American Jews Israel Israeli settlements New Israel Fund Palestinians Progressive Jews Rabbis for Human Rights

Helping “our fellow Jews and our fellow humans, the Palestinians”

The daughter of some friends wrote the following on her Bat Mitzvah program. It has the ring of something a very smart, self-aware 13-year-old would write, rather than a presentation that has been sanitized and edited by grown-ups. That is why I find it moving:

I am going to donate 10% of the money I receive as gifts to the Two Trees Initiative, a project of the Rabbis for Human Rights that plants olive trees around Israel. These trees are replacing those that have been illegally uprooted by the Israeli government and by settlers. The project also plants new trees in poor Jewish neighborhoods. In Deuteronomy, it says “Even if you are at war with a city…you must not destroy its trees.” Planting trees is one of the most environmental things you can do. Not only can they look nice, but trees release oxygen and clean the air. Also olive trees can help support families. Planting trees is, in a way, commanded by God. It is also the right thing to do. This initiative promotes peaceful coexistence between the two states. I picked this charity because it benefits our fellow Jews and our fellow humans, the Palestinians.

Some left-leaning adults tell us that it is impossible to reconcile a passion for social justice with an emotional or spiritual commitment to Israel and a desire to be part of the Jewish people. They are deeply suspicious of any form of Jewish particularism, any sense of fellow feeling and shared community with Israeli Jews. Her answer to them is straighforward, and wise.

The New Israel Fund is also wrestling with these questions in a program that appears to be targeted to young Jewish professionals: “Love, Hate and the Jewish State –A Conversation On Israel and Social Justice.” Their web site asks: “Why is it so hard to talk about Jewish social justice and Israel? Are the two issues incompatible? Does separating them from each other impact our communities and our own identities?”

They are having an open discussion about these matters on Thursday, June 18, 7 pm at The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. Check out the promo video here. (Hat tip: Ben Murane) I hope they do a better job of figuring all of this out than my generation of Jewish lefties.

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