In my Israel appeal I will not ask you to donate funds, nor will I ask you to visit Israel, important as these actions are in supporting Israel there is something else that I will appeal to you to do. When we donate money to Israel we are making a sacrifice, when we visit Israel as wonderful as the experience might be we are giving our time and resources, and depending upon the situation with Hamas and Hizbollah and how close we are to the border, taking a certain risk. Today, on Yom Kippur I will appeal to you to donate, to sacrifice, to risk something else for Zion’s sake. I will ask you to donate your voice, to sacrifice your social comfort zone, and to possibly risk your public reputation.
Israel is increasingly being slandered, isolated and delegitimized; her reputation in much of the world community has gone from that of being the poster child nation of progress and hope to that of being the illegitimate offspring of evil parents. One sees this phenomenon at many Universities, in the form of irrational accusations and the bending of facts as opposed to objective academic inquiry. One sees this in a significant section of the media that has abandoned objective journalism and reporting in exchange for an agenda driven program. One sees this in the increasing attempts to isolate Israel from the community of nations by way of economic boycotts. Individuals, simply by virtue of their Israeli citizenship are being prevented from meeting with their international colleagues in the sciences, arts, sports, and the academy. In the year ahead and beyond, it will get worse.
There is a gathering storm in the world fueled by the ill winds of religious intolerance, America hating, and disrespect for individual freedom and dignity. Israel is uniquely and nakedly exposed to these ill winds because although not perfect, although not immune to legitimate criticism Israel has been and remains a tolerant country, an ally of America, and a country with a high regard for human freedom and dignity.
An increasing number of those who set the trend in a post industrial globalized world are accusing Israel of racism, of genocide, of extremism and yes even of Nazism. There are those who say that the Holocaust and European guilt were the only justifications for the birth of Modern Israel. Indeed, there are those who claim that the Holocaust never happened, but at the same time they want it to happen again. Are we so enamored of the ideas of moral relativism, of the futility of determining the truth and of the denial of any basic absolute human values that we cannot stand up and say in a loud voice that this or that is wrong, that this or that is a lie or that certain actions are unacceptable in any place and at any time and for any reason? Or perhaps what we fear is that since Israel is now “un cool” and disliked by many in the world today that if we speak up in support of Israel, and here I say not in support of all its policies, but in support of its right to be judged fairly and to continue to exist then we, we ourselves will be accused of being racists, of being genocidal, of being extremists and of being Nazis? And perhaps most terrible of all we will be considered “un cool” and will be rejected by our friends, our colleagues and to those from whom we seek social approval.
My appeal to you then is that in the coming year you will raise your voices in support of Israel. At work, at school, at dinner parties and social occasions, with family and with friends, and with those who are not so friendly. In letters to the editor, and on call in programs. In the lecture hall and classroom as teachers or as students.
On the issues of fairness and of Israel’s basic right to exist as a member of the family of nations we must speak with one voice, as American Jews. On issues relating to specific policies we will speak with many voices, for we do have different voices- we are Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Libertarians, we are Socialists and Capitalists, we are religious and secular, we are Conservatives and Liberals, we are Hawks and we are Doves.
And to be able to effectively speak we must be ready to study, to read, to listen and to educate ourselves. Right here at Temple Beth Shalom, The Israel Affairs Committee with Ed Berns as its tireless and dedicated leader is a good place to start.
And let it be clear that if we do speak up we will at times be scorned and ridiculed we will be called idiots and racists and any other slander that is current.
Are we willing to bear this burden and to make this sacrifice?
For Israel, for Zion’s sake I hope and pray that we are.
Gmar Hatimah Tovah.