Readers' Feedback: "Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens"

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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 Send your responses to me:
Warm regards and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Michael Lerner


1. Thank you, Rabbi!!!Let us pray for all who suffer these horrible injustices!
-Andrea Wallach

2.Yours is the third email I’ve received about the three missingteens. The first was from a relatively Orthodox source, which asked Jews around the world to recite psalms, especially #121. The second was from a Liberal (European) Jewish umbrella organization, and included a recently written prayer. Neither of those two emails blamed Arabs or Muslims or Palestinians (okay, one mentioned the boys may have beenkidnappedby terrorists, but that’s as far as it went on that score).
I commend you on your placing this incident into the same category as any other type ofkidnappingby any type of group. Thank you in particular for such an even-handed analysis.
-Holly (from near San Diego)

3.Dear Michael, as someone who supports and works for an end to the occupation and settlements, I share your pain and outrage at this act of violence and join you in calling for the immediate release of these youngsters and prayers for their well-being. There is no proper context for violence, especially against children. Attempts to contextualize this crime – counter-productive to the Palestinian cause and to peace – only perpetuate the”eye for an eye” mentality that got us into this mess.
In sharing your crie d’cour with my Christian sisters and brothers, I urge themto pray with you and work toward the release of these youngsters. If you will circulate a petition, I will be glad to sign.
Thank you for your strong, consistent voice on behalf of the healing this world and especially our shared Holy Land so need.
-Vicki (aka Rev. Vicki Gray)

4.I have no pity! After all whatisraelkeeps inflicting upon Palestinians,kidnapping3 youths is nothing. What goes around comes around.
-v gottlieb

5.Please count me among those who demand release of the boys. And yes, it is not easy to be just when the ‘other’ has been portrayed as a devil incarnate. My prayer and sympathy for the parents ofkidnappedchildren. It is unfortunate that muslims have relegated the justice of Quran and the Prophet to mere recitation.
May Allah help you in doing what you are doing for oppressed and the oppressor. As the Prophet said’ help the oppressor and the oppressed’. When asked as to how an oppressor can he helped! He replied,’ by stopping him from doing injustice”.
Khalid Faridi

6. Thank you for taking a moral stand against thekidnappings. It is painful to hear Jews on the left attempt to justify these acts of cruelty because of their own anti-semitism and moral relativism. Thank you for putting them in their place.
-Melinda Ribner

7.We pray along side of you that these young boys are feed to the loving arms of their parents.
God bless you

Bishop Dr. Ramsey H. Saffouri, DO, PHD, MBA

Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO

8.I admire your even handedness about many issues. You are correct about the need to condemn evil deeds wherever they occur.
The problem is that your article did not headline “Free the Imprisoned TeenagePalestinians”, or “Free the Imprisoned Gazans from the World’s Largest Prison”, or “Stop the Torture of Imprisoned TeenagePalestinians”.Israel and the US media have highlighted this story just like you. The message is that this incident is especially odious when in fact it is quite gentle compared to the everyday torture of teenage Palestinians in secret Israeli Prisons.
Please give at least equal weight to the Israeli evils. Any objective tally would easily see many more outrageous evils on the Israeli side. Let’s announce them to the world with bold headlines.
BDS for justice!

Bless You!

John Azevedo
(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.

-Gene St. Onge

10. A friendly criticism from one who admires your courage and energetic efforts for justice for Palestinians:
Your introductory context notwithstanding, I do not remember ever seeing from you several paragraphs of concern on any of the thousands of occasions when Palestinian youth have been picked up and jailed without charges, trial, etc., and held indefinitely, incommunicado. We are all–me included–want to think more of our own than “others” and the Netanyahus, W. Bushes, etc., depend on it.
-Bill Slavick

11.You write: There are those who have pointed out that theteenswere attending a Yeshiva in a right-wing settlement and that that Yeshiva doesn’t teach about the humanity or the suffering of the Palestinian people, but instead justifies and defacto increases that suffering by participating in discriminatory practices that are part of the daily reality of the Occupation.

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.
Be well,
David Begoun