Staying grounded in reality


To the editor:

(re: “Taking a look at the whole story,” Sept. 15)

Israel has become a hot-button topic and the various back-and–forths between Peter Wolf and the various writers who have responded to his attacks on Israel — yes, Aryeh Jeselsohn is my husband — could go on endlessly and fruitlessly.

With this letter, we are both done.

History and context cannot be overlooked when dealing with the present situation in Israel. Wolf’s only concern “is now,” as he clearly states in his letter. This approach is intellectually dishonest when dealing with the complex Israel-Palestinian problem.

As best I can parse, Wolf is “no expert” (in his own words) when it comes to the founding of Israel and the subsequent history of Arab attacks, but he certainly has many opinions. He worries about underdogs — although they choose to continue as underdogs because they believe that, with liberal support, they will prevail. He thinks that discrimination and harassment of Jewish students is not so bad since people are not being killed (yet).

He thinks Charles Moerdler is a panicky and unrealistic person, as if PTSD doesn’t apply to those fleeing for their lives as children, and that a lengthy break from an ancestral homeland (mentioned daily over thousands of years in the prayer service — to new homes in places that despised and humiliated them — the Holocaust is only the last of many decimations of Jewish populations over the centuries) is not a basis for modern statehood.

Instead, he uses the canard that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic.

But let’s look at both of these factors more closely. Israel is certainly a democratic country. They have a system of law. They have elections. They have a free press and judiciary. And most importantly, all Israeli citizens — may they be Jewish, Muslim, Christian or anything else — have full rights, and any discrimination is prohibited by law as stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Please note that there are Israeli Arabs — not Palestinian Arabs — who are members of the Knesset, who are doctors, lawyers, etc. The Israeli Arabs enjoy a complete free life in a Western-styled democracy.

What’s really being questioned is, “What does a Jewish state mean?” with the underlying negative presumption that it must be racist.

Robert Frost probably said it best: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” This definition should tear the heart out of anyone who remembers the Holocaust.

Who felt obliged to take in the Jewish citizens of Europe before they were murdered? Please tell me.

So now let us turn to Israel. Long before the state was declared, Jews living in the British Mandate of Palestine went to great pains to create bridges to the Arab leadership. They clearly understood that if there were ever to be a land of Israel, the Arabs residing in the Mandate would be part of the citizenry.

That went nowhere. The Mufti of Jerusalem supported the Nazis, and made it clear that Jews should never be able to have a homeland in Palestine

When the country was created, how did the Jewish part play out? A country needs a national language. Hebrew had been a scholarly and liturgical language of the Jews for thousands of years. It was restored, and is a wonderful study in the resurrection of an ancient language for use in the modern world.

The holidays are Jewish holidays with an acknowledgement of other cultural and religious holidays. Certain areas of personal identity are governed by religious law, for Jews by Jewish law, for Muslims, by Islamic law, etc.

There is a full body of secular law based on the British legal system applying equally to every Israeli citizen, regardless of origin.

Wolf lives in a world of “shoulds.” In any other universe, Israel would be a model for building a viable country in an unfriendly and increasingly unstable world. He would do better to look at all the failed states around the world and offer them the benefit of his advice.

Sura Jeselsohn

Israel, Sura Jesselsohn, Peter Wolf, Charles Moerdler, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Palestine