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Saturday, January 20, 1990

Israel = Family


                                                                                         January, 1990

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:

As you may know I recently returned from the annual meeting of the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations' Youth Division.  It is always exciting to get
together with the forty or so people who are responsible for all of our
U.A.H.C. Camp Institutes, N.F.T.Y., the College Education Department, and The
International Education Department.  These are forty dedicated, creative, and
energetic people who love what they do, and are devoted to our kids and the
Reform Movement.  Each year these meetings recharge my batteries and help me
feel more a part of a national movement staff.

One of the programs in which we participated consisted of a panel of Israelis
and American Israelis discussing and answering questions about the current
state of affairs in Israel.  It was a great debate presenting many sides to the
Palestinian conflict.  But a most disturbing realization came to light.  No
position offered an acceptable solution.  There seem to be no clear answers. 
The Israelis are completely divided on the issues, and many have lost faith in
their own government.  As American Jews, hearing how divided Israelis are on
the issues only adds to the uncertainties already implanted in our minds by the
media coverage and world criticism of Israel.  We cringe when we hear Israel
likened to South Africa, feel an erosion of pride when we think of Israel as
conquerors rather than victorious underdogs.  These are indeed very difficult

For me, the most signicant moment during this program occured when one of our
N.F.T.Y. staff members asked a non-political question.  She asked, "Given the
uncertainties and doubts we all have about Israel, how do we teach Israel to
our kids?"  I think the implied question is, are we being hypocrites if we
teach our kids to love Israel in light of our own personal doubts?  For me the
answer is a resounding NO. Without denying the state of turmoil that now exists
in Israel, without burying our heads in the sand and closing our eyes to the
violence and hatred exhibited by Palestinians and Israelis alike, we must stand
by our committment to Israel.  We must remember the feelings of friendship we
have with those Israelis we have come to know and love here at camp over the
years.  Iti, Sharon, Sigal, Yigal, Roni, Ari, aren't just Israeli names, they
are people who have had a profound influence on various G.U.C.I. staffs; people
we have worked with and formed relationships with.  They represent our Israeli
family.  And as in our own immediate families, Israel, for better or for worse,
is a part of us.

The problems Israel faces today do not diminish its magnificent history, both
ancient and modern.  The Palestinian crisis does nothing to lessen the
centuries-old longing our people have felt for a homeland, nor does it diminish
the realization of that dream in Eretz Yisrael.  When we teach Israel we must
explore her modern-day traumas, but in the context of all that Israel has been
and remains to be in the unfolding story of the Jewish People.

I vividly remember running from police teargas bombs in an anti-war
demonstration in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin.  The counter protesters chanted at
us, "America, love it or leave it!"  We believed with all our hearts, "America,
love it and change it!"  Although we may not like what we see and hear about
Israel, the bottom line is we cannot stop loving it.  Israel is family.

That's the way I see it.