Dear Hon. Secretary Blinken,
First, congratulations on taking the position of the Secretary of State of the United States of America. Few things moved me as much as sharing your family story with our younger generation.
Our kids got to hear about the story of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, liberated by African American heroes, raising a child to go on and become the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
I, too, grew up knowing the names of American Secretaries of State and diplomats. Yet, unlike Jewish children in America, I did not get to hear their inspiring stories. I grew up in Jerusalem during the Oslo accords with buses blowing up, kidnappings, beatings, and violence that stole my childhood and the childhood of Palestinian children. Names like Warren Christopher, Dennis Ross, and others came up often on the news. As a child, I did not fully understand what was going on, but it appears that I was not alone in that. Diplomats flew in and out from the comfort of their homes in Washington DC, made big decisions, and went back home. In retrospect, many of those decisions have taken many lives. American diplomats went back to their homes and jobs in Washington, got jobs in think tanks and universities, and easily moved on with their lives with little consequences for the seismic changes they have impacted thousands of miles away. They experimented with their ideas, and those didn’t work out. Oh well, life continues for them.
I cannot help thinking of the many thousands of Syrian children whose childhoods and even lives ended during the recent Syrian civil war. Once again, creative and well-meaning minds in Washington tried out their ideas; those didn’t work. They continue with their lives in Washington as millions suffer in the Middle East.
I look now at the Middle East and see much stability that I have not seen before. It is not ideal. Not fancy. Not utopian. But lives are being lived, and futures are being fostered. And by Middle East standards, one can say that childhoods are being enjoyed.
On behalf of the children of the Middle East, I beg you: cherish a policy of “do no harm.” For the sake of those who have lost so much through wars and intifadas, for the sake of children who deserve peaceful childhoods, do not experiment. We have seen what works and what doesn’t. Use the force of the United States only where genocide and destruction are found. Avoid pressuring or attempting to reconstruct fragile and complex yet stable situations. I beg you, Mr. Secretary, hear the cry of the children who deserve a better childhood than their parents, do not experiment or repeat the failed policies of the past.
With warmth and best wishes,
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko