A Real Response to Israel Hatred: Love

Hatred against Israel triggers a defensive Jewish posture. But we're better than this. There are so many reasons to be proud of Israel, to celebrate all our Start-Up nation has accomplished.
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Hatred against Israel triggers a defensive Jewish posture. But we're better than this. There are so many reasons to be proud of Israel, to celebrate all our Start-Up nation has accomplished. It is unworthy of us to forget the hope, to forget our pride, to hear malicious attacks and only react with apologies.

Tonight, yet again, the City of Berkeley was hijacked by extreme anti-Israel activists who biggest accomplishment will have been to exacerbate more tension between citizens of our city than anything else. The city's Human Welfare & Community Action Commission (HWCAC) was inappropriately made into a platform tonight for those recommending that the city of Berkeley divest from Israel. That's not big news. Berkeley's history has been peppered by Israel-hostility like this for a very long time, and, thanks to experiences like this one, few look to Berkeley as an example of reasonable civic engagement. Rather, moments like this amplify the caricature of Berkeley held by many, diminish the greatness of a truly diverse population, and mar over our part in the Free Speech movement that riveted our nation in the 1960s.

And so, instead of amplifying the horribly managed meeting, the seething applause, catcalls, and finger-snaps; instead of bemoaning the lack of any collaborative attempt by the Pro-Palestinian "side" to support a two-state solution by engaging constructively with the Pro-Israel community; instead of pointing to the tragic irony of screaming at others that they deny the humanity of others; instead of correcting the gross inaccuracies of those who forget that "the Occupation" is the result of Israel's defensive war in 1967 against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; instead of all this, I suggest we do what we're supposed to do: build the Israel we love. After all, as a modern public figure succinctly put it: haters gonna hate.

Toward that, here is a reminder of the promise of Israel's Declaration of Independence and a call to action:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

My synagogue, Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California has partnered with the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel, which brings together thousands of Jews and Arabs in six schools and communities in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Wadi Ara, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Tira & Kfar Saba. Hand in Hand is proving on a daily basis the viability of inclusion and equality for all citizens of Israel. That coexistence is, sadly, more present in Israel than in Berkeley tonight.

We had committed to raising $5,000 last year for one scholarship for one Arab student and one scholarship for one Jewish student at Hand in Hand. I'm thrilled to share that, in addition to raising that amount last spring, members the community have now created a challenge grant until the end of 2015 of $5,500 toward a total of $11,000. This will support two Arab and two Jewish Hand in Hand students.

I challenge you to see this philanthropic justice-challenge as our true response to Israel hatred. We'll build Israel from love, nurturing coexistence projects and remembering that the miracle-in-process that we call our homeland is an imperfect fulfillment of our 2,000 year old dream. There's plenty of work to do. Miracles don't come easy.

So, instead of shouting over those who can't envision a moral Zionist, let's sing Hatikvah with all our souls and prove the Israel haters wrong by ignoring them and focusing on the real work ahead. We do this for the sake of our global Jewish family, and for the sakes of all of Israel's citizens, for the sakes of Palestinians whose leaders are failing them and for Israelis who deserve better visionary leaders than currently hold elected office. Zionism is an ongoing task, not a piece of the past.

Yes, haters gonna hate. But we're never going to go there. Nor do we have any permission to despair. We are Chovevei Tziyon, Lovers of Israel, who accept the sacred imperative to hope beyond what's imaginable. We are lovers, and lovers gonna love.

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