Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mr. President: Do Not Do a Drive-by

President Trump:
I know that presidential visits are jam packed with meetings and events, and that there are many demands on your time.  Reports are that you are scheduled to spend 15 minutes visiting Yad Vashem.  I do not know if this is due to scheduling demands or to your personal inclinations.
In any event, if that is all the time you have to devote to learning about and paying respects to the slaughter of six millions Jews and millions of non-Jews, as well as to the plan to completely destroy the Jewish people and their religion and culture, I request that you not visit.
It is impossible to have a serious visit in 15 minutes.  Everyone knows that.  It is an insult to those who were murdered and to those that survived the unspeakable torture of the Holocaust to do a drive-by visit to the solemn ground that is Yad Vashem.  It violates its sanctity.  It would be akin to dropping by Arlington National Cemetery for a photo op on your way to a meeting..
If you cannot make a serious visit to Yad Vashem that devotes appropriate time for and pays proper respect to the history and memory of the millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust, it would be better for you not to go at all.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


Monday, May 1, 2017

Mood Swings

Being a Jew in Israel this time of year is tough.  It's moody, and it's personal.  I've gone from being incredibly, deeply depressed to incredibly joyous and hopeful.  Within a few minutes.

Last Sunday night and Monday was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It's a regular work day.  But it's not.  Restaurants and entertainment venues were closed on Sunday night.  Things were open on Monday.  It's business as usual.  But it's not.  Ceremonies take place.  Prayers are said. Television stations run testimonials, movies, discussions.  Personal witnesses, now old, remember. The memory pervades.

The contrast to the Jews' situation today is vivid.  In between the memorials, the programs, the constant reminders, my thoughts kept turning to this:  It would not happen today.  Jews today have restored our homeland.  We have threats.  We have problems.  But we have a nation.  We have an army, and a navy, and an air force, dedicated to one thing:  keeping us safe. Protecting us.

And, whether they like it or not, our nation, and our military, keeps all Jews safe.  Not just because it guarantees a place of refuge, but because it has changed the perception of Jews in the world.  Talk to a Jew who was alive prior to the birth of Israel.

As the day goes on and evening comes close, you can feel some of the sadness start to fade away, slowly.  In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, flags and banners start to appear on balconies and on cars.  The mood begins to change.  But we still remember.  The feeling and the memory overlays the next week's events.

On Wednesday my wife and I took a drive down to Mitzpe Ramon.  Two and a half hours down, two and a half hours back.  A long day.  It was worth it.  

When my brother-in-law came to Israel for the first time at the age of 15, the program he was on placed him for a weekend of home hospitality with Shimon and Cipi and their four young children.  Forty years later our families are very close.  My wife and I are invited to every holiday get-together and to every family simcha. 

As a baby in Poland, Cipi’s family knew what was coming and they worked with a priest to place her with a Polish Catholic family.  Until she was six or seven, she thought she was a Polish Catholic peasant girl.  She arrived in Israel with a cross around her neck and was raised in an orphanage. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO THE CONCERT

                                                                                       
What would be the reaction if a performing artist went around supporting a movement whose objective is the destruction of a nation and the denial of a people’s right of self-determination?  If, when challenged, he resorted to some of the worst stereotypes and hateful language, what would be the reaction?  It seems that when it comes to Roger Waters, Israel, and Jews, he goes on a concert tour and no one objects.  

Not unlike Mel Gibson, who said some of the worst Jew-hating comments but who now is heralded as the director of the new movie Hacksaw Ridge.  If Waters or Gibson made comments such as they have about any other nationality or ethnic group, they would be shunned.  But, somehow, when it comes to Israel and Jews, their hate is acceptable. 

My wife and I split our time between Jerusalem and Sacramento, California.  We've been back in Sacramento for about six weeks.  The community is excited and proud because after years of planning and several false starts, a world-class, state-of-the-art arena has just opened.  It is the new home of the Sacramento Kings, it is set to host a vitual parade of singers and other stars, and it is widely expected that it will be the catalyst for the long-awaited revival of the downtown.  In short, it is a hopeful, happy time for the community. 

Although only an intermittent resident of Sacramento these days, I was enjoying the excitement and pride of my hometown friends; it's contagious.  As I was skimming through a list of upcoming events, I was startled and, to put it mildly, disappointed, to see that Waters was scheduled for a show in June at the new Golden 1 Center.  This is particularly offensive because the center received substantial funding from public funds. 

If Mr. Waters made the kinds of comments about Mexico and Mexican Americans that he has made about Israel and Jews, the public justifiably would not stand for him appearing at the Golden One Center.  And, yet, when it comes to Israel and Jews, he is booked and nary a word is said. 

Just about two weeks ago I wrote to the primary owner of the team, who was the driving force behind the arena, and to several key personnel, as well as to outgoing Mayor Kevin Johnson and Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg.  No response.  Below is my letter.

I am heartened to note that American Express recently decided that it does not wish to be associated with Waters' campaign of hate.  


                                                                                                              

Dear Mr. Ranadive:


The opening of the new Golden 1 Center is understandably a moment of great pride to Sacramento and the area.  It represents a renaissance for the city and the entire region.  Having grown up and spent a good part of my life in the city, and as a lifelong resident of the county, I share in the excitement and pride that the new arena has brought to the city and the region.  The Center could not have been built and opened without the active support of the citizens of the Sacramento, and without a sizeable contribution of public funds.

As a Jew, a resident of Sacramento County, and as a citizen of both the United States and Israel, I was shocked, saddened, and disappointed when I recently learned that the arena will be hosting Roger Waters in June.  Mr. Waters is an unabashed Jew-hater who supports a movement whose objective is to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

THE WACKY WORLD OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

According to numerous news reports, on August 28th the United States expressed "concern" over reports that Iran has deployed Russian-made, highly sophisticated S-300 long-range missiles at the Fordo nuclear site in central Iran.
Today the United States expressed "deep concern" over the announcement by Israel that a step has been taken in the approval process for 500 new homes in areas across the Green Line.  Several of the areas were, until the current U.S. Administration, always thought to be areas that would remain under Israeli jurisdiction in any peace deal.
"Concern" over deadly missiles guarding nuclear facilities of a country that is pledged to Israel's destruction, that continues to take aggressive actions and make aggressive statements toward the U.S., and that continues to be the greatest national exporter of terror.  "Deep concern" over a step in the approval process for houses for Jews.

If American foreign policy can get any wackier than this, it is hard to imagine how.  
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
For speaking engagements: ae@edelsteinstrategies.com  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Day A Jew Spat On Me

My wife and I returned to Israel late Monday afternoon after a two month stay in the U.S.   It was not an easy trip—two stops, 23 hours, a cancelled leg, lost luggage.  But, as always, it felt good to be back.  

Friends were visiting from California.  So, despite our fatigue, we hit the ground running.  Other than vegetating for a few days, what better way to recuperate from the ordeal that is today’s air transportation system than to introduce good friends to some of the fun and beauty of Jerusalem that the standard touring may have skipped over?

Yemin Moshe, drinks on the King David patio, Machane Yehuda, CafĂ© Itamar at Moshav Ora, the Israel Museum.    A good time. 

And one reminder of what it has taken to defend and build this Jewish home in this inhospitable neighborhood:  Mt. Herzl.  Our friends, and we, were moved as we walked through row after row of the graves of young people who died so that Jews might live freely in their own country. 

The poignant finale:  an elderly couple walking up to and bending down, readying to light a candle beside a grave stone in which the year 1982, along with a few details, was etched.  The thought of that couple making that walk and lighting that candle for 34 long years is one very good way to put the irritations and complaints of daily life in the Jewish Homeland in perspective. 

It was now Thursday afternoon.  I asked our friends, who are members of our Conservative synagogue back in Sacramento, if they would like to join us for a different kind of Israeli experience. The main worship area of the Western Wall, the Kotel, has basically become an Orthodox synagogue controlled  by the Orthodox rabbinate.  All religious practice at the holiest site in Judaism is controlled by one segment of world Jewry. 

Per their practice, men and women must worship separately.  Those who disagree with this practice and wish to worship as they believe, i.e. Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews,  are relegated to a distinct section called the Robinson’s Arch area, the entrance to which is through an archaeological center and not through the entrance to the Kotel.  

The message is clear:  You are not accepted.  Yours is not a legitimate expression of Judaism.  Ours is the only authentic Jewish practice.  Sending that message is not a mistake.  The powers-that-be openly express this belief in their many pronouncements over the issue.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

AND NOW FOR THE TEST

Was it sincere outrage and indignation and concern for the country?  Or was it typical cynical political grandstanding and exploitation?
Democrats have expressed outrage at Donald Trump's demagogic, myopic, and racist statements about Mexican Americans and Muslims. They've protested his tasteless, misogynistic attacks on women. They've bemoaned the fact that he, with the active participation of some of his Republican primary rivals, has taken the presidential campaign down to all-time lows.
They've been right to do so. I joined them in doing so.
The Democrats called on Republicans to join them and to refuse to support such a man as the nominee of their party.  They've been right to so.
Some Republicans--not enough--have refused to support Trump, even if it means a Democrat wins the White House.  Most of those Republicans have attributed their position to their lack of faith in Trump's conservative bona fides and to his crassness.  A very few--not nearly enough--have attributed their position to Trump's racism and misogyny.
We have seen what is important to Republicans.  Standing up against hate?  Taking a principled stand?  Being truly concerned about the nation? Or party unity?  Winning the presidency at any cost?  Stopping a candidate they seem to hate with a vengeance?
Now the Democrats face a similar test.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

TERROR AND RESPONSE: AN INCONSISTENT MATTER

All decent people mourn the death and destruction caused by the terrorists in Friday’s attacks in Paris.  French President Hollande has identified the attackers as ISIS.  These are truly evil people.

The Washington Post of Nov. 13 reports:  'According to reports, Hollande declared there that France was "going to lead a war," presumably against Islamist militants. He said his country's response would be "ruthless."'  President Obama and other world leaders are offering their full sympathy and support. 

This is in sharp contrast to the response when Israelis and Jews are the victims of terror.  I am waiting for the U.S. State Department, the UN, and the EU to call on all parties to "exercise restraint" to end "the cycle of violence," to not use “excessive force” in responding, and to not use “disproportionate force.”

This is their usual mantra when Jews are killed in Israel and the territories due to terror.  Are Jewish lives worth less than the lives lost in the terrible attack in France?  Does not the murder of Jews by terrorists deserve the same response that Pres. Hollande now calls for?

When the Western world advocates a different response to terror by Palestinians because it somehow believes the Palestinians' alleged grievances are credible, or because the victims are Israelis or Jews, it gives a green light to terror elsewhere. In ISIS' thinking, its grievances are every bit as legitimate as those of the Palestinians, if not more so.

 If terror is justified or excused, or if the victims are admonished to limit their response because of the alleged legitimacy of the attackers' grievance, terror becomes a legitimate tool for any allegedly aggrieved party. 

Trying to pick and choose when terror is a legitimate tool is counterproductive and self-defeating.  Excusing it or trying to mitigate the victims' response when the victims are Jews but not in other instances, demonstrates bigotry and immorality.   

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

For speaking engagements, ae@edelsteinstrategies.com