Rabbi’s disagreement with Israeli policies valid
In its critique of Rabbi Zemel’s Kol Nidre sermon, a recent opinion article misrepresents its content and misleadingly claims that the sermon is “bereft of any positives about Israel” (“True Zionism is as Zionism does,” Nov. 29).
The article acknowledges that Zemel expresses “reverence for memories of a Jewish spiritual homeland, recalling the pioneering bravery of the Halutzim, the 1948 War of Independence, Israel as the haven for the Shoah’s remnants of the Jewish people, or the miracle of the Six Day War.” But it ignores Zemel’s heartfelt description of the things he loves about Israel today, such as Israel’s archaeological richness and artistic achievements. Such encomia as “Israel is a source and inspiration for unlocking our creative Jewish impulses” and “modern Israel’s glory is seen in the creative outpouring of the Jewish soul that has reinvigorated Jewish life everywhere” are hardly lacking in positivity.
The article pities a hypothetical congregant, “Isaac,” who is ill-equipped to explain Israel and is in need of a trip to Israel to learn about its complexities and challenges. “Isaac” should have joined one the annual Israel trips Zemel has led for many years. As a participant in some of these tours, I’ve met with members of the Knesset, the military and diplomatic corps, ZAKA (the rescue unit that cleans up the body parts after a terror attack), and many others. It’s too bad that “Isaac” is such an inattentive congregant. This year’s tour is full.
Objections to Zemel’s criticism of Israel’s current government and its policies are unreasonable. How does disagreement with legislation or concern for Israel’s future diminish anyone’s Zionism? Disagreement — and recording of the disagreement — is a least as old as the days of Hillel and Shammai, and every bit as legitimate today as it was then. LIVIA BARDIN
Elrich adviser is very much a danger
Montgomery County Executive-elect Marc Elrich appoints a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to his transition team and Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, responds by saying, “stop worrying. He’s a member of a transition team with 180 members” (“Elrich adviser raises questions,” Nov. 29) What if Elrich had appointed a Nazi? Would Halber have said to stop worrying?
BDS does not simply want Israel to change its treatment of the Palestinians. The real, true purpose of BDS is get to rid of the Jewish-majority State of Israel. In other words, the movement seeks to replace it with an Arab majority. Then you would have an Arab government, and Jews would be at risk.
Anyone who says they support BDS as well as Israel is either extremely naive or lying. BDS is not just another political opinion. The success of BDS could sacrifice 6 million more Jews.
In Khashoggi affair, U.S. should not repeat mistake
One cannot help but notice the same pitfalls today vis-à-vis the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with American interference 40 years ago in Iran that proved disastrous and negatively shaped the destiny of the Middle East (“Congress needs to step in with the Saudis,” Nov. 29). As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
Forty years ago, the Shah of Iran embarked on a path to lead his country into the modern era, intent on bringing democratic reform to that Islamic nation. He implemented broad economic and social reforms, including enhanced rights for women, religious and ethnic minorities. Misjudging the situation, President Jimmy Carter made excessive human rights demands of the Shah, threatening to withhold military and social aid. This weakened the Shah, leading to his overthrow and the return of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini to power.
Today, Sunni Saudi Arabia has softened its harsh position against Israel and introduced reforms to Saudi society as did the Shah in Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an historic visit to Sunni Oman. Israeli athletes sang Hatikvah in the Sunni United Arab Emirates. Like Israel, Saudi Arabia recognizes the immense danger of a Shiite Iran pursuing nuclear weaponry.
Have we not learned anything from the disaster of 40 years ago? Yes, there was an ugly murder of a human being and there should be some accountability, but shouldn’t we place things in perspective? Should we fundamentally repeat the same mistake by interfering too much in the inner workings of a nation allied with us to combat a huge threat that unless stopped, might result in millions of people killed?