Going to Israel this week!

I’ll be traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories this week, staying 3 days with family and then 10 days with a trip organized by Rabbis for Human Rights. (It’s NOT all rabbis going, nor even mostly; quite a range of people, in fact.) They have asked me to be one of their bloggers, but 1) I don’t have a laptop (yet) and 2) They may or may not be posting during the trip. So I may not be able to tell you all about it while I’m there, but I will certainly be writing and will post when I get back. We will be meeting with Druze, Ethiopian Jews, Palestinian Arabs, gay and lesbian Israelis, and who knows who else?

I am a proud and passionate supporter of Israel, but not of everything that its government or its populace does. I hope to be able to speak more knowledgeably and with personal experience about both what’s right and what’s wrong — toward the end of encouraging American Jews to engage with Israel.

A long time ago I read something written by a Jesuit priest who taught at Notre Dame. He was not happy with some, maybe many, of the actions of his church, and someone asked him why he continued as a Catholic, a priest, and a teacher at a Catholic institution. He replied that every group needs the “loyal opposition” — the people who care passionately about the group or institution and want it to be its best, and stick around to challenge it to get there. That’s me with Israel. (And the United States, too, for that matter.) So that’s underlying this trip, for me. Caring about Israel, wanting it to be its best, and understanding that I have a responsibility to help that happen, in whatever small way I can.

Heard on NPR this morning that someone’s introduced a bill into the Knesset that would require non-Jews who want to become Israeli citizens to swear a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish state.  Denounced by many, approved by its right-wing sponsors.  It upset me … but then later in the broadcast I think I heard a quote from Prime Minister Netanyahu that the introduction of this bill (not necessarily the passage, I think I heard) was necessary for him to try to extend the moratorium on settlements in the Palestinian Territories, which is necessary if the peace process isn’t to stall.

The day before Rosh HaShanah, President Obama had a conference call with American rabbis that I was privileged to listen in to.   One of the things that he warned us about is that, as the peace talks to forward, we will hear things that will make our blood boil coming from the Palestinian side.  And he said he’d caution Palestinians and their supporters the same way, about what they’d hear coming out of Israel.  Local politics, he said, sometimes demands certain things for local consumption.  I know this is true, and it helps, because he could just as well have been talking about how I feel in hearing about this bill in the Knesset.  It makes my blood boil.  But I *do* understand that perhaps just having it on the table will strengthen Netanyahu’s hand enough to get this other thing passed, the settlement moratorium which MUST be in place if Palestinians are to have a realistic expectation of their territorial integrity being respected.

Sometimes, I am reminded, it is better not to know how the sausage is made.