Mission to Israel Third Day Report - Wednesday July 23, 2014

Posted on: Wednesday July 23, 2014

Update from Rabbi Jan Kaufman: 

The impact of today’s program cannot begin to be measured. We spent part of the day at two of our kehillot and the other part at the Knesset. 

Our day began at Kehillat Yair Ramot where the rabbi, Arnie Ben Dor, welcomed us. We heard from a member of his congregation, Talia Levanon, who is the Director of the Israel Trauma Center. The Trauma Center runs resilience centers throughout the country. They are called resilience centers, not trauma centers because resilience has a positive connotation of coping with trauma and emerging strong. She spoke about reaching various constituencies and described a training several weeks ago of 20 Imams in emergency preparedness.

The mission was honored that MK Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice, came to our kehilla, Yair Ramot, to speak to the group. She was on her way to meet with U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. She spoke passionately about the need for peace, indicating the status quo cannot continue. Reminiscent of Ben Gurion’s comment, “We will fight the White Paper as if there is no war, and fight the war as if there is no White Paper”, Minister Livni said Israel has to act militarily against Hamas but we have to find a way back to the negotiating table.

She articulated that there are those who are driven by ideology like Hamas and pragmatic Islamists such as Fatah and Abbas as well as some Gulf countries. Fatah and Abbas have declared their opposition to the use of violence. Hamas abuses the democratic system, refuses even to acknowledge Israel’s right of to exist. There is no hope for peace with Hamas and if we even speak to Hamas, it gives them legitimacy. She continued to tell us that Hamas is very weak now so it is making preposterous demands before entering into a cease-fire agreement. These are demands that no one wants Hamas to have, including Fatah and Abbas. She articulatd the need for Qatar to tell Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, to agree to a cease-fire immediately and for Hamas to renounce terrorism. Minister Livni also addressed the issues of religious pluralism including concerns of our Movement on pending matters of conversion as articulated by both Yizhar Hess and Rabbi Gordon Tucker. 

We continued our journey to Kehillat Ramat Zion on French Hill. Its rabbi, Chaya Rowen Baker, talked about her work in the synagogue itself and in the broader community, especially with other synagogues in the neighborhood. Rachel Frankel, mother of Naftali Frankel, z”l, who was killed after being kidnapped, came to see us at Ramot Zion as our group wanted to extend nehamah to her. In introducing her, our colleague, Ben Goldstein, spoke about how the kaddish she recited at her son’s funeral brought us all to tears. Mrs. Frankel is an admired yoetzet halakhah and she spoke a bit about her work and her training. She also spoke about Naftali, z”l. We were in awe of her faith and courage.

After a short lunch break on Ben Yehudah street, we proceeded to the Knesset where we immediately began our afternoon appointments. Our first speaker was Yuli Edelstein, the current Speaker of the Knesset. He spoke about the difficult decision to begin the ground invasion in Operation Protective Edge. No one wants to cause more casualties, either Israelis or Palestinians, but Israel had to destroy the strategic assets of Hamas, such as the tunnels, which the Israelis have damaged. He described the breadth and scope of the network of assault tunnels that run into Israel.

We were also joined by MK Elazar Stern who addressed the situation in Gaza briefly and spoke about some of our concerns as a Movement vis-à-vis religious pluralism, especially conversion.

Our last speaker of the day was MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid, who spoke about legislation he has sponsored in the Knesset to make marriage easier (unfortunately this legislation stipulates that religious marriage would be controlled by the rabbanut).

We were hosted for a lovely dinner this evening at the home of David and Gilah Waimann, members of Kehillat Ma’ayanot in Jerusalem. Our colleague, Rabbah Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, delivered a dazzling D’var Torah. She spoke about the joint fast many in the community did with their Moslem friends on the 17th of Tammuz in conjunction with Ramadan. Jews in Israel and in other places in the Diaspora broke bread together in the evening to conclude the fast. She said that Israel will only get smaller, not larger and we need to learn to live together with our Palestinian neighbors. She believes we have the skills and know-how to do this from centuries of Jewish history.

Tomorrow we head up North for a visit with the Rahav family who lost a son earlier this week. We will also visit Park HaYarden, the place to which Ramah was relocated from the South.

Again, we want to thank our co-chairs, Rabbis Gordon Tucker and Aaron Melman, Yizhar Hess, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld for planning this incredible mission for RA members.