Thursday, March 20, 2014 | return to: views, letters



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Peace before it’s too late

I wish to commend J. on its March 7 issue, which included two outstanding pieces — required reading for everyone who cares about Israel’s future.

The editorial, “If deadline for peace isn’t met, work onward,” included a beautifully crafted and concise overview of the challenges to and the importance of working “toward the two-state solution … to achieve the goal of a safe and secure Israel.”

The second piece was “Former Mossad head tell S.F. crowd: Two states before it’s too late.” Speaking at a J Street town hall meeting at Congregation Sherith Israel, Danny Yatom expressed his support for the two-state solution given his concern about, as reporter Dan Pine wrote, “the erosion of Israel’s standing as both a democratic and a Jewish state.” “In his view, the longer Israel’s presence in the West Bank drags on and the more the Palestinian population grows, the worse the future will be for Israel’s Jews,” Pine wrote. Yatom was then quoted as warning, “Israel will disappear.”

Yatom knows something about Israel’s security — in addition to being a former head of the Mossad, he’s also a former major general in the IDF.

These two pieces underscore the imperative of American Jewry joining what John Kerry has called “the great constituency for peace.” And if not now, when?

Michael J. Cooper   |   Lafayette


Painful cancellation of Israel in the Gardens

The Jewish people of today are still the same family we’ve always been, and it’s only natural that we all want our own room with our own music and “stuff.” Allowing each member to develop is indeed critical, but a healthy family should have a kitchen table and a living room, too — places where the family’s members can meet, talk, relax, share and be part of a greater whole.

Few organizations in our community function as “living rooms.” Chief among those that do has been the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, and chief among the “family dinners” has been Israel in the Gardens, one day a year to put our differences aside and come together as a community.

The largest event of its kind in Northern California, Israel in the Gardens has regularly attracted thousands from around the region. From preparation to celebration, it has been an inspiration for others far and near. Whether you like AIPAC, J Street, making juice by using pedal power, standing in line for falafel, shopping at the art vendors, listening to top Israeli music, checking out high-tech advances or just sprawling on the grass, it was our day to be with family.

The last-minute cancellation of this Israel in the Gardens 2014 is unfair and painful. Its staggering absence from this year’s calendar — with doubt to its continuation into the future — creates a great void and raises serious concerns. Where is our family’s living room?

Michal Kohane   |   Oakland


Op-ed from another planet?

Elijah Jatovsky’s op-ed (“When will AIPAC start cheering for peace?” March 14) was either self-delusional, or cynical and dishonest.

First, he complained that AIPAC members did not “give Kerry even one standing ovation.” Please, Kerry has made outrageously anti-Jewish remarks, such as equating the IDF troops who killed nine Turkish thugs during the flotilla incident with the Boston Marathon terrorists, and stating that Israelis are not sufficiently interested in peace because their “economy is too good.” Then, most recently, he issued a thinly veiled threat that the U.S. would tacitly support the BDS movement should Israel not sign a suicidal Oslo II.

Second, Jatovsky claims Mahmoud Abbas is a “peace partner,” but, of course, he does not address Abbas’ continual statements that Jews have no right to any part of Israel, and that Palestinians will never agree to a Jewish state and will never give up their so-called “right of return” (not to mention the celebrations he hosts each time the Israelis release a Palestinian child killer).

Third, he thinks Israel should subcontract its security to NATO, as the Europeans will do what is essential to prevent terror. What planet is Jatovsky living on? Planet J Street.

Tod Zuckerman   |   Daly City


Misguided about AIPAC’s role

I empathize with Mr. Jatovsky’s feelings expressed in his eloquent op-ed (March 14). Yet, I am afraid his disappointment with the AIPAC conference stems from his misguided notion that AIPAC’s role is to promote his choice a of two-state solution, and thus support the U.S. administration’s “framework agreement,” rather than support Israel’s policy choice.

AIPAC’s role through the years, regardless of the Israeli government’s political leaning, was and still is to promote U.S.-Israel relations and support Israel. Some U.S. Jewish liberal groups, like some European governments, are attempting surreptitiously to intervene in Israel’s internal affairs (via funding of leftist NGOs), to promote their social agenda and to collaborate with the U.S. administration in coercing Israel to abide by their choices in the Mideast conflict. I find this to be abhorrently unethical.

Further, one must differentiate between “support” and “conditional support.” While the first provides a helpful hand, the second is nothing short of veiled blackmail.

U.S. Jewry and its organizations must adopt the tenet that it is Israeli citizens’ choice to elect their government and policies, rather to presume they “know better” and force Israel’s hand to accept dictated solutions from U.S. and/or European Union governments.

Sam Liron   |    Foster City


Berkeley Hillel has plenty of Jewish and Zionist cred

A critic of Berkeley Hillel claimed in a comment on your website (underneath the Feb. 28 article “Cal alums’ letter calls for an ‘open’ Berkeley Hillel”) that the organization offers more “secular” and “interfaith” content than Jewish content.

That is patently untrue. Every Wednesday I spend nearly two hours closely examining the Talmud at Hillel with the senior Jewish educator, and I’ve found Hillel to be a welcoming home for deepening my connection to traditional Judaism and conveying precisely the “wisdom, tradition and values” the comment asserted was lacking.

Berkeley Hillel’s “open atmosphere” does not preclude transmitting Jewish values. It instead allows the Hillel staff to enable each person to receive the education and services they need so that they can be the sort of Jews they want to be.

Although there is secular and interfaith content at Hillel (as well there should be), religious Judaism of all stripes is welcome and encouraged there. Berkeley students are adults and Hillel is not a “babysitter.” It is a mature Jewish institution that provides the resources Jewish students require.

As a strong advocate for Israel at U.C. Berkeley and a member of Tikvah, I reject the claim that Hillel is a “nihilistic institution” which refuses to support Israel. Hillel is proud of its connection to Israel and provides ample opportunities for students to learn and grow in their relationship with their homeland.

Tikvah holds its meetings at Hillel, and Hillel is a proudly Zionist organization. Of course, students have a variety of different opinions on Israel; at Hillel, we welcome that discourse.

I don’t know who the anonymous online critic is, but as a student at Berkeley who is extraordinarily active in Hillel, I can say as a fact that his assertions couldn’t be more wrong. Hillel has allowed me to grow as a Jew and as a Zionist, and has provided the same nurturing to people with different views than me, as well it should. The anonymous critic asks, “Who needs Hillel?” The answer is: I do.

Elijah Granet   |   Berkeley


Like roosters in a henhouse

In his Feb. 21 letter to the editor, Andrew Gross reminded us that the Torah requires Jews to circumcise their sons, and also explains the reason.

However, one scholar gives a different explanation that could make even educated Jews pause. He wrote that the reason for circumcision was to curtail a man’s sex drive, and that “the sages frown on all who have frequent sex …  [like] roosters in a henhouse.” The name of this scholar is Maimonides.

Rudy Budesky  |   Anchorage, Alaska


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