American Jews Stand Up For Israel

Tonight I drove about 3 miles from my home to Congregation Beth El in Yardley Pennsylvania smack in the breadbasket of suburban Philadelphia to attend an event titled; Stand Up for Israel. I saw a notice from Rabbi Anna on Facebook and decided that I belonged with a group of Jews that were worried about the violence in Israel and coming together to show their support. I arrived and saw that there were about 300 people from about six or more area congregations who had come together to listen to their Rabbis, a few local politicians and Israeli Consul General Yaron Sideman speak out on behalf of Israel.

Rabbi Aaron Gaber of Congregation Brothers of Israel began by telling a story about the passionate argument between the two great educational institutions in ancient Israel; Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai: “At the end of the day their sons and daughters married each other:”

“No matter where we stand, we stand with Israel!”
“The one who makes peace makes peace for all of us not just Israel.”
And then we sang; Heiveinu shalom aleichem.

PA State Representative Scott Petri was introduced and spoke about the Iran nuclear deal without naming it. “Had we stayed at the table diplomacy would have worked.” “Leadership requires that you stand with your allies. I was very disappointed. We need to demonstrate that we have not abandoned our ally Israel.”

Rabbi Mitchell Delcau of Temple Judea spoke about meeting Dr Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research during a trip to Israel last year. He said that the pollster noted that there was a shift in the Palestinian ideology with older Palestinians still supportive of two states. But the younger segment of the population favors a one state solution. The Rabbi then said; “I fear that the pathway to peace is challenged by the difference in what people seek.”

Then he spoke of Herzl and Im tirtzu; If you will it, it is no dream and he led us in the song:

Im tirtzu, Im tirtzu
Ein zo agada, ein zo agada
L’hiyot am chofshi b’artzeinu
B’eretz (Eretz!_Tzion (Tzion!) Virushalayim
If you will it, it is no dream;
to be a free people in our land,
in the land of Zion, and Jerusalem.

Rabbi Joshua Gruenberg of Congregation Beth El read a letter from Congressman Fitzpatrick after telling a short story about receiving a call last summer from the Congressman while at Camp Ramah in the Poconos with the Congressman calling from Israel. The essence of the Congressman’s letter was that “America stands with Israel.”

Rabbi Joel Simon, the new Rabbi at Shir Ami, spoke about the past weeks Torah portion; Noach and the rainbow as G-d’s sign to never destroy the world again. The Rabbi was worried that humans may destroy the world themselves. “As we stand in solidarity with Israel we pray that future generations will not know the pain. For now we pray for the current generation. He read A Prayer for Peace just written by Rabbi Karen Kedar who is in Israel for her daughter’s wedding:

We gather together,
in faith and with hope
to pray for peace and
for the safety of the people of Israel.

Help us, O Holy One
and protect us in our hour of need.
Touch our hearts lest they hardened with despair.
Guide our thoughts lest they are overcome with fear.

Bring healing to the wounded,
strength to those in mourning,
courage to those in fear,
wisdom to those who lead.

Yedid nefesh, beloved one,
reveal Yourself and fill the world with Your light.
Spread over us the shelter of Your peace.
Be quick, God of love, for the time has come.
Have mercy upon us, Eternal One of peace.

Rabbi Gruenberg introduced PA State Representative Steve Santarsiero by talking briefly about how the BDS movement is harming peace and then identifying the fact that the Representative introduced a bill; (HB 1018) that would bar state funds for any university in PA that agrees to a boycott, divestment or sanction.

“I am happy to see people from across the Bucks County community standing strong for Israel” He asked; “What are we to do? We talk about shalom. We talk about peace. The impediment is having a partner. So many young Palestinians will not accept the notion that there will be an Israel.”

What do we do as American Jews who want to see Israel remain strong and secure?” “When truth is discarded. BDS; the recurring theme that what is happening in Israel today is no different than Apartheid in South Africa.”

Every time a gross misstatement is made we need to push back. Every time we hear the international community speak against Israel we need to answer back.”

Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy of Congregation Kol Emet said “I am so deeply distressed by the spiraling of violence as many of you are. Violence begets violence. We have a proclivity toward violence ourselves: The evil inclination. This leaning toward violence not only exists in other people. We have to watch it ourselves because we might harden our hearts. We have to remember the rainbow. Feeling like victims: We are not victims. We stand together; kids on the floor, adults on the chairs. We need to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Israel. Not only Jews, but all peace seeking people.”

Yaron Seidman, Consul General for Israel said; “When a 13 year old Palestinian boy decides to pick up a knife and stab a 13 year old Israeli boy he had never met before, one has to ask oneself; how?” “We have to ask ourselves this question about all who ruthlessly kill.” “Many point to the balled up tension as the trigger. They would be right to identify tensions. Many Palestinians and many Israelis are frustrated. But it would be a mistake to believe the blind hatred of so many young Palestinians toward Jews is in a healthy society. Something else is in the works here instilling in children such a mindset: The systematic and prolonged indoctrination in the Palestinian mindset against Jews. We see it in the acts of Palestinian politicians; The deliberate distortion of history; Abbas depiction of Jews desecrating the Temple Mount with their filthy feet. When an entire Palestinian society is poisoned with a narrative of hatred it’s no wonder. The responsibility for this wave of terrorism lies squarely on the Palestinian leadership.”

The Consul General ended by saying; “It is hope that drives Israel. You sang Hatikvah!”

“In the words of Yitzhak Rabin; ‘We shall fight terror as if there is no peace and seek peace as if there is no terror.’

Rabbi Gruenberg, our host ended the evening by stating that;

“It is not enough to simply show up tonight. There is plenty that each of you can do to support Israel. Call your friends and relatives in Israel and let them know that you stand with them. On the back of the blue sheet are the names and addresses of our representatives. Let them know that you stand with Israel. It is our ability to stand together that has enabled us not only to survive, but to thrive!”

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.