Heartbreaking discourse on Israel

I agree wholeheartedly with Sue Fishkoff’s recent column on how divisive our discourse has become since the Hamas-Israel war has begun (“In crisis, emotions run high and wagons get circled,” Aug. 1).

The J. is sponsored in small part by the Jewish community, so it is understandable that it has a pro-Israel slant. But I could never imagine unsubscribing just because of the J.’s political positions, even if I vehemently disagreed.

That people would renounce the paper for having viewpoints or for sharing others’ viewpoints is sad. Even sadder is how much the discourse has deteriorated. A few weeks ago I made a point, on someone’s Facebook post about the Gaza War, that Israel initially helped to fund Hamas so Israel is partly to blame for the terrorist monster lobbing rockets at her. Two former high school classmates responded that I would have been a Kapo at a Nazi concentration camp, punishing my fellow Jews. They also said I would’ve excused Hitler for retaliating against the bad Jews.

While emotions run high when it comes to Israel and Jews and our cultural and religious identity, it is heartbreaking and disgusting that I was called a Nazi apologist for having a different opinion about Israel and the Middle East.

Thank you for reminding us that even if we support Israel but oppose some of the government’s policies, we must engage each other in civil debate or further risk losing our humanity.

Steven Friedman  |  San Rafael


Living as one, healing together

In the midst of Middle East fury — and broken hearts and hopes — how do we begin ending war, creating community, finally living as if we are one, echad, wahad, odin?

How do we understand ourselves and our power to redirect relationships and history?

In our experience, today’s more dangerous “iron dome” is the increasing hardness around people’s defended hearts—inevitable outcomes of slaying, scaring, destroying, blockading and humiliating.

Too, showering ineffective rockets disregards inescapable cause-and-effect of terrifying an unhealed, fearful, heavily militarized people — any people.

Most Palestinian and Israeli citizens seem educated and inventive about everything except thoughtful communication that humanizes one another.

Who will be the new citizen-communicators who sit down to face and hear each other — listen deeply to learn, familiarize and experience ourselves in the equal-other?

With this listening, we dignify “them” and “us,” become one another’s doctors, and heal together — only together.

In the flames of fear, in the illusion of individual survival, most people succumb to the clan’s taboo against personal contact and empathy.

Who among us will transcend this anxiety, champion the inclusive Prophets, and practice the prescription of social scientists, mental health professionals and the spiritual greats?

Who will engage to discover that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard” and that we are one, neighbors forever?

Libby and Len Traubman  |  San Mateo


Film not fair to soldiers

My son is part of your cover story on lone soldiers serving in the IDF (“Local boys fight, parents worry,” Aug. 1). I am interviewed in that story about my son, and I felt it was very well written by Dan Pine.

I was most displeased with another story in the same issue, about a so-called documentary on IDF soldiers’ behavior (“Rough look at IDF soldiers in film festival offering”). The movie is not something I have seen. Based on my own research of it, the story is disgraceful. Without interviewing IDF soldiers, it bears no truth. It is propaganda.

My son had served for over seven months in Hebron — an area covered in the movie — prior to being called to combat in Gaza. His stories of soldiers in Hebron would show an alternate reality.

Terrible editorial choice. All you did was provide publicity to propaganda against the heroic, moral and valiant young men serving in the IDF.

Gill Shapira  |  Sunnyvale


Lift the blockade

Civilians have paid a horrific price in the ongoing violence in Gaza. I hope my members of Congress will support and work for a lasting cease-fire that includes lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The U.S. has particular responsibility to help end the killing since U.S. weapons are fueling this conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the blockade collective punishment against a civilian population. U.S. policymakers must call for lifting the blockade to ensure a durable cease-fire.

While it’s imperative to address the immediate crisis, I also hope the U.S. will support long-term stability by shifting from a militarized approach in the Middle East to one rooted in inclusive, diplomatic solutions. The success of the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran and the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons demonstrates that the world can be made a safer place through diplomacy, not more bombing.

Katherine Myskowski  |  Martinez


We are not safe anywhere

At the July 20 solidarity gathering at Congregation Emanu-El, there was more than just one protest voiced against Israel inside the temple. A half-dozen members of “Jewish Voice for Peace” and other pro-Palestinian groups sneaked into the main sanctuary of the synagogue, where the meeting and community prayer for peace were held.

They strategically positioned themselves in different parts of the large sanctuary and disrupted the speeches and prayers at least five or six times, screaming unintelligibly and spitting out ugly accusations at more or less equal intervals, one person at a time, which appeared well orchestrated.

They did it, despite the repeated reminders about the sacred nature of the space, until each one was escorted outside. It was extremely upsetting and some children in the audience looked scared and visibly shaken. I heard some congregants commenting afterward that perhaps it was a bad idea to hold the meeting at the temple.

And yet, I would like to say thank you to the protesters. Not, of course, for disrupting and disrespecting our peaceful gathering at our own (not public) sacred place, or frightening our children. I would like to thank them for reminding all of us of what Jewish students have to deal with on a daily basis on California campuses. I would like to thank them for providing a needed wake-up call to remind us that no matter how safe we may feel among ourselves, behind the walls of our synagogues, we are not really safe anywhere anymore. And finally, I would like to thank them for reminding our community that no place is sacred and no walls are tall enough in Israel to protect its children and adults unless it does what it has to in order to protect itself.

Sonia Melnikova-Raich  |  San Francisco


Tanks? No thanks

As a caring 66-year-old Jew who reads and enjoys your weekly paper of diverse opinions, I was disgusted by the article “Israeli tank sells for $293,000 at local auction,” (July 25). I have a hard time feeling OK about anyone who collects tanks and stores them on his property. How strange is that? Plus to have someone pay that amount of money for a vehicle of war also repulses me. How about taking that $293K and appropriating it toward something good and meaningful for needy Jews in Israel or needy Palestinians, or programs in Israel that promote Israelis and Palestinians living together, which by the way do exist there?

Jews everywhere should be ashamed of glorifying in any way a tank that is meant to destroy people and their homes. Shame on the J. for printing this garbage when so many other more pressing pieces of useful information could occupy the same space. It embarrasses me as a Jew. Puke puke puke.

H. Gorbach  |  Sonoma


Disagreeing with Israel is OK

In the Letters column of July 25, Tod Zuckerman disapproved of my position re: “settlers” (“Don’t blame the settlements”). He went on to infer that I am a “Jewish progressive” because I don’t believe in provoking Palestinian anger by building “settlements” on land outside of the 1967 borders. Actually, I am anything but a progressive. I am an independent centrist.

I agree with him on virtually all the issues he raised in the remainder of his letter; that is to say I stand proudly with the 87 percent of Israelis who want the IDF to finish the job of destroying Hamas’ rockets and infiltration tunnels.

However, I do not agree with the right-wing settlers who insist on building homes and “Israeli-only roads” in areas not seen by most of the Western world as part of modern-day Israel. The current result of their aggressiveness is dead teenagers leading to a needless war, and now over 1,000 dead at this writing. My point is, one can support Israel without approving of everything Israelis do.

Allan Altman  |  Larkspur


J.’s doing it wrong

J. is becoming more and more narrow in its scope — Israel, all the time. Plus you publish almost exclusively the standard Israel government point of view.

I suggest that you do more reporting of the Jewish diaspora in the Bay Area. Profiles of interesting Jews who are giving back to the community — and not just leaders of the big institutional Jewish nonprofits — as well as more stories about innovative ways to express one’s Jewish identity.

Right now, J. reads like so many press releases and not enough original reporting.

Elizabeth Wechsler  |  Thousand Oaks


A super-good read

I am following up on the article about the “Purim Superhero” controversy (“PJ Library draws heat for policy on book with two dads,” April 4). A few days ago, my 6-year-old daughter got her copy of the book. At first she didn’t want to read it because “Mooommm, it’s not Purim!” But now we’ve read it a couple of times, and here are my takeaways:

It’s a nice little story of a boy, Nate, who wants to wear an alien costume for Purim even though the other boys are dressing as superheroes.

He just happens to have two dads. Having two dads is really not central to the story, and thankfully no bullying or other such drama happens because of having two dads.

No other parents are in the story.

There is a page that I would call the “out” reference. After thinking about how “most” kids have a mom and dad, not two dads, Nate asks one of them, “Do you ever want to be like everybody else?” The dad gives the example of how Queen Esther didn’t hide that she was Jewish and that “…showing who you really are makes you stronger, even if you’re different from other people.” That’s really the only acknowledgement of having two dads.

I’m glad we finally got it.

Kimberlee MacVicar  |  Alameda