by: Rabbi Michael Lerner on June 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
To understand these responses it is best to read or re-read my article “Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens” from earlier this week.
The responses mostly fall into one of 3 categories:
a. They liked the article very much (so I’m not going to print a lot of those).
b. They were annoyed that I even mentioned the suffering of other kidnap victims around the world, and especially annoyed at my referencing tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been kidnapped (albeit supposedly “legally”) and incarcerated for weeks or months without trial or formal charges, some even tortured, and many of these were Palestinian teens arrested near their own homes.
c. They were annoyed that I didn’t emphasize the suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people.
I’m still curious about your reactions. If you haven’t sent me your response to my article, now it would be best to respond in part by responding to the letters we received below in this small but representative sample. I also invite you to read my recent book Embracing Israel/Palestine (order it for Kindle through Amazon, or hard copy at www.tikkun.org/EIP). Send your responses to me: RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com
Warm regards and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Bishop Dr. Ramsey H. Saffouri, DO, PHD, MBA
The problem is that your article did not headline “Free the Imprisoned Teenage
(Editor’s response: We’ve made many editorial statements condemning the unfair imprisonment of teenage Palestinians which if our mind is unjustifiable behavior by the government of Israel. But as my article makes clear, that in no way justifies kidnapping Israeli teens.)
9.While you’re at it, please express proper outrage at how Palestinians are, once again, being collectively punished for thiskidnapping. Please read below.
I think there is some critical history here that has been overlooked. Allow me to explain what I mean.
Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar are both students at theThe Makor Chaim Yeshiva located on Kibbutz Kfar Etzion where close to 300 boys currently study. Your characterization of this yeshiva as being “in a right-wing settlement” and as “participating in discriminatory practices that are part of the daily reality of the Occupation” reflects a major gap in historical knowledge at best, or an intentional revision at worst.
Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was founded in the early 1930′s when Shmuel Holtzman purchased the abandoned land from the founders of Migdal Eder. In fact, the names Kfar Etzion and Gush Etzion are direct derivations of Holtzman’s name. Holtz is Yiddish for wood (eitz in Hebrew). Etzion means the “wood of Zion.” This land was not violently taken, stolen or appropriated from anyone. It was legally purchased from local residents. Here is a picture of Mr. Holtzman buying that very piece of land in 1933.
Unfortunately, the kibbutzniks were forced to flee for their lives just a few years later during the Arab Revolt of 1939. In 1943 the residents of Kfar Etzion returned to rebuild their homes and reestablish the kibbutz from the rubble of destruction that the Arabs left for them.
Sadly, this too only lasted for a few years until they were once again attacked by Arab forces in 1948. The kibbutziks held off the attacks for ten days until Kfar Etzion fell. In the Kfar Etzion massacre on14 Mayof that year, 157 Jewish inhabitants of the village were murdered. I have stood over the bunker and gazed into what became a mass grave of these heroic men. My body convulsed and I tried to hold back the tears in front of my then ten year old son.
This remained the status quo for the next 19 years. The few survivors of the massacre, mainly the women and children who had been evacuated before May 14th, could only look out from a hilltop in West Jerusalem and gaze upon the ancient Lone Oak tree that survived the Jordanian presence in Gush Etzion between 1949 and 1967 and that came to serve as a symbol of the hope of the residents of Kfar Etzion that they would one day be able to return and rebuild their homes and their kibbutz.
In 1967Israelgained control over the West Bank in the Six-Day War and theIsraelicabinet decided to allow for the re-establish Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. The children of those killed in the May Massacre returned and rebuilt. Today a few hundred families live on the Kibbutz and the Yeshiva that Naftali and Gilad attend was established about 25 years ago.
Now, please reread your characterization of this yeshiva as being “in a right-wing settlement” and as “participating in discriminatory practices that are part of the daily reality of the Occupation” and ask yourself if perhaps you haven’t allowed your political views to skew your memory of recent history.
I have been to Kibbutz Kfar Eztion many times. I have visited the yeshiva and I have spoken with residents. I have sat under the Lone Oak and pondered the story of these brave men and women who, armed with little other than their burning faith in the Almighty and a determination to live and learn Torah in a village that belonged to them, never let go of their dream.
Please, I beg you, let’s never allow our personal political agendas to diminish the contribution of the peaceful, faith-filled heroes of our people.
YOUR RESPONSES TO ANY OF THESE LETTERS OR TO MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE OR TO THE SITUATION AS IT DEVELOPS ARE WELCOME:firstname.lastname@example.org