In Conversations On Mid-East Violence, NY Jews Struggle for Right Words

Pain Over Cost to Both Sides

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israeli protesters outside the Israeli consulate in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

A familiar scene unfolded in front of the Israeli consulate in New York this week: a protest, with the supporters of Israel on one side and Palestinians on the other.

This latest conflict began with the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli boys, and then an apparent revenge killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy by Jewish extremists.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed as Israeli air strikes try to bring a halt to rocket fire from the Gaza strip. And across dinner tables and in synagogues here in New York — home to more than a million Jews — many families have been reflecting on the cost to both sides.

Rabbi Andy Bachman,of the Reform Beth Elohim Congregation in Park Slope, said his community mourned the death of the Israeli teenagers and engaged in a lot of internal reflection about who is to blame for the death of the Palestinian teen.

“What ultimately (happened) … was a kind of internal questioning and a crisis point about how to take responsibility for these kinds of really egregious acts of ultra-nationalism,” Bachman said.

Children also struggle with these painful topics. Miriam Wallach, general manager of an online Jewish radio network, says she discussed recent events with her six boys and girls. While a strong supporter of Israel and its leaders, Wallach says she emphasized something else in conversations with her kids.

“We don’t hate people,” she said. “It’s very important to us to make sure that when we speak to our kids … that it’s done without that word, so that we are raising a generation of children who can appreciate the importance of the land of Israel and how it is meant to be for the Jewish people without denigrating another society.”

Brent Spodek, a rabbi at Beacon Hebrew Alliance, a progressive synagogue in upstate Beacon, said his community has had difficulty starting a conversation about recent events. “It’s so painful, it’s so discouraging, it’s so upsetting that people don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

Spodek said he’s spoken to his community about the importance of listening to the Palestinian interpretation of events.

“Helping people in my community just understand the contexts of what it is to live life in Israel with rockets falling down all the time, what it is to live life in the West Bank and Gaza under military occupation,” he said. “It makes the narrative, it makes the conversation more nuanced and hopefully more true and more functional.”



David L. Lewis


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Comments [2]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Whenever I see the pro-Palestinian protesters, they are hardly calling for peace, they are calling for more terrorist attacks or even another intifada. I saw pictures of a pro-Palestinian rally in Lebanon, and they even held what looked like a qassam rocket, which is what Hamas uses to launch at innocent Israeli civilians at random places. Many of what they hold up continue to ride the myths that have been falsified countless times such as the claim that there is oppression by the Israelis despite the fact that such claims have been debunked so many times. I wonder what they think about what's going on Syria where there is real oppression. The only way Palestine can ever be free is by freeing them from Hamas, who are the real oppressors of them. If they really want it to stop, then they should convince Hamas to stop all terrorist attacks and have the PA agree to accepting the Jewish state. I have been proud to march in the Salute to Israel Parade in NYC every year. The only reason why the death toll on the Palestinian side is higher is because Hamas has a history of placing their own people into harm's way by either using them as human shields or placing their bases in densely populated areas. BTW, the IDF gave warnings to the Gaza Strip before making airstrikes so that they wouldn't get hit, which shows how much they really cared unlike Hamas who doesn't.

Jul. 12 2014 10:55 AM
your photo choice

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" -- wait, isn't there already a country there?

What is this "debate" again? This certainly isn't an article about one. What next, an article on Mexicans chanting "From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Mexico will be free"? Or Chinese chanting for Vietnam back…

The last paragraph ought to have been the first paragraph. Is nobody brave enough to tell the truth, to inform the public? We are not too dumb to understand!

Jul. 11 2014 08:30 PM

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