicious ambassador who knows how to facilitate conciliation; not someone who will fuel polarization and heighten conflict.  Mr. Friedman has the right to his opinions, but his injudicious readiness to express them and his stubborn refusal to step back from them and issue a clear, public and unqualified apology, suggests a danger that he will pose to U.S. interests in the region if his nomination is approved. We urge our Senators to address this matter during the confirmation process.

 

Jeremy Burton             Adam Suttin       Beth Badik
Executive Director     President            Chair, Israel and Global Jewry Committee

 

Answering the Call

Standing in the State Hall of Israel's Knesset this past week with twelve members of the Massachusetts legislature, our guide showed us Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I was inspired by one paragraph in particular that continues to be a catalyst for vibrant discussion about Israel back home in the United States.

Our group was shown everything that the declaration iterated; the case for a Jewish state in our historic homeland; the basis in international law for this declaration; and the aspirations for the Jewish and democratic character of this newborn nation. The declaration called out to the nations of the world for recognition, and extended a hand of peace to its Arab neighbors - who had already declared war on the nascent state. Then came the part that jumped out at me, an invitation to Jews around the world:

"WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel."

Prior to this moment in May of 1948, as difficult as it is to believe from our 2016 vantage point, the American Jewish community was not united in our commitment to the Zionist effort. But in the weeks and years that followed, we rallied together in our support of the new state. A historic yearning for a homeland had resulted in a seemingly impossible dream, and we, the diaspora, were invited to be a part of that realization.

Partly informed by our own sense of failure to act with unity and collective power during the Holocaust, those early years called us to act with the determination of one People and to speak with one voice in the halls of Washington, D.C. We responded not only with political support, but with our philanthropic generosity as well. We worked to address Israel's overwhelming challenges as a then poor country whose population ballooned in its first decade as it welcomed the survivors of the Shoah in Europe as well as the 800,000 Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries.

As Israel has grown and thrived as a modern nation, we American Jews have also changed. We became more confident in our ability to act on a wide range of issues within our political system. We became public in airing our differences and we began to engage in partisan politics through a Jewish lens. And as we’ve become increasingly vocal about our own fractures, the organized Jewish community has found ourselves weighing a number of questions about our role as partners with Israel.

  • How do we ensure Israel's Jewish and democratic character for the future? The investments from federations and other institutions in recent decades, such as advancing the full equality of Israel's Arab citizens, are a good example of our participation here. And many of our communities have been vocal on issues of religious pluralism in Israel.
  • What is our role in addressing Israel's existential security challenges? Many of us advocate in support of the views of Israel's democratically elected government, while others say that we should listen to other voices in Israel's security establishment, or that we should advocate in support of Israel’s political opposition when their views align more with our own. There are those who argue that we should offer our own analysis and act upon it.
  • Do we perceive the question of Israel's relationship with the Palestinian people solely as a matter of security, or is it to be addressed as a question that impacts Israel's Jewish and democratic character? If a security question, what is the nature of our engagement (as per above)? If a character question, does it differ from others within Israel that we have readily advocated on?
  • Do we air our concerns in private or public? With anti-Semitism on the rise on both the left and the right - in ways that paint us Jews as a nefarious power in global affairs, or that deny our natural rights as a People to have a homeland - should we be concerned about unintentionally fueling our enemies?

These, and others, are complicated questions that merit debate and discussion far more than this space allows. What I was reminded on that day at the Knesset is that no matter how we answer these questions, whatever conclusions we reach, these debates are informed by one unifying premise:

In 2016, as in 1948, we, the organized Jewish community, are defined by our unity in an affirmative response to that initial invitation in 1948 – to rally around and join in the realization of the age-old dream. So long as our answer is 'yes' – to say that we will be part of that struggle for a nation of our own in our ancient homeland - I believe we are capable of handling the differences among us as we debate the nature of our responses in achieving this call to action.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

#JCRCinIsrael 2016

A short while ago, I arrived in Israel. Joined by our trip chair Representative Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead, and by JCRC board members Beth Badik and Ben Pearlman, I am privileged to be leading our annual winter study tour for Massachusetts legislators. Twelve state representatives will be spending the next nine days experiencing Israel and the region while learning about the challenges and hopes of this place that is so near and dear to all of us.

After five winters leading these trips, and having accompanied almost one third of the Massachusetts legislature to Israel during this time, you might think I’d get a bit jaded. And it’s true, I’ve spent more time in churches in Jerusalem than I ever expected to when I lived there as a yeshiva boy. I’ve visited the Dead Sea far more than this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience requires.

Regardless, every trip is unique and special for me on two counts:

First, with each group, I get a fresh chance to see a place I care about so deeply. It’s amazing to encounter Tel Aviv through the lens of someone who is seeing it for the first time. It is always a privilege for me to deepen my own connection to our history when travelling with someone who has never been there before. And, I get to watch firsthand as our participants fall in love with the leaders and activists who’ve inspired and energized me for years.

Second, while every trip examines long-existing challenges and the layers of history in this region, each also presents the opportunity to come face-to-face with a unique moment and get a fresh perspective on how people here are grappling with and talking about the latest developments.

We’ve all been following the terrible fires this past week, especially as they’ve impacted our beloved sister community in Haifa (and if you haven’t already, please join me in supporting CJP’s emergency relief campaign). I’m looking forward to getting back there next week to see and support our friends and to connect our travelers with our long-term partners.

We’re also coming here for the first time since our own elections. And, while I’ve said a lot these past few weeks about what this election means for our domestic priorities, here is the opportunity for all of us on this bus to learn how Israelis and Palestinians are reacting to our outcome. We’ll hear from strategic thinkers with their views on U.S. engagement both in our role as ally to Israel and also as a larger actor in the region. We’ll want to know their take on the shifting U.S.- Russia relationship, their insight regarding Russia’s client regime in Syria – which is also backed by Iran’s regime; and what this all means for Israel just days after an IDF encounter with ISIS in the Golan Heights.

So yes, it has been JCRC’s incredible privilege to bring so many members of the Massachusetts legislature - as well as dozens of other clergy and civic leaders - to Israel over the past five years. I am profoundly grateful to have the opportunity and the donor support that allows us to be here. This experience never fails to energize and inspire me. It will, I am confident, renew and strengthen my own commitment to all that we do both on the ground in Israel and back home in Boston.

I hope over the coming weeks you’ll follow our journey on social media and I look forward to sharing more about our impressions when we return.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

CJP and JCRC Statement in Memory of Shimon Peres

Find a cause that's larger than yourself and then give your life to it.
-Shimon Peres

Last night we bid farewell to Shimon Peres (1923-2016), a pioneer, dreamer, and champion of the Jewish people. Over the course of his 70 years in service to the State of Israel, he defended the country in war and took bold risks for peace.

From his humble beginnings as a kibbutz shepherd, Peres rose through Israel’s political ranks, becoming its foremost statesman and peacemaker. He played a key role in negotiating peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt and was pivotal in advancing the Oslo accords with the Palestinians. For his efforts, he was awarded both a Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest honor.

An ardent reader and prolific author of 11 books, Shimon Peres was interested in everything and everyone. After retiring from political life, Peres continued to wake up early, read the paper, and head to work in service of the country he loved as head of the Peres Center for Peace.

Peres dreamed of a new Middle East in which Palestinians and Israelis lived side-by-side as economic partners; where a “cold peace” between the Jewish State and its Arab neighbors would flourish into lasting friendships.

An eternal optimist, Peres was nonetheless never naïve about the challenges Israel confronts. He warned of the threat posed by terrorist groups and their state sponsors, and was committed to preserving Israel's qualitative military edge over its neighbors even as he sought peace with them. Peres retained the belief that peace was possible with the Palestinians.

“Whoever you try to negotiate with is not a partner. You start from animosity, not from peace. The purpose of negotiation is to convert somebody who is not a partner to somebody who will be a partner,” he said in an interview earlier this year. Shimon Peres spent the past two decades championing innovation, economic growth, and Arab-Israeli coexistence through the peace center that bears his name.

Former president Peres remained young at heart, behaving more like a millennial than a nonagenarian. He was active on Instagram, posted on Facebook and Twitter, and even starred in a music video that went viral.

Shimon Peres, like King David, began life as a shepherd, fought for his nation, became a great leader and never stopped praying for peace. As we mourn the loss of Shimon Peres we remember the words of King David: The Lord shall grant strength to His people; the Lord shall bless His people with peace.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Shimon Peres' children, grandchildren, the people of Israel, and champions of peace throughout the world who are mourning a statesman and a dreamer

                                              

Jeremy Burton                                                     Barry Shrage

Executive Director, JCRC                                  President, CJP

The Path to Peace

I’m just back from two weeks of vacation. I’m grateful to work with a strong team that covers for each other as we take respite. I hope that, in my absence, you appreciated the blog posts from my colleagues.

I’m also still thinking about our study tour in Israel that wrapped up just before my vacation, and one particular visit we made.

Netiv Ha’Asara (The Path of the Ten) is a Moshav (co-operative village) right along the Gaza border. Founded in the Sinai after the 1967 victory,  the families were then evacuated as part of the peace deal with Egypt in 1979. They decided to stay together as a community and re-form their village inside ‘undisputed’ Israel (as our host, Raz, describes it).

Living in the firing line of every hot conflict since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, they have less than  fifteen seconds to find safety when the red alert goes off. Raz shows us the Hamas terror tunnel exit near the greenhouses that had to be blown up during the 2014 conflict. He takes us to the sniper wall, before the border wall, that protects them from Hamas operatives sitting on the other side. We can see the Hamas lookout towers and forward positions, including a new building that appeared overnight a few months ago.

We ask Raz how he helps his children to cope with the reality of living like this, with a bunker in the middle of their playground. He tells his children that it is ugly in Gaza and that what's happening there is awful. He tells them that most people in Gaza didn't vote for Hamas in 2006 and that most Palestinians in Gaza don’t want to kill them. He believes that most people on the other side of the wall share his hopes for a better future.

Raz knows this deep in his gut, since before the withdrawal he was a teenager who played basketball every week with those kids less than half a mile away. And he expresses his fervent hope that those childhood friends are telling their kids the same message about Israelis.

Then Raz takes us PAST the sniper barrier. We’re facing the Gaza border wall some 100 feet in front of us. Behind us on the sniper wall is a glorious piece of ceramic art. It is called Netiv L'Shalom - The Path to Peace. Each ceramic piece, in all their gorgeous colors, is a prayer for with one word: 'Shalom,' or 'Salam,' or 'Peace.'

I’ve fallen in love with these villagers living a crazy, impossible existence under protection from snipers who consider them as 'occupiers' even here (and throughout the entire country, "from the river to the sea"). Because rather than live with the despair of an ugly wall as a monument to violence, they reimagine it as a piece of art, a thing of beauty, and as a prayer for peace - in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

I love their hopes and dreams. I want them to be able to live without fear, right where they are.

I also leave with a sense of urgency about an additional challenge created by the necessary separation.

I can’t help wondering: What will Raz’s children, who aren’t growing up interacting with kids on the other side of that barrier, someday tell their children if the rockets keep falling and the tunnels keep opening up inside this village? They will not know their peers on the other side of that barrier.

I believe that the better future Raz hopes for is possible. But to build it these people need relationships that foster co-existence. Israelis and Palestinians need to connect with and affirm each other’s humanity. Without that recognition, of national narratives and personal experiences, what happens at a negotiation table can never – on it’s own - end the conflict.

We need to do more to support efforts on the ground that build co-existence. We have to help cultivate conditions that will support a lasting ‘peace.’ We’ve got to invest in those who are building the paths that lead - through understanding, relationships, and shared aspirations – to peace.

May it come soon.

Frustration and Possibility in the Promised Land

I’ve just returned from leading a study tour in Israel for Boston civic leaders. Fifteen of us spent nine days in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Our expectations were challenged. We sought a deeper understanding of the reality beyond the headlines of this place. What we heard and saw frustrated us, but we also found inspiration and possibility.

A settler spokesperson made a compelling argument for the Jewish connection to where she lives. She told us that the time has come for Israel to annex the entirety of the West Bank but she gave no plausible response when asked how such a state can remain both Jewish and democratic. Another Israeli, a human rights activist, offered a compelling case for shining a light on the darker side of Israeli control over Palestinian lives. She, however, declined to answer a question about how to achieve peace. An “irresponsible” response, one participant called it, frustrated.

Frustration carried over to our visit to Ramallah, a place of complexity. People are angry with Israel and this state of occupation, but also with the Palestinian Authority.  We are repeatedly reminded that President Abbas is in his eleventh year of a five year term. Looming over the city is an obscenity, an estimated $13 million presidential palace built this year. One need only look up at this extravagant monument on a hill for a reminder that the Palestinian leadership has abandoned the needs of their people in service to self-aggrandizement. No wonder that Fatah doesn’t want to face the people in municipal elections this October.

Many Israelis also express frustration with their leadership, saying that the national government lacks vision, or plans for the future. From the left and the right they complain about the lack of accountability at the highest levels.

But on a more local level, we also found inspiration. Over and over, people talked about solving problems through local initiatives. “Simple solutions to big challenges” is almost a mantra.

In Lod, a school principal found innovative ways to integrate children of African migrants. In Tira, an Israeli-Palestinian educator started her own supplementary educational systems to prepare Arab girls for successful careers and fully integrated identities as Palestinian citizens in Israel. In the Gush Etzion bloc, Jewish and Palestinian activists are establishing a dialogue through Shorashim (Roots), learning to see each other as people beyond the stereotypes to which they are accustomed. In Jerusalem – to our amazement - a Palestinian, a secular Russian Jew, and a Hasidic Orthodox woman came together over dinner to tell us about the work that they and others are doing – through the ‘Jerusalemite Movement’ - to build a vision of their city as vibrant, pluralistic and inclusive.

I came away with the recognition that we can - and should - do more to support efforts on the ground that address national challenges through simple solutions and that build connectivity amongst Israel’s ‘tribes’ and between Israelis and Palestinians. We cannot impose a two-state solution tomorrow – frankly if someone did, it would not bring a lasting ‘peace.’ But we can – and should - keep the potential for this vision of two states – the only vision that ensures Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state while also ensuring a Palestinian right to self-determination in their own state in a shared homeland - alive by fostering interactions. We can – and should - support those who are working to build trust, who are, despite their qualms with their national leaders, working to keep the door open and build the potential for something better in the future.

May it come soon.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy