Monday, September 29, 2014

israeli apartheid a divisive topic within world jewry...,


NYTimes |  Forty-seven years after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war — celebrated by Jews worldwide — Israel’s occupation of Arab lands won in battle and its standoff with the Palestinians have become so divisive that many rabbis say it is impossible to have a civil conversation about Israel in their synagogues. Debate among Jews about Israel is nothing new, but some say the friction is now fire. Rabbis said in interviews that it may be too hot to touch, and many are anguishing over what to say about Israel in their sermons during the High Holy Days, which begin Wednesday evening.

Particularly in the large cohort of rabbis who consider themselves liberals and believers in a “two-state solution,” some said they are now hesitant to speak much about Israel at all. If they defend Israel, they risk alienating younger Jews who, rabbis say they have observed, are more detached from the Jewish state and organized Judaism. If they say anything critical of Israel, they risk angering the older, more conservative members who often are the larger donors and active volunteers.

The recent bloody outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip may have done little to change the military or political status quo there, but rabbis in the North American diaspora say the summertime war brought into focus how the ground under them has shifted.

“It used to be that Israel was always the uniting factor in the Jewish world,” said Rabbi Aigen, who has served Congregation Dorshei Emet in Montreal for 39 years. “But it’s become contentious and sadly, I think it is driving people away from the organized Jewish community. Even trying to be centrist and balanced and present two sides of the issue, it is fraught with danger.”

Israel is still, without a doubt, the spiritual center and the fondest cause of global Jewry. Many rabbis said that Hamas’s summer assaults on Israel, by rocket fire and underground tunnels, the anti-Semitism that erupted around the world and the rise of the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State in neighboring Syria left them feeling more aware of Israel’s vulnerability and more protective of it than ever.

“There’s just been a tremendous outpouring of support, a sense of real connection and identification with our brothers and sisters in Israel,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents the Conservative movement, summing up what she heard during a recent “webinar” for rabbis preparing for the High Holy Days.