Israel Conversations: How Did We Get Here?

Operation Protective Edge and the decades of conflict that led to it is hard for even the experts to understand.  RS will offer a course this fall, designed for all of us who feel a thirst for background of Israel’s history and a thirst for understanding of the people and culture of Israel today.  Learn about our approach in this Bulletin article by RS Past President, Fred Strober.

Israel: A Comprehensive Journey

      Those American Jews, like me, who grew up with Israel (I was born during the 1948 War for Independence), have experienced, from a geographic distance but with an emotional attachment, the growing pains, joy, sadness and tumult that seem to characterize the Jewish state.  For all that Israel has gone through—and brought to the world—in its first 66 years, there seems to be a perception that for many reasons, it has reached a crossroads, and that we, in the Diaspora, need to reflect on our understanding of Israel and our role in helping it through very difficult times.  Say what you will about the Zionist vision, there is no escaping that so goes Israel, so goes the entire Jewish world, and there is probably no better time than now to make a commitment as a community to understand how Israel got to where it is and to explore what the future holds.
      Although Rodeph Shalom has made some effort over the years to educate our congregation about Israeli history and current events, there is a perception that the time is ripe for the synagogue to offer a robust program about Israel, one that appeals to a wide range of congregants, particularly the person who doesn’t have a background about Israel and might be intimidated by those folks who come to the Israel conversation with fully formed positions.  With this in mind, a small group of congregants, under the leadership and guidance of Rabbi Maderer, have planned  courses offering a substantive background in Israeli history and culture.  The aim of these offerings is not to create a “political” dialogue or to focus entirely on current events, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  Rather, we aim to cultivate an open atmosphere where polarizing opinions are not the focus, and have designed a comprehensive program intended to offer a background which will help us understand how we got to the present.  Accordingly, we will cover such topics as the religiously-based yearning for the resettlement of Jerusalem, the origins of Zionism, the lives of early settlers, the challenges of creating a state and the emergence of Israel as a regional power.  We will also offer sessions about the burgeoning cultural life  of Israel—its art, music and (yes) even its culinary life beyond hummus and falafel.  But we will not ignore the basics of current events, and we plan to give you an in-depth demographic picture of the Israel of 2014—a portrait that will in many ways surprise you and hopefully, lead to robust discussions.
      All of this will be done on Sunday mornings, beginning October 26, with an opening presentation given by Rabbi Kuhn.  The Sunday sessions will be held weekly (with some breaks), though, early 2015.  We are confident that whether you have little or extensive knowledge about Israel, you will learn new things and benefit from the teachers and participants alike.  Look for more details and a syllabus in upcoming issues of the Bulletin but most important, join us in exploring a fascinating and important topic.  From a personal perspective, I hope that you will come out of this experience with a new found understanding of Israel—and a new or renewed commitment to seeing it grow and prosper as the homeland of the Jewish people.