A patron at a Jerusalem pub watches as President Donald Trump recognizes the city as Israel's capital, Dec. 6, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Yonatan Sindel-Flash90)
A patron at a Jerusalem pub watches as President Donald Trump recognizes the city as Israel's capital, Dec. 6, 2017. (Photo/JTA-Yonatan Sindel-Flash90)

Jerusalem, for and against; and Arab stereotypes in our cartoons

Jerusalem, the beating heart of the Jewish people

Historically, politically, spiritually and culturally, Jerusalem represents the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Denial of the Jewish connection with Jerusalem, the land of their origins, is dishonest and unacceptable. Mentioned over 660 times in the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem was the beating heart of Jewish faith more than a thousand years before the birth of Christianity, and 2½ millennia before the birth of Islam. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem at all.

Only under Israeli sovereignty have Jerusalem and its religious sites been open to all people. Under Muslim control from 1948-1967, the Jews were expelled from the Old City and their ancient synagogues destroyed. If Palestine is granted statehood it will be the 57th Muslim-majority country. Israel is the only Jewish majority country in the world. The Jewish people are indigenous to Israel. The Jewish people deserve support.

Sheree Roth,
Palo Alto

Jerusalem declaration a well-crafted statement

Regarding winners, losers and the capital of Israel, it is important to understand that what President Trump said will change the situation on the ground. His statement was crafted to disarm Palestinian control of outcomes through their default response of threatening and engaging in violence. President Trump’s announcement was essential at this time, as Palestinian terror must be called out and made counterproductive instead of effective.

Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without making a clear statement regarding sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem leaves that issue in the hands of those directly involved, which is as it should be.

Lastly, if “being seen as heading toward normalization with Israel following this announcement will put Arab governments in a political bind,” there is no way there can be peaceful relations between Israel and neighbors, since normalization is anathema.

Julia Lutch,

Blood on Trump’s hands for poorly timed statement

Whenever I’ve visited Israel, I’ve spent most and in some cases all of my time in Jerusalem. If there is one place in our world in which I feel truly “at home,” it’s Jerusalem. I’ve always considered and will always consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Having said that, I feel compelled to publicly say that the president’s statement earlier this month was at best terrible timing and at worst a match that is likely to inflame a new round of violence.

My perspective is that any blood that is shed as a result of this poorly timed and poorly delivered decision will be on the president’s hands.

Marvin Goodman,
Foster City

More motivated by hatred of Trump than love of Israel

If Barack Obama had had the courage to match his action to his words on officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had Barack Obama done what Donald Trump had the courage to do, would we have seen such a negative reaction from so many Jews? I doubt it.

I suspect that if Barack Obama had actually followed through on his pledge, my Hebrew brethren would have been cheering from the highest Sukkot. And as I hear the dire warnings and the anti-Jerusalem-resolution rants from Bay Area Jews, I suspect that many are motivated more by hatred of Trump than by love for Israel. And that, to me, is profoundly sad.

Scott Abramson,
San Mateo

JCRC is committed to the what, just not the when

The San Francisco-based JCRC is deeply committed to recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to a two-state solution with mutually agreed upon borders. The Bay Area’s organized Jewish community has said time and again that these are its consensus positions. However, there is not currently consensus as to tactics. While some in our community have concerns about the timing, others welcome the government’s action as long overdue.

By selectively quoting one portion of our statement, the J. may have given readers a misimpression of our community’s diverse views. The many positive responses we’ve received to our statement reinforces our conviction that the balance we presented best reflects our community.

Marty Schenker,
San Francisco

‘Tough’ to love Israel? Go back to the source

J. reported a few weeks ago that “Reform rabbis are finding it tough to love Israel” (Dec. 1). Their lack of imagination and inability to see beyond current events blow my mind. Rabbi Jen Gubitz shies away from studying Israel because her students aren’t interested? Unbelievable.

To be sure, the frustrations mentioned in the article are real. When the rabbinate spends so much energy trying to maintain the “purity” of the Jewish people and a final peace settlement feels further away than ever, we have no choice to be disappointed.

Note that Israelis are legitimately disappointed, too. The article mentions an acerbic remark made by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely as a source of discord. Her words do sting, but are not without truth. Consider that she was unceremoniously disinvited from speaking at Princeton allegedly because of a minor administrative oversight.

So how to approach the subject? Israel’s Declaration of Independence is a fine place to start. (It’s a far loftier and more balanced and comprehensive document than our own declaration of 1776.) It sets out both the historic and political case for the creation of the state and the principles that the state is to uphold. For instance, it promises “the Arab inhabitants […] full and equal citizenship and due representation,” a noble and worthy promise but one that puts the goal of a Jewish national homeland at odds with that of liberal democracy.

Simply put, the Declaration of Independence sets out the task of any responsible Israel educator: Start with the long arc of Jewish history, sketch the broader backdrop of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, set forth the principles of the state, and only then explain how subsequent politics has betrayed those principles. The tender youth of the Reform movement deserve no less.

Ilya Gurin,
Mountain View

Cartoon depictions of Arabs perpetuate stereotypes

I fail to see how the stereotypical depiction of Arabs that so regularly appear in your editorial page cartoons differs in any meaningful way from the stereotypical depictions of Jews that we so readily (and rightly) condemn as racist and anti-Semitic. The “us vs. them” mentality upon which it is based is deeply rooted on both sides of the conflict, and on both sides it leads to the same place: a dead end.

Barry Katz,
Palo Alto

Call to purge Carlebach music is misuse of #MeToo cause

The recent opinion piece instigating a “purging” of Shlomo Carlebach’s music is reminiscent of the BDS movement’s heavy-handed tactics.

Shlomo was a great person, not only for his beautiful music and unique spiritual teachings, but also for his amazing love and acceptance of all humanity. These remarkable attributes helped bring many Jews back to their tradition.

But the boycotting “purgers” want to wipe out all the good that Shlomo’s soul filled music still inspires. They are trying to make an “unperson” of this remarkable man, as in Orwell’s 1984 where the memory of a person is erased.

That is not the Jewish approach. If so, we’d have to remove most holy Jewish figures in the Torah, from drunken, naked Noah to the Patriarchs’ and Jacob’s sons’ failures and wrongdoings. Even Moses was unable to enter Israel due to his misdeeds.

But Judaism is noted for these honest stories. Acknowledging the challenges of being human, we learn from their struggles. Judaism doesn’t expect perfection, but growth.

This is a harsh judgment of Shlomo without trial. It is still unclear what occurred and to what extent. And it’s a destructive misuse of the #MeToo campaign, distorting that good cause.

#MeToo has brought harassment into the light, and it’s time to address this … through dialogue in synagogues that creates positive behavioral changes for the future, not lashing out at the dead in blind anger.

A serious concern is that synagogues will feel pressured to be “politically correct,” jumping on the “purging” bandwagon to protect themselves. Hopefully they will resist caving in to the heavy club of boycotting.

A loving approach that exemplifies Judaism at its best is preferable. Purging Shlomo will only cause the loss of his beautiful music, teachings, and amazing example of loving your fellow Jew and everyone else… with no meaningful gain.

Lynn Reichman,
Eugene, Oregon

UNESCO backed exhibit after ‘Israel’ erased from title

Sadly, in order for UNESCO not to scrap the [“People, Book, Land”] exhibit, two important facts need to be addressed:

The panel on Jewish refugees from Arab lands (650,000 strong) into Israel in the 1950s had to be hidden in order to perpetuate the Arab narrative that Israel is a European enclave and erasing the history of ethnic cleansing of their entire Jewish populations all over the region (850,000 strong) when Israel was established as a Jewish country.

And “Israel” had to be erased from the original title of the exhibit, from “People, Book, Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with Israel” to “The Holy Land.”

Unfortunately, these facts were not mentioned or addressed by any of the speakers at San Jose State University at the reception of the exhibit. We need to do better. When we are forced to accept half the narrative, we need to at least address it so we can continue fighting the battle for legitimacy. We have a Jewish country that much of the world does not see as legitimate. By not at least mentioning these facts, we collude with the very dangerous anti-Israel narrative.

Rachel Wahba,
San Rafael

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