Israel is a place where one cannot afford to be neutral - not about politics, religion or life itself.
It is a land where there are many truths that somehow live together. That is, of course, where the danger is because when so many groups believe so fervently in their religious traditions and politics there is inevitably going to be sparks with other groups in the society at large.
The other day I stepped onto a bullet proof bus and headed out to a West Bank settlement atop a large hill. We arrived in this community of about five hundred families and I listened to the chief rabbi of region talk about how he and his constituency want to live together with the Palestinians Arabs. The rabbi delivered a sensitive and balanced talk about the importance of mutual co-existence.
From the settler perspective, the existence of these settlements are a fact. They feel the spirit of the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria where ancient Israelite kings ruled, prophets spoke and rabbinic sages taught the Torah.
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I could not help but reflect upon America’s history of growth and the vision of manifest destiny in which American immigration settled the land from coast to coast over two hundred years.
In Israel there are religious ideologies, non-religious nationalist fervor and those who simply are looking for better and cheaper housing than what is offered in Jerusalem. They have their own sense of vision and destiny to settle the hills of Judea and Samaria, not just for the next five decades, but for hundreds of years.
Of course there are tensions between what is a just settlement for the Palestinian territories and the idea of a two state solution. One can stand on the Judean hills and see an an Arab village on one hill and a Jewish settlement on the next. This kind of parity exists and can dominate the panorama of the West Bank settlements whether they are Palestinian or Israeli..
We have the green line from 1948 and the new security wall which interweaves its ways throughout the region. My sense from listening to members of the Israeli Knesset this past week, is that as of now, there is little optimism that we are near a two-state solution. Israeli politics is thriving with debate and disagreement as to the best way to resolve this problem, but no consensus is evident on the horizon.
I have never stopped believing in miracles and that there is a chance to resolve those differences. Even though Israelis disagree with each other, there is always the energy to move foreward, to not only build Israel but to increase settlements on the West Bank.
Every day Israelis, both political leaders and the citizenry, debate the best policies to protect Israelis’ security needs against terrorist attacks. Israeli political leaders understand that Israel’s credibility and its reputation are under attack due to its unresolved policies on the so-called two state solution.
Israel is dealing with many issues such as the settlements, preserving democracy as a fundamental value in Israeli society, learning how to live with racial diversity in its midst, and affirming religious pluralism in the society.
In contending with these issues, one has to have a historical background on how Israel created these settlements.
To believe that there is one day the hope to find that solution to share the land together is part and parcel of our duty as Jews to work together with our Arab neighbors.