There is no more intractable conflict in the world as that between Israel and the Palestinians. When one attempts to understand the conflict historically, ideologically, nationally, tribally, religiously, morally, and contextually, the result is necessarily confusion, anger, exhaustion, frustration, and cynicism.

Why does this conflict continue unresolved? What options are there going forward that will preserve what Israel most needs – security, democracy and the Jewish nature of the state; and what the Palestinian people most need – security, sovereignty, and a state of their own?

When I stand in the Old City Southern Kotel Plaza, look down to the ancient Roman street and see the boulders that were knocked down by the Romans two thousand years ago, I recall the Talmudic explanation for the catastrophe: “Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred of one Jew for another.” (Bavli, Yoma 9b)

There is one antidote to senseless hatred – ahavat chinam, senseless love of one Jew for another, which, of course, will not come easily in today’s polarized environment.

What we Jews so desperately need today is to be able to communicate directly with one another. We need to listen more intently and not presume nefarious motives lurking in the other’s heart. We need to understand what the other says and believes and the merits inherent in his/her position. Even when we disagree we have to resist being disagreeable.

Though we Jews have always had our share of conflicts, this past month President-Elect Trump’s designated US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, exacerbated the polarization by slandering a very large segment of the pro-Israel American Jewish community by calling them “worse than kapos!”

This comment should disqualify Friedman as US Ambassador and earn a solid rejection by Republicans and Democrats alike in the US Senate. If you agree with me, I urge you to contact your Senators and let them know your view.

Mr. Friedman’s sinister disrespect for fellow American Jews has given license to others to do as he has done. This past week, I myself received an email calling me a “kapo.”

Such myopic demagogic pronouncements are destructive to the fabric of the American Jewish community and to the Jewish people as a whole.

In the spirit of educating ourselves and being current with current thinking by American Jews and Israelis, I recommend the following:

1. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech at the State Department

2. American Jews Divided Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations – By ADAM NAGOURNEY and SHARON OTTERMAN – NYT, December 29, 2016

While some Jewish groups have applauded the administration’s efforts in regard to Israel, others have seen the steps taken by a departing president as a mistake.

3. In ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Israel, Separate Lives and Divergent Narratives, by PETER BAKER – NYT, December 29, 2016

The reactions to international criticism of Israeli settlements made clear that Israelis are just as polarized as Americans.

4. The Two-State Solution: What It Is and Why It Hasn’t Happened, by MAX FISHER, NY Times, December 29, 2016

The two-state solution has for decades been the primary focus of efforts to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s a basic guide.


Note: I represent only my views and not that of my synagogue or any Jewish organization.

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