A Day that Will Live in Infamy

Today in the Jewish world it is the twelfth of Heshvan, the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin at the hands of the Jewish terrorist, Yigal Amir.
I use the word, “terrorist,” purposely. He ranks with the worst of the Palestinian terrorists who have attacked Israel over the years.

Amir’s savage act of barbarism scuttled the hope for peace that burned so brightly in 1995.

Since those days of hope, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has flung the hopes for peace so far back into the shadows that they are almost out of sight.

Make no mistake, Netanyahu has done wonders for Israel’s economy. He has opened markets around the world, cut taxes drastically and made Israel into a far more prosperous nation than it was before. He has held the office of Prime Minister longer than anyone in Israel’s history.

He is also under investigation on serious charges of corruption.

Worse than that, he has hurled Israel from the brink of cooperation with the Palestinians–who also lay claim to our land–to the shoals of terror, mistrust and confrontation. Thus, staining the conscience of the only Democracy in the Middle East, and of the Jews like me and others around the world who support her.

We support her because we believe there should be a tiny Jewish State in a vast sea of Arab/Islamic hegemony. We have known what it is like to live or die for 2000 years at the “by-your-leave” of rulers.  These rulers whom, with every turn of the economy, transformed their Jews into pariahs who faced persecution, isolation, forced conversion, expulsion or extermination. Forgive us that we will never willingly give up sovereignty over the one tiny sliver of real estate where Jews control their own destiny.

The greatness of Yitzhak Rabin is that he recognized, after years as a hardliner, that living in peace was better than living under a state of siege.

For that, his political future was in dire jeopardy while Benjamin Netanyahu fanned the flames of violent protestations of the concessions for peace Rabin’s government had agreed to make. Netanyahu exacerbated the distrust of many Israelis who — from bitter experience — were unwilling to trust that our enemies could become allies.

Indeed Rabin’s widow, Leah Rabin went on record as pointing the finger at Netanyahu for encouraging the atmosphere of anger that led to Yigal Amir’s barbarous act.

Amir will spend the rest of his life in prison, but in the words of Brenda Lee, “That don’t right the wrong that’s been done!”

On this sorrowful anniversary I cry for what might have been.

I will never abandon the hope that peace will come, and I pray that leaders on both sides will soon realize as Yitzhak Rabin realized: It is our destiny as Jews and Palestinians to share this land and to proclaim as Rabin did:

Enough of war…Enough of bloodshed, Enough.”

And I pray that these leaders create two independent states that live in peace, harmony and mutual cooperation with one another.

 

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

ameinu.net

 

 

Joy in Jerusalem

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

Leo Fuchs and Rabbi Stephen Fuchs. Jerusalem 10/21/2018

Jerusalem, October 2018

How blessed I am to be on this trip. It is far from my first, but in several ways, it has been my most gratifying.  

I have not gone to the Dead Sea, Masada, Tsevat, Tel Aviv and all the other places Pastor Dr. John Danner and I look forward to seeing with our group from Bat Yam Temple of the Islands and Sanibel Congregational UCC at the end of April and the beginning of May.

No, on this trip I remained exclusively in Jerusalem.  I have had the joy of witnessing the Bat Mitzvah of Zahra Levy, a young girl I have known for four years now from the work Vickie and I have done in Germany where she and her family live.  Zahra’s mother, Yancy Sol Velasquez Levy translated my first book, ״What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives,” into Spanish, and I am so grateful to her.

When, over a year ago, Yancy invited me to come to Zahra’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony at Robinson׳s Arch at the Western Wall, I knew I wanted to be here.  I have also had the joy of delivering Divrei Torah, in Hebrew and English respectively, at Kehilat Har El, Israel’s oldest Reform Congregation, and to first-year Rabbinical and Cantorial students at Hebrew Union College in this city.

By far, though the biggest pull that brings me to Israel this time is the presence of our older son, Leo.

At the age of 42, Leo decided to step away from his successful career as Principal of Learning Without Limits in Oakland, CA.  LWL is the academic elementary school Leo and a group of others founded to give inner city kids a better shot at life.  By all measures it has been a great success.  In his role as Principal, Leo stressed to his overwhelmingly Latino and Afro-American student body the importance of knowing their roots and on whose shoulders they stand.  Increasingly, in recent years, while encouraging his students to be in touch with their roots, he was feeling the pull of his own.  So, “b’kitzur” (“in brief”) as we say in Hebrew, that is why he decided to study to become a rabbi. The HUC program mandates that all first-year candidates to be Rabbis and cantors spend their first year of study in Israel, and that is why Leo is here.

My great joy is sharing a small slice of his experience. We get to hang out together after classes, to stroll the streets of Jerusalem and just talk.  How often does a father get to spend with an adult child the amount of quality one on one time we are sharing? I thank the Eternal One continually for these shared hours.  As objective as I can be, I was amazed at Leo׳s sensitivity, skill and poise in co-leading with an Israeli Rabbinical student, the first shared worship service between the American students in Leo׳s program and the Israeli rabbinical students.

I have also gotten to see and observe many of his future colleagues. This purpose-driven group is well-aware of the issues of assimilation and declining synagogue involvement that has Rabbis, Cantors, Educators and lay volunteers wringing our hands with concern.

I admit that the Jewish leaders of my generation have not found effective solutions to these realities. But the qualities of intellect, spiritual depth and compassion I observe in the current crop of HUC students gives me real hope for the Jewish future.

 

 

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

Leo Fuchs and Rabbi Stephen Fuchs. Jerusalem 10/21/2018

Israel Should Not Tolerate Racist Demonstrations by Jews!

This coming Shabbat is Yom Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem Day.” It should be a day to celebrate  with joy the reunification of Jerusalem. But it should also be a day when Jews show sensitivity to Jerusalem’s Arab population.

From 1948 to 1967 Jews could not pray at our holiest site, the Western Wall of our ancient Temple. Since 1967 Jerusalem has been a place where the holy sites of all religious faiths are open to worshippers of those faiths.

Yom Yerushalayim should be an occasion to show the world that Jerusalem is a city where different nationalities live and all are welcome. It should be a city that respects and affirms diverse religious expressions. It should be a city that is in the words of the prophet “a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6)!”

In recent years, to my sadness, Yom Yerushalayim has been marred by racist Jews. (Even to say those two words together makes my heart blanch.) Yes, a small minority of Jews actually march en masse through Arab neighborhoods shouting “Death to the Arabs,” and “the Mosque will burn!”

Israel should have zero tolerance for such racist activity.

The government should issue strong warnings against them, and those who engage in this kind of incitement should face severe punishment. Israel—and Jerusalem in particular—must hold itself to the highest standard of human behavior.

In the hope of preventing these horrible actions this year I have written to Mr. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. Now Mr. Barkat certainly reads English, but I wanted to express myself as a lover of Israel in Hebrew. My letter in translation follows.

To Mayor Barkat, Shalom!

This coming Shabbat we shall celebrate Yom Yerushalyim. Jerusalem is our capitol. But it is also the city where many Palestinians and other Arabs also live. I request of you to do all in your power to prevent racist demonstrations against Arabs. Such demonstrations bring disgrace upon Israel in the eyes of the world.

                    With great respect,

                     Rabbi Stephen Fuchs

Even though I am a firm believer in “free speech” I believe Israel should prevent these demonstrations. Why? They are a form of overt “hate speech.” These demonstrations are a direct incitement to violence. They should have no place in Israel.

I hope you will join me as I, “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” and that you will add your voice in appealing to the city’s mayor to insure that the “City of Peace” lives up to its name.

I urge all of you who love and care about Israel to write as well.  Mayor Barkat’s email is nir@jerusalem.muni.il.

 

Why Is Israel So Special?

As Israel celebrates its 69th year of independence, my mind replays a scene that could easily happened again today. It was November 1975. The United Nations had just passed a horrific resolution condemning Zionism—the very idea that there should be a Jewish State—as racism. Shocked, I knocked on the doors of one Christian pastor in our city after another asking for support.

Some were sympathetic, but I shall never forget one pastor’s response: “Steve, you’ve taught me a lot about Judaism, and I consider you a friend. But I have neither interest in nor sympathy for Zionism.”

Today, on the land that made up the Turkish Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, twenty-two Arab peoples have realized their hopes for nationhood, sovereignty, and recognition from the world community. Jews also lived in the erstwhile Ottoman Empire. Why does the world begrudge one tiny sliver of land for Jewish national aspirations when twenty-two Islamic nations have realized the same dream?

Had there been an Israel, the would not have been a Holocaust

After the Holocaust, the world realized that had there been an Israel to which Jews could flee; Hitler never would have destroyed two-thirds of European Jewry. In other words had there been an Israel when Hitler came to power, there would not have been a Holocaust!

And so the United Nations voted to create two small states: one Arab and one Jewish. The tiny piece of land designated as the Jewish homeland was mostly desert, but no matter. The Jews of the world rejoiced that our two-thousand-year-old hope for nationhood was finally a reality.

But the Arab world had other plans and vowed to drive the new Jewish nation into the sea. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, boasted that the rivers would flow with Jewish blood. “This will be a war,” he exulted, “like the Mongolian massacres, like the crusades.”

Thankfully he was wrong.

The Jewish nation, against overwhelming odds, did manage to establish itself; but the dream to wipe her persists to this day. If ever there will be peace, the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular must renounce this dream.

We cannot deny, nor should we, that the creation of Israel caused loss and displacement for many Arabs.

I hope that reality will always sober us. I hope Israel will make every reasonable effort to reach a peaceful accord, an accord that allows both the Jewish State of Israel and an Islamic/Christian Palestine to live side by side in mutual harmony.

When Palestinian spokespeople tell us that so many of their kinsmen lost their land when Israel came to be, they are correct. But they do not tell us that roughly the same number of Jews fled for their lives to Israel from political, economic, religious and physical persecution in Arab lands.

The difference, of course, and it is a crucial difference, is that Israel absorbed refugees from Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Morocco and integrated them into Israeli society by providing them with language training, job skills, and housing. The Arab world, despite economic capabilities that dwarf those of all the Jews in the world, chose to maintain Palestinian refugees in squalid camps, which for sixty years have been breeding grounds for hatred of Israel and terrorism.

It is OK to be critical

I do not believe that supporting Israel means that we should relinquish the right to criticize policies of Israel’s that we think is wrong. In particular, I strongly criticize the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the days leading up to the recent election.

But none of us should allow our criticism to provide aid and political ammunition for those Jews and non-Jews alike¾who seek to destroy the Jewish State.

We must never forget that if the Arab states renounce terror, lay down their arms, and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, there will be peace. But if Israel lays down its arms or relaxes its vigilance, there will be no Israel. I count myself among those who would consider the loss of Israel a tragedy the world should spare no effort to prevent.

Why Israel Is So Special

As Israel celebrates its 66th year of independence, my mind replays a scene that could easily happen again today.
It was November 1975. The United Nations had just passed a horrific resolution condemning Zionism–-the very idea that there should be a Jewish State–as racism. Shocked, I knocked on the doors of one Christian pastor in our city after another asking for support.
Some were sympathetic, but I shall never forget one pastor’s response. “Steve,” he said, “you’ve taught me a lot about Judaism, and I consider you a friend. But I have neither interest in nor sympathy for Zionism.”
Today, on the land that made up the Turkish Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I, twenty-two Arab/Islamic peoples have realized their hopes for independent nationhood. Jews also lived in the erstwhile Ottoman Empire. Why does the world begrudge one tiny sliver of land for Jewish national aspirations when twenty-two Islamic nations have realized the same dream?
After the Holocaust, the world realized that had there been an Israel to which Jews could flee, Hitler never could have destroyed two-thirds of European Jewry. In other words had there been an Israel when Hitler came to power, there would not have been a Holocaust!
And so the United Nations voted to create two small states: One Arab and one Jewish. The tiny piece of land designated as the Jewish homeland was mostly desert, but no matter. We Jews rejoiced that our two-thousand-year-old hope for nationhood was finally a reality.
But the Arab world had other plans and vowed to drive the new Jewish nation into the sea. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, boasted that the rivers would flow with Jewish blood. “This will be a war,” he exulted, “like the Mongolian massacres, like the crusades.”
It turned out he was wrong. The Jewish nation, against overwhelming odds, did manage to establish itself, but the Arab dream to wipe her off the map persists to this day. If ever there will be peace, the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular must renounce this dream.
We cannot deny, nor should we, that the creation of Israel caused loss and displacement for many Palestinian Arabs. I hope that reality will always sober us. I hope Israel will make every reasonable effort to reach a peaceful accord, an accord that allows both the Jewish State of Israel and an Islamic/Christian Palestine to live side by side in mutual harmony.
When Palestinian spokespeople tell us that so many of their kinsmen lost their land when Israel came to be, they are correct. But they do not tell us that roughly the same number of Jews fled for their lives to Israel from political, economic, religious and physical persecution in Arab lands.
The difference, of course⎯and it is a crucial difference⎯is that Israel absorbed refugees from Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Morocco and integrated them into Israeli society by providing them with language training, job skills, and housing. The Arab world, despite economic capabilities that dwarf those of all the Jews in the world, chose to maintain Palestinian refugees in squalid camps, which for sixty-six years have been breeding grounds for hatred of Israel and terrorism.
I do not believe that supporting Israel means that we should relinquish the right to criticize policies of Israel’s that we think is wrong. But none of us should allow our criticism to provide aid and political ammunition for those–Jews and non–Jews alike⎯who seek to destroy the Jewish State.
We must never forget that if the Arab states renounce terror, lay down their arms, and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, there will be peace. But if Israel lays down its arms or relaxes its vigilance, there will be no Israel. I count myself among those who would consider “no Israel” a tragedy the world should spare no effort to prevent.