Culture, Israel, Politics

What is truly in line with our values? – Second Entry for JStreet contest with Jewschool

j_street_largeEditor’s Note: The following is the second winner of four recent entries by individual who will be heading to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month for JStreet’s first national conference: Driving Change, Securing Peace. The following post was written by Naomi Goldenson. Yashar Koach – and see you in DC! To everyone else: there’s still time to sign up – and if you can’t come, check back here for live blogging by our contest winners as well as some of our favorite Jewschoolers.
Like many American Jews, I traveled to Israel during my formative years to learn to feel an affinity for Israeli society. During those more optimistic years I witnessed a willingness to sacrifice for peace and complex discussions about secular and religious divides, amidst an uncomfortable ubiquity of firearms and casual reference to territories through which we would not drive directly. Many ideas filed away for future processing.
On one occasion, back home, I encountered an urgent action appeal about something happening in Israel. The week before there was one directed at the Palestinian Authority. But what was this? My mother’s reply: your father and I have been members of Amnesty for 20 years. Avoiding answering outright: sometimes it is okay to ignore these things when it relates to Israel.
The version of Israeli history I heard growing up was full of already-outdated myths the American equivalents of which would make most of us cringe. Despite America’s failings most of us take pride in what we can do to make it better, due in no small part to a sense of social justice informed by Jewish values. It will be through that redemptive process of working to make it better that we come to appreciate the true complexity of Israeli history as well. One day our community will teach the bad along with the good, without foregoing the possibility of a connection with the land, culture, or people of Israel.
As American Jews we are more removed from the conflict. Rather than strip us of the right to comment this endows a valuable perspective. We live, finally, in a political climate where we can begin to replace fear with an educated understanding of the complexity of the challenges ahead. Thus when so many in Israel have given up hope, we can point out that Israel is not such a special case. If peace has been possible in so many other places the world over, it is possible there.
Possible, but far from guaranteed. To enable the possibility of peace, and incidentally, to build a redemptive narrative of the future, we must continue advocating for justice. To that end, the question “Will two states really mean peace for Israel?” should not be the only question. We can’t lose sight of “What is truly in line with our values?”
An end to the statelessness and misery of the Palestinian people will be achieved eventually with either two states or one, with little or much bloodshed, with due haste or a further drawn-out conflict, with active Israeli engagement or without, with praise or ostracism for the Jewish state. Many American Jews who grew up with this bewildering dissonance of affinity for Israel would rather that the easier and less painful path towards justice is adopted, so that, as it happens, we might also preserve Israel as a venue to work out the important issues of how to be a Jew in the modern world.

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