I was deeply troubled and dismayed to learn that the Presbyterian leadership voted to pass a divestment resolution against Israel at its recent assembly. And I would hope that you share these feelings, as Israel has yet again been the object of condemnation, though this time from a religious organization with whom we have felt a strong bond because of seemingly shared priorities.
In our own community we have a long history of shared efforts and mutual respect with the Bedford Presbyterian Church. Our teens and adults go to Nicaragua each year to build houses for the poor. Each year we celebrate Thanksgiving, either in our temple or in the church. Together we helped to establish our local food pantry, and worked jointly on an array of causes intended to help some of the “brokenness” of our larger community and society.
So many of us saw this call for divestment as not only a punishing act against Israel, but a “slap in the face” against us also, given our sentiments toward Israel. Jewish leaders have made repeated appeals to Presbyterian leadership throughout the country that they become better informed about the “facts on the ground” between Israel and the Palestinians; especially to consider that the so-called “occupied territories” are not the cause for a lack of peace.
Spokespeople from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, Union for Reform Judaism, and the American Jewish Committee have released statements expressing their disappointment and anger toward the church’s “hypocritical” decision.
“An American church punishes the sole Middle East democracy for the sin of safeguarding its security, while some of its Palestinian neighbors pass out sweets to celebrate the abduction of Israeli teenagers”, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center.
At what feels like a tenuous and challenging time in history, we may not be able to change our world, or solve the confrontations that Israel must endure. But make no mistake about it: we are needed. We are needed for our knowledge of Israel and our vocal support for Israel. Yes, I do believe that an attack upon Israel is an attack upon me, whether intended or not. I know well what Israel stands for, and I know how deep is Israel‘s yearning for a true peace. Presbyterians, I always thought that you were wiser and fairer than this! And fellow Jews: now is the time to stand up and be counted and feel grateful for what Israel has brought to us and to our world.
Rabbi David Greenberg