Supporting Israel at Rosh Hashanah Time

Avraham Burg, Arthur Hertzberg, & Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 9/2/2003

On this Website, there now appear several important articles on the worsening crisis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; and their impact on the future of Israel and the whole Jewish people.

These articles appear in the "What Now?/ 4th Rosh Hashanah" subsection of the Israeli-Palestinian section of the "Peace" region on the Website.

Two are specially important. (A few relevant paragraphs are quoted below.) How can we use these articles to address our congregations and communities this Rosh Hashanah?

1. A call by veteran American Zionist Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg for the US to bring financial pressure on Israel by reducing military aid accordingv to the amount the West Bank settlements cost each year.

2. Going far more deeply to the roots of the trouble, a hesrtfelt outcry by Avraham Burg that "the Zionist revolution is over" and that Israel's present leaders are taking it on the path to self-destruction.

Burg's article, published in Yediot Achronot and then in the American Jewish weekly Forward, is entitled — "A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent." Burg was speaker of Israel's Knesset from 1999 to 2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is currently a Labor Party Knesset member.

There are some American Jews who try to silence such outcries by claiming that to say such things is treason against Israel, anti-Semitism, or self-hatred.

Right. The former speaker of the Knesset, an Orthodox Jew, the son of one of the old-time leaders of religious Zionism who served in every Israeli cabinet for thirty years, is a traitor, a self-hating Jew, or an anti-Semite.

Rosh Hashanah demands that we transform our lives. Its Torah readings demand that we save the lives of both Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham's two sons — the traditional forebears of the Jews and Arabs.

On Rosh Hashanah we read the Torah story of the Binding and near killing of Isaac by his father Abraham — which would have shattered the future of the Jewish people, at its very start.

At the moment when the knife descended, a messenger from YHWH, the Breath of Life — a "malach," an "angel" (but the Hebrew and the Greek mean simply "messenger") shouted, "Abraham, Abraham!!!"

Why twice? Because at the first outcry, Abraham did not stop. The knife kept coming. He was caught, hooked, addicted to the path of murderous SELF-destruction he thought God had commanded.

Today tens of thousands of Jews, as well as other messengers of YHWH, the Breath of Life, have been shouting at the present government of Israel, "Stop!! Stop!"

"Stop from the path of violence to which you are addicted, for it is bringing self-destruction on us all."

Some of us have been shouting for decades; but Rabbi Hertzberg and former Speaker Burg are saying things aloud that before they could only bear to wonder silently, or whisper to their closest friends.

Like them, we must all cry out, not only once but twice and more. Till our own knife stops falling on our own future, as well as ion the future of oiur ciousins, the other family of Abraham. We read that story too, on Rosh Hashanah. In it God Hears — "Va'yishma elohim" — our cousin Yishma'el. Can we "sh'ma" — hush our own clamor to listen to the outcries of both children?

We must all become the messenger from God, to save our futures from disaster.

Rosh Hashanah beckons. If not now, when?

Shalom, Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center <>

From ARTHUR HERTZBERG's article:

"The most effective way to force a reduction of the violence on both sides is to take punitive economic measures. The United States finances about $4 billion a year, on average, of Israel's national budget. The continuing effort to defend, support and increase settlements in the West Bank and Gaza costs at least $1 billion a year. The money spent annually in directly subsidizing the existing settlements was estimated in 2001 at $400 million.

"An American government that was resolved to stop expansion of the settlements would not need to keep sending the secretary of state to Jerusalem to repeat that
we really mean what we say. We could prove it by deducting the total cost of the settlements each year from the United States' annual allocation to Israel. To show
that we were not being unfeelingly mean, the United States should add that we would hold $1 billion a year in escrow to help those settlers who would peacefully move back into Israel's pre-1967 borders."

From "A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent"

"The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.

"There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out. If the pillar collapses, the upper floors will come crashing down."
(Translated by J.J. Goldberg)