Iran is the Wild Middle East – Can it Be Trusted?

I was born at the end of 1960.

I grew up at the time when young Americans were drafted into the US war in Viet Nam.

I vividly remember the Six-Day War in Israel and how that solidified Jewish pride and identity for so many Jews around the world. I was six years old at that time.

Just before I became Bat Mitzvah in September of 1973, Israel was attacked by her neighbors on Yom Kippur and yet another war – the “Yom Kippur War” – began, taking its toll on so many in our beloved homeland.

I spent my childhood and youth protesting wars, marching in rallies to support Israel, and trying to make sense of the world around me.

“War is Not Healthy” Necklace

I wanted to make my protest visible. So I wore a necklace around my neck that was popular with so many of my friends at that time: “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” I also wore a bracelet on my arm with the name of an American soldier who was taken Prisoner of War in Viet Nam: Sgt James Ravencraft (I wore that bracelet for decades – until I visited the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC and found his name on the wall, saw that he died and made a paper engraving of it).

We shook our heads in disbelief every time a plane was hijacked by terrorists, every time the PLO made radical statements and demands. This was in the era before suicide bombers, before car bombs and plane bombs and the World Trade Center was destroyed.

We cried out at poverty and hunger, the plight of the Soviet Jews and at other injustices taking place in our world.

Sadly, the world has not changed. Violence and war rage on. The fundamentalists appear to become more extreme. The internet and social media have enabled messages to be disseminated around the globe in a nano-second. Terror tactics have become more sophisticated. And our enemies have become more wily, more conniving.

In trying to understand the dynamics that exist between enemies and in the hopes that peace would be less elusive, Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobvici made a wonderful, stark and fascinating documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Deadly Currents” on the tails of the First Intifada. One professor interviewed in the film made a comment that still rings true today (I am paraphrasing): We are Westerners. We approach this conflict from our Western perspective with our Western sensibilities. The Israelis are, for the most part, Westerners as well. But they are Westerners living in the Middle East. This is not the “Wild West.” This is the Wild, Wild EAST. With a different sensibility, a different culture and a different mindset. It is difficult – if not almost impossible – for Westerners to understand the mindset of Easterners.

As Westerners, we might think we have an agreement, an arrangement with set protocols, set standards, set directives. Yet, that is only because that is how we work from our Western perspective. However, that is not necessarily how things work from an Eastern perspective.

So what does that tell us about the P5+1 Agreement that was signed on Tuesday with Iran? Iran is an Eastern country signing an agreement with Western allies. Is Iran to be trusted?

Israel and her Arab neighbors do not want a nuclear Iran. There are murmurings that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States have been meeting clandestinely to figure out how to deal with a nuclear Iran because they all feel that Iran is not to be trusted.

If Iran attacks Israel, all the countries surrounding Israel will be affected, so it’s in all of their best interests to come up with a cohesive plan – even if those countries do not have relations with Israel.

Why was Obama so adamant on signing this agreement? I’m sure he’s aware that Iran’s actions will speak louder than any document they sign.

Our children, our future, our Jewish homeland deserve to live in a nuclear-free world. We deserve to live in a world at peace.

However, we need to be sure that our agreements will not be exploited for other nefarious purposes.

As David J. Cape, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in his opening paragraph in the press release issued yesterday:

“While we share the goal of a diplomatic solution to this crisis, the Iranian regime has a long record of exploiting diplomacy as a cover to advance its nuclear program. The success of today’s agreement depends on Iran’s actions, not its words.”

(For CIJA’s full statement, click here: CIJA Statement on the P5 +1 Agreement )

Reform Movement and AIPAC Statements:

Reform Movement Statement on the P5 + 1 Agreement

AIPAC Statement of the P5 + 1 Agreement

It is my hope that one day, the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah will be fulfilled, when peace will reign:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
The leopard lie down with the kid…
Nothing evil or vile shall be done;
For the land shall be filled with devotion to the Eternal.

Isaiah 11: 6 & 9

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares 
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not take up sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.

Micah 4:3

Never Give Up – Reflections on the Israeli Elections

Yesterday, I awoke to find my Israeli friends expressing a sense of despair, anguish and sadness at the result of the Israeli elections.

One wrote that she wasn’t sure how she could find the strength to get out of bed to continue the [excellent] work she does in her position as director of an interfaith organization. She works with people of all faiths on a daily basis to build bridges toward peace, dialogue and understanding. She strives to develop an Israeli society where all peoples can live with dignity and in harmony. Yesterday was a difficult day for her.

Friends were greatly saddened by the racism that pervaded the election campaign. They were grievously disturbed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s choice to rally his supporters on election day by creating an atmosphere of fear over the participation of Israeli Arabs in the elections, rather than celebrating democracy at its best.

I am not going to do an analysis of the elections – there are enough political pundits, armchair critics and others who are already doing that.

But I can talk about “hope.” So many of us love the land and people of Israel and wonder if there can ever be hope for the future in that region.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was on a long car ride. And I happened to be driving for 45 minutes on a highway behind a car whose license plate read: NEVRGVEUP

Never give up.

Never give up…hope for peace.

Never give up..hope for the future.

Never give up..hope that justice will ultimately prevail.

One of my friends, Cantor Evan Kent, who now lives in Israel full-time wrote: “in spite of the elections, I am proud to remain an irrational optimist. The philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr informs my work and life. MLK said: ‘The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice..’.”

Evan – and so many of us – will not give up hope that justice and peace WILL ultimately prevail in Israel. It will be a long, slow and sometimes painful road.

As Anat Hoffman (Executive Director for the Israeli Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center) said, “We will find ways to be effective and successful despite a very challenging reality. Now is not the time for despair. Now is the time to fight even more determinedly for the future.”

So, too, WE must not give up hope. We must use our voices, our actions, our words and deeds to speak up for justice and peace.

We must educate ourselves about the critical issues, we must remain united in our commitment to Israel’s security and do our part to make justice prevail and hope a reality.

One way we can impact Israel is to Vote ARZA in the World Zionist Congress. If you have not already voted, you can vote by clicking on this link here:

Vote ARZA in the World Zionist Congress

For some additional understanding about the elections, here is a wonderful blog, by Israeli Reform Rabbi Stacy Blank:

A Modest Post-Election Perspective

For the Reform Movement’s Response to the Elections, click on this link:

Reform Movement Leaders React to the Elections in Israel

As we are taught: “As long as there is life, there is hope.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 9:1)