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Report Back on Israel/Palestine Survey: Agreement on Values; Diversity in Tactics and Solutions  

by Rabbi David

  ~Our High Holy Day Theme: Speak!  The Power of our Words~

The Jewish tradition from its early beginnings was built on words even more than on edifices of stone and brick. Words are powerful. How we choose what to say and what not to say is an accurate reflection of what we consider valuable or sacred. Check out the article about the theme at the following link:

~Middle East Survey~

This survey dovetails with our High Holy Day theme. As you can see, we agree on many things, disagree on some things, and share an overwhelming consensus that the synagogue and the Jewish community must be open to hearing the expression of a diversity of viewpoints on Israel/Palestine issues.  

   In Sum:

  • Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to equal rights/dignity: General agreement
  • The occupation must end, cannot be permanent: General agreement
  • Two-State vs. One State solution: Both approaches among congregants
  • Use of BDS as tactic to oppose the occupation: Both support and non-support among congregants
  • Kehilla should be place of open dialogue on the range of differing views: Total consensus
  • Religious freedom in Israel/Palestine for Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, atheists: Agreement

     Introduction: Kehilla Community Synagogue was founded in 1984/5744 to be a community of mutual care dedicated to the biblical prophetic ideal of spirituality joined with values and actions of social justice, together with Hasidic ideals of joy, love and compassion. Kehilla was founded on a mandate of empathy inspired by the Torah’s repeated statements that we must remember our own oppression lest we ourselves act as the oppressor, and by Rabbi Hillel’s affirmation that “What is abhorred to you, do not do to the other.”

From the very beginning of our congregation, we have affirmed the importance of the land of Israel/Palestine as a home of both the Jewish and Palestinian people. Although our synagogue’s expressions about Israel/Palestine have taken different forms over the years, the essential values we have brought to the issue have remained consistent.

In 2014-15/5775, our Middle East Peace Committee (MEPC) surveyed our congregation about our members’ attitudes, thoughts and strategies in relationship to Israel in general and more specifically, to Israel’s occupation and control of territories it captured in 1967. Well over 200 responses were received. We found areas of near unanimity and areas of diversity as well.

     Equal Dignity: Kehilla people affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are equally worthy of security, justice, civil and human rights, self-determination, and a recognition of their dignity as human beings created in the divine image.

     Ending the Occupation: An overwhelming majority in Kehilla feel that the Israeli occupation of or control over Palestinian people and territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must come to an end. Comments expressed that the building of settlements in the West Bank and areas around Jerusalem sends a signal that the occupation is intended to be permanent. The congregants overwhelmingly affirmed that the occupation must not be permanent. Members’ comments expressed that it is an intolerable, dehumanizing and violent reality for those under occupation, and that this state of affairs needs to end peacefully for the sake of both the Israelis, as well as the Palestinians. Respondents affirmed that violence against non-combatants is unacceptable.

One State/Two States: Kehilla members include those who favor a two-state resolution to the conflict and those who favor a single secular state. The survey comments show a unity within this diversity because, whether one-state or two-states, each approach was expressed as a concern for self-determination and full civil and human rights for all who live in Israel/Palestine. The differences only reflected what each respondent believed to be the best way to achieve these ends. No one supported a single-Jewish-state outcome.

Differences About Opposition: Some members of Kehilla feel that it is not our congregation’s role to express our disagreement with Israeli policies inasmuch as we are removed from the arena of conflict. Many expressed to the contrary that it is our responsibility to speak up either because of the Jewish value to not stand idly by when people are being oppressed, and/or because we are involved as fellow-Jews, and/or as world citizens affected by global instability, and/or as U.S. taxpayers.
Some of us favor personal or institutional adherence to some form of boycotting, divesting or sanctioning (“BDS”) in some degree in regard to Israel or to its settlement policies. Some of us oppose such tactics as ineffective or counter-effective in ending the occupation. Thus, there is near-unanimity against perpetual occupation, and clear disagreement over strategies to oppose it.

Open Synagogue: In 2010, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco passed guidelines which excluded funding for organizations or activities that “advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel” especially any activity that included programming that could be interpreted as promoting BDS whether whole or in part, or programming co-sponsored by groups that favored BDS. Our survey revealed a consensus in the congregation to the contrary. While Kehilla members are divided over BDS as a tactic, the survey indicates a strong consensus that Kehilla should not exclude the expression of opinions that advocate non-violent tactics in opposition to the occupation. The survey answers revealed that in Kehilla, we are in full agreement that our synagogue, and the Jewish community, must be places of open dialogue. The responses and comments support the idea that community cohesiveness does not depend on full agreement on these issues, but that such cohesiveness depends upon safety to express one’s thoughts respectfully, and upon each person taking responsibility to listen compassionately to the thoughts of others.

Religious Freedom: Responses generally reflected support for religious freedom in Israel and Palestine for Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, atheists and all others. The responses were consistent in support of a separation of state authority from religious authority, e.g., that rabbinic interpretations of halakha should have no authority over one’s civil or marital status. The responses affirmed the freedom to engage in one’s religious or spiritual practice, at least to the extent that such practice does not limit the civil rights of others.

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