Rabbi Saxe-Taller

Dear Prime Minister Olmert,

The Israeli people and American Jewish community have long had a warm and respectful relationship. Israel is the spiritual homeland of all Jews, and as American rabbis, we have consistently brought this message to our communities.

Over time, we have watched you adopt increasingly reconciliation-minded policies, and greeted each with enthusiasm. It is clear to us that the only way to build a truly safe and successful Israel is to achieve a mutually acceptable two-state agreement with the Palestinian people.

As chairs of the Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, we organize the broader American Jewish community and our co-clergy in support of just such a solution. We have already begun to call upon President-elect Obama to stand by his statement that "I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security."

But neither he, nor we, nor you and your government will be able to achieve peace without greater sensitivity to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We understand that Israel faces many difficulties in sharing the Gaza border with a Hamas-led government, and that as Prime Minister you must do everything in your power to protect Israelis living in Sederot and Ashkelon. The recent upsurge in violence has been particularly troubling, but it must not hamper efforts to seek peace and normality -- indeed, these are the very things that will ultimately serve to protect Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Rabbi Friedman 
& 860 + Signers

Gazans have not known normality for far too long. They've been living with a blockade for close to two years. International food aid is the only nourishment available to hundreds of thousands of people. Pregnant mothers, sick children, and the elderly often can't get their most basic medical needs met. Unemployment is rampant. The educational system and infrastructure are badly damaged.

Your government's media ban and restrictions on access by humanitarian NGOs severely limits access to information, but all indications are that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating. Perhaps most important are the reports that the people of Gaza are increasingly hopeless. Hopelessness, as you know, breeds extremism--Israel's worst enemy.

It is true that Gaza has historically been the orphan of the Middle East. Wanted by few, more trouble than its worth, the community of people who live there are often forced to deal with circumstances that we in the West cannot truly comprehend.

But it doesn't have to be that way. The time is rapidly approaching to renew the June 19, 2008 ceasefire with Hamas, with provisions to greatly ease the blockade. We write to urge to do so, and in so doing, to support the forces for peace throughout the region. As your government and the term of President Abbas draw to a close, any actions that the two of you take to bolster the forces searching for a solution will have a powerful effect on the upcoming elections of both peoples.

We urge you to use your remaining time in office to continue your work for peace, starting with a renewal of the Gaza ceasefire.

We will do our part to organize the American Jewish community to advocate for a just and durable solution, and we will call on our next President to vigorously pursue the one thing that can guarantee Israel a healthy and happy future: Peace.

Todah me-rosh (Thanks in advance),

Rabbis John Friedman and Julie Saxe-Taller, Chair and Co-Chair
Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom 

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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