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Winter 2000-2001

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2000-2001

From My Vantage Point

The headlines scream: "Crisis in Israel"! Yet, "crisis in Israel" is an oxymoron. We have long become accustomed that the words "crisis" and "Israel" are synonymous. Therefore, when the Peace Process broke down and violence once again filled the streets, we shouldn't have been surprised.

And yet, we were devastated because our hopes for a successful conclusion of the Peace Process seemed so close that we could taste it. This Israeli government had gone further than any other in offering the Palestinians a chance to fulfill their dreams, but they refused to make the difficult decisions and accept compromise. As it has so often been remarked, "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

The headlines scream: "Crisis in Israel"! Yet, "crisis in Israel" is an oxymoron. We have long become accustomed that the words "crisis" and "Israel" are synonymous. Therefore, when the Peace Process broke down and violence once again filled the streets, we shouldn't have been surprised.

And yet, we were devastated because our hopes for a successful conclusion of the Peace Process seemed so close that we could taste it. This Israeli government had gone further than any other in offering the Palestinians a chance to fulfill their dreams, but they refused to make the difficult decisions and accept compromise. As it has so often been remarked, "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Immediately after the Camp David talks broke down, we were told that the Palestinians did not know or believe that the Temple Mount was important to the Jewish people. The Muslims denial and insensitivity to the fact that we pray daily towards Jerusalem as the site of the Holy of Holies was inexcusable. The desecration of Joseph's Tomb and the murder of Rabbi Lieberman brought this revulsion home even more so.

During Hol Hamoed Sukkot, with 24 hours notice, I traveled to Israel with 70 other Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the United Jewish Communities. We went to show our support for the Israeli government and its people. While there, we met with governmental leaders who described their sadness over the violence and loss of life and their feelings of isolation from the rest of the world. They were very grateful to the Clinton Administration and its steadfast commitment to Israel. They continue to need the unswerving support of the U.S. Government and of the American Jewish community.

We traveled to areas such as the Gilo neighborhood in southern Jerusalem and the Me-Ami and Katzir moshavim in the Wadi Ara, all of which had been under attack from nearby Arab villages. It was very disturbing to see the breakdown of good relations with, heretofore, quiet Arab neighbors.

One of the most poignant meetings of the three-day mission was with the family of one of the three Israeli soldiers who had been kidnapped by the Hizbullah on the Lebanese border, in clear violation of the U.N. The pain in the faces of the young man's relatives was palpable. His father's words speak volumes: "We, as parents, appeal to all bodies involved in freeing prisoners of war to do their utmost to receive a sign of life from them. We ask that they be allowed to receive decent medical treatment. We implore that the Red Cross be allowed to visit them and hope that everything possible will be done in order for them to be released and brought home." As Chair of the Israeli MIA Committee of the Conference of Presidents, I have pledged the help of the entire Jewish community to seek their release.

Before I left Israel, I had the privilege to visit with the current group of students who are studying in Israel on NATIV, the USY Year-Course. I wanted them to know that we were mindful of their commitment and that every effort to insure their wellbeing was being taken. Not one member of the group had left despite safety concerns. The leaders of this group have been wonderful in taking care of the students, and all of us in the Conservative Movement should take great pride in this most important program which helps to develop the next generation's commitment to Zionism.

My hope and prayer is that by the time this newsletter is published, peace and tranquility will have returned to the State of Israel and the entire Middle East. Let us all pray that the peace we all desire will be sought and achieved for the sake of Zion.

 

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