Iran is the Wild Middle East – Can it Be Trusted?

I was born at the end of 1960.

I grew up at the time when young Americans were drafted into the US war in Viet Nam.

I vividly remember the Six-Day War in Israel and how that solidified Jewish pride and identity for so many Jews around the world. I was six years old at that time.

Just before I became Bat Mitzvah in September of 1973, Israel was attacked by her neighbors on Yom Kippur and yet another war — the “Yom Kippur War” — began, taking its toll on so many in our beloved homeland.

I spent my childhood and youth protesting wars, marching in rallies to support Israel, and trying to make sense of the world around me.

“War is Not Healthy” Necklace

I wanted to make my protest visible. So I wore a necklace around my neck that was popular with so many of my friends at that time: “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” I also wore a bracelet on my arm with the name of an American soldier who was taken Prisoner of War in Viet Nam: Sgt James Ravencraft (I wore that bracelet for decades — until I visited the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC and found his name on the wall, saw that he died and made a paper engraving of it).

We shook our heads in disbelief every time a plane was hijacked by terrorists, every time the PLO made radical statements and demands. This was in the era before suicide bombers, before car bombs and plane bombs and the World Trade Center was destroyed.

We cried out at poverty and hunger, the plight of the Soviet Jews and at other injustices taking place in our world.

Sadly, the world has not changed. Violence and war rage on. The fundamentalists appear to become more extreme. The internet and social media have enabled messages to be disseminated around the globe in a nano-second. Terror tactics have become more sophisticated. And our enemies have become more wily, more conniving.

In trying to understand the dynamics that exist between enemies and in the hopes that peace would be less elusive, Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobvici made a wonderful, stark and fascinating documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Deadly Currents” on the tails of the First Intifada. One professor interviewed in the film made a comment that still rings true today (I am paraphrasing): We are Westerners. We approach this conflict from our Western perspective with our Western sensibilities. The Israelis are, for the most part, Westerners as well. But they are Westerners living in the Middle East. This is not the “Wild West.” This is the Wild, Wild EAST. With a different sensibility, a different culture and a different mindset. It is difficult – if not almost impossible – for Westerners to understand the mindset of Easterners.

As Westerners, we might think we have an agreement, an arrangement with set protocols, set standards, set directives. Yet, that is only because that is how we work from our Western perspective. However, that is not necessarily how things work from an Eastern perspective.

So what does that tell us about the P5+1 Agreement that was signed on Tuesday with Iran? Iran is an Eastern country signing an agreement with Western allies. Is Iran to be trusted?

Israel and her Arab neighbors do not want a nuclear Iran. There are murmurings that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan  and the Gulf States have been meeting clandestinely to figure out how to deal with a nuclear Iran because they all feel that Iran is not to be trusted.

If Iran attacks Israel, all the countries surrounding Israel will be affected, so it’s in all of their best interests to come up with a cohesive plan — even if those countries do not have relations with Israel.

Why was Obama so adamant on signing this agreement? I’m sure he’s aware that Iran’s actions will speak louder than any document they sign.

Our children, our future, our Jewish homeland deserve to live in a nuclear-free world. We deserve to live in a world at peace.

However, we need to be sure that our agreements will not be exploited for other nefarious purposes.

As David J. Cape, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in his opening paragraph in the press release issued yesterday:

“While we share the goal of a diplomatic solution to this crisis, the Iranian regime has a long record of exploiting diplomacy as a cover to advance its nuclear program. The success of today’s agreement depends on Iran’s actions, not its words.”

(For CIJA’s full statement, click here: CIJA Statement on the P5 +1 Agreement )

Reform Movement and AIPAC Statements:

Reform Movement Statement on the P5 + 1 Agreement

AIPAC Statement of the P5 + 1 Agreement

It is my hope that one day, the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah will be fulfilled, when peace will reign:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb

The leopard lie down with the kid…

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the Eternal.” (Isaiah 11: 6 & 9)

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares 

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not take up sword against nation;

They shall never again know war.” (Micah 4:3)

About the Author
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel is the Rabbi of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, Long Island. Her career has extended from leading congregations to leading national organizations. She is passionate about Israel, social justice and enabling others to use Jewish living as a lens to living life with meaning and purpose. Rabbi Sobel is a fitness and food enthusiast. She views food as a catalyst for creating community and welcoming. (She is a secret “Iron-Chef Wanna-be”). She truly sees her table as a “mikdash m’at – a miniature alter”, a place where the holy and the ordinary come together. The daughter of a Reform rabbi (Rabbi Richard J. Sobel, z”l, from Glens Falls, NY), Rabbi Sobel was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, in May, 1989. She received her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications from Boston University’s School of Public Communications.
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