Will you turn me away?
I want to introduce myself to you. I am Rabbi Avraham Yizhak Green. My U.S. passport calls me Arthur Green. I am a frequent visitor to Israel, so you might meet me one day at your desk at Ben-Gurion airport. I have been to Israel once already this year, and I have two more visits planned.
My fifth book just appeared in Hebrew translation. I was in Israel in December/January, where I spoke publicly in about 15 different places, including universities, yeshivot, synagogues and research centers. I have many good friends and students in Israel, and I correspond with them regularly. My two upcoming trips, one in June and the other in October, are to attend academic conferences – one concerning Hasidism and the other regarding the Zohar.
I tell you all this because I fear we might have a problem. Because of my political and religious views, I refuse to recite kiddush over wine that is labeled as made in Kiryat Arba. That has been my practice for many years. I am concerned about violation of Jewish laws regarding theft, oppression and other interpersonal transgressions that are involved in agricultural products created by Jews in the West Bank territories. Although I do not abstain entirely from eating such produce when I visit Israel, I am more strict regarding kiddush. While I am not a rabbi who makes decisions on Jewish law for others, I have informed my students that this is my custom.
Until now, I have not made a public statement about this but am now doing so. I need to know whether that means I am included among those who will no longer be permitted into the country, because I support this degree of boycott on a product of Israel’s West Bank settlements. If that is the case, and this “border decree” includes me within it, please advise me and I will cancel my planned visits.
Avraham Yizhak (Arthur) Green
Rector, Rabbinical School Hebrew College, Boston
From 1973, I volunteered in Israel; from 2001, I have been volunteering in Palestine. From Israeli kibbutzim to Palestinian villages, I work with moms, dads, kids helping them survive wars, incursions, rockets, occupation. Now “sister” and “auntie” to many on the West Bank, I know they want the same things you and I want: security, safety, stability ... hope ... a decent life ... a future for their next generations.
Settlements and the occupation deny these things to Palestinians and Israelis both. Financial, social, economic, cultural and psychological damage devastate both the occupier and the occupied.
I don’t support the BDS movement; their objectives are too ambiguous for me. I advocate and act in boycotting all-things-settlement. I implore all self-respecting people: Boycott products from Israeli settlements. Buy products from Palestinians. I write this fully “aware of [the] possibility” that my call “has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott.” I arrive Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday, March 21, on flight UA954.
Not democracy but dictatorship
I don’t know quite how or to whom to express my disgust and concern regarding the direction my beloved country is taking. Its political system might be identified as starting with a “d,” but instead of its being a democracy, I’m afraid it is turning into a dictatorship.
Control of the media, deciding what can and cannot be broadcast; allocating additional funding to Jerusalem to have the bulk of it going to yeshivot and Haredi neighborhoods while providing a pittance to the Israeli Arabs living within the recognized borders of Israel; controlling the educational system and removing all of the positive, creative, innovative programs that went into developing a startup nation and instead introducing more and more Torah, Judaism and other slanted subjects while removing civics, diminishing math, languages, hampering the advancement of the Israeli student and placing Israel on the low end of the totem pole of educational achievement.
This is not to mention the despicable comments made by the rabbi, designated to train future IDF soldiers, regarding women serving in the military, or the step taken by Minister Erdan to halt recognition of International Women’s Day by Palestinian women who were only interested in joining the international effort to place women’s issues on the agenda of every country; the refusal to allow people to enter the country if they criticize some of the policies although they willingly recognize Israel, but not the settlements built on private Palestinian land; the demolition of homes built without permits by the Palestinians because the bureaucracy doesn’t provide them with that right – but ignoring the homes built by the settlers, also without permits, on land that does not belong to them.
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This is a democracy? Not where I come from and not why I came here and encouraged our children to do the same.
Treatment of Syrians in Israel endangered
For the last five years, thousands of injured and sick Syrians have been treated in medical centers in the north of Israel. Shortly after the news broke that the treatment of Syrians would have to be halted due to lack of funding, I stood before the Knesset last week, during a meeting regarding the $75 million the government owes for the medical care of Syrians, and explained that the Israeli taxpayer should not be burdened with this cost.
However well-intentioned, the government can no longer sustain this program in a socialist medical system already very strained in resources and money, especially in the north of Israel, which is where Syrians are treated. For example, Ziv Hospital has six beds in their emergency room, which used to suffice for the surrounding population. Since the civil war broke out, five of the beds have been occupied by Syrians. Nurses and doctors are overworked and collapsing from exhaustion. If an accident occurs, an Israeli can be refused admission due to lack of space.
And on top of all this, the government isn’t even footing the bill! And Poriya Hospital, which serves the populations of Tiberias, Golan Heights, Jordan Valley and Lower Galilee, there is a two-year waiting list for the routine operation of getting one’s tonsils removed!
I highly recommend that the Israel government partner with NGOs to create a hospital and medical clinic in southern Syria, and allow Syrian doctors to enter Syria via Israel so Syrian patients will not have to make the risky trip to Israel.
All of this I explained to the Israeli government, and I encouraged them to allow NGOs to take supplies into Syria. Medical care for the Syrian people, along with the eventual creation of a safe zone in southern Syria, should be funded by an international humanitarian task force committed to finally ending the bloodshed and rebuilding Syria.
If Israel stops the program, what does that mean? What it means for the people of Syria is not only that many people will die without treatment, but they will know that Israelis no longer care about their neighbors. Israel was providing aid at a minimum and now the Syrians will feel abandoned.
Someone else will fill this vacuum. Whether it’s Hezbollah, ISIS or Al-Qaida, there is no doubt that one of these groups will move in and provide Syrians with food, shelter and their basic needs in exchange for loyalty.
Founder, Amaliah.org, New York