Let Us Not Remain The Jews Of
By Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf and Steve
The American Jewish community has
been one of Israel’s most stalwart supporters since its
foundation. We rightly see the Jewish State as our spiritual
home, and in times of trouble, never fail to stand by
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Why do we not do so in times of hope?
The negotiation process launched in Annapolis and set to
resume early next week marks a possible turning point in decades
of bloodshed, as President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embark on a
process of reconciliation – one in which painful
concessions will be made, but which is intended to lead to peace
and security on all sides. For the first time in seven years,
Israelis, Palestinians and the U.S. are engaged in a genuine
effort to resolve the conflict.
Yet rather than encourage such an outcome, most of
institutional American Jewry was and remains stunningly silent
regarding the Annapolis process – if not openly
As leaders in our community – for a combined 88 years
– we find this inexplicable.
For years, every poll conducted has shown that an
overwhelming majority of American Jews support a U.S. brokered
peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians. Most
recently, a survey found that sixty-eight percent of us are more
likely to support a Presidential candidate who pledges an active
role in negotiations, and that eighty-seven
percent of American Jews support a two-state
Eighty-seven percent! Is there anything else in the American
public discourse on which so many Jews agree?
Let’s not misunderstand the stakes: The fact that a
clear majority of American Jews – and, not incidentally, a
clear majority of Israelis and Palestinians – want a
negotiated two-state solution to the conflict, does not mean it
The initial Annapolis conference was heartening – it
gave hope when, for so long, there has been little. But for that
hope to be realized, all those who would see a sustainable peace
have to invest real effort in standing by Israel as it attempts
to change history. As the sides ready for another meeting,
controversy over Israeli settlement expansions and a recent
escalation in violence – with Qassam rockets falling on
Israel and Israel retaliating with airstrikes on Gaza –
serve as a terrifying cautionary tale. If the talks don’t
create real change, they’ll lead nowhere.
When Israel faced war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the
Jewish community’s response was loud and unambiguous:
Solidarity rallies were held nationwide as Israel suffered daily
rocket attacks, and intense fundraising efforts were launched by
every Jewish federation, to provide critical aid to the
It simply doesn’t make sense that we were so present at
such a time, but when 20 Arab nations and the leaders of the
Palestinian people sit down with Israel’s Prime Minister,
our voice is barely heard. How can it be that our community
speaks up in times of war, but not when there is a genuine
opportunity to actually prevent war?
Our tradition teaches that we must never abandon hope; nor
are we permitted to give up on what we’ve started, even if
we’re unable to complete the task ourselves. We survived
centuries of persecution to emerge into the light of a newly
formed modern nation; we must never allow our hopes and dreams
for peace to be extinguished by doubt and despair.
Now is the time for our community to rise to the challenge of
peace. Israel desperately needs our support as it bravely
struggles to put an end to the cycle of death and destruction
through the path of negotiation. There will always be people, on
all sides, dedicated to thwarting the chances for peace; it must
become our highest priority not to let them succeed.
With many disappointments and seven years of inactivity
behind us, it would be understandable to give up, label
Annapolis a fancy photo-op, and stock-pile supplies for the next
But we dare not. If the Annapolis process doesn’t bear
fruit, there’s no way of knowing what disasters will
befall Israel and the Palestinians as they await another chance
– if, indeed, another chance presents itself.
If the Jewish public truly wants to give the Jewish State the
support it needs, we will stand by our convictions, and act. The
current U.S. President and the one who replaces him must know:
The American Jewish community stands behind the Annapolis
process, and demands sustained diplomatic engagement to ensure a
Our love and hope for Israel demand nothing less.
Arnold Jacob Wolf is rabbi emeritus at KAM Isaiah Israel
in Chicago. Steve Masters is national president of Brit
Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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