Kehilla delivers peace petition

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End demolitions of Palestinians' houses.

Implement the Wye accord's provisions for withdrawal from the territories.

Work toward a Jerusalem that is capital both of Israel and a future Palestinian state.

These are the requests members of Berkeley's Kehilla Community Synagogue are asking the Israeli government to consider during its ongoing peace process.

Approximately 250 have signed their names to a three-page, 2-foot by 18-inch petition, hand-delivered to the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco by David Cooper, Kehilla's spiritual leader, and Allan Solomonow, the synagogue's Mideast committee member.

The pair met with Consul Eran Etzion for about 45 minutes last week.

"He had a frank exchange with us," said Solomonow, "and understood that there's a great breadth of opinion within American Jews.

"He feels that it's very, very important for Jewish groups, whatever their background is, to speak up," he added.

The synagogue, comprised of 280 families, had planned to deliver its petition on Nov. 4, which marked the yahrzeit of the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, but the consul couldn't meet with them then.

"We were extremely hopeful during the Rabin years, we were ecstatic," said Cooper. But "after the prime minister was assassinated…and after it became quite clear that [Benjamin] Netanyahu was not going to make the moves to try and further the great efforts of Rabin, we went into a bit of a funk."

And, according to Solomonow, little has changed since Prime Minister Ehud Barak took office.

"All of us are beginning to worry there hasn't been enough courage, enough vision, enough dynamism," said Solomonow. "And we all desperately hope home demolitions would stop."

The synagogue's Mideast committee decided to put together a statement for the congregation to sign during the High Holy Days. In that respect, the petition "came out of a spiritual place rather than strictly political place," Cooper said.

He said it's important that Kehilla, well-known as a politically progressive congregation, draft a "fairly strong statement.

"If we can't go out on a limb, then other synagogues wouldn't come close" to following that lead, he added.

Cooper hopes the Israeli government will take notice of the petition and understand that "on a day that we really are demanded to be our utmost truthful, we signed a statement of conscience that supported serious moves toward peace."