Rabbi Zeff reflects from Israel


Justice Melcer with USCJ Exec. Dir. Steve Wernick

Rabbi Zeff is in Israel with his family during this difficult time. He wrote these reflections for us:

“This week I had the privilege of joining a joint RA/USCJ Solidarity trip in Jerusalem for a day, hearing from Israeli leaders about the many challenges facing the country.  To me, the theme of the day was drawing difficult distinctions and making hard decisions in a complex environment.”

“We met with Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who spoke about the immense work of the Court, which, unlike any other Supreme Court, accepts petitions from non-Israelis – including from Palestinians in Gaza – who feel that they have justice claims against Israeli authorities.  He talked about how they weigh different factors and precedents in attempting to administer justice, and he recalled past cases, including one regarding the distribution of gas masks to Palestinians during the threat from Saddam Hussein.  One case on which the Justice could not comment is one that he will soon be hearing about whether the current conflict is an ‘operation’ or a ‘war,’ which has implications both for the application of international law and for compensation for wounded soldiers and civilians.  Justice Melcer also spoke movingly about the experience of his family when his son was seriously wounded several weeks ago while fighting for the IDF in Gaza.  Thank God, his son is recovering well.”

Dr. Abu Rass

“We also heard from Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, an Arab Israeli who is the co-director of the Abraham Fund, a non-profit that works to build a shared future for Israeli Jews and Arabs. He spoke of the complexity of his life in Israel, where he is a proud Israeli and yet his mother’s side of the family lives in Gaza. ‘We are here but also there;’ he is both an Israeli citizen and a part of the Palestinian people. So the current conflict puts him in a difficult position. He feels that there needs to be a concerted effort both to find paths toward peace and coexistence and, at the same time, to work to involve Arab Israelis more in the political system and to increase efforts at economic development for them. He condemned the discourse of fear among some political leaders within Israel. He was happy to see a sign near where we were meeting saying, ‘Racism is outside Jewish tradition,” but he would like the Prime Minister to be saying that and acting against the racism that he sees as rampant within Israel. He argued that most Arabs would love to become more integrated into Israeli society, but for them to do so we need to fight against extremism on both sides.”

MK Herzog

“Last, we met with MK Yitzhak ‘Buji’ Herzog, the leader of the opposition in the Knessset. Although he has supported the current government during this crisis, he was very critical of the Prime Minister’s approach to resolving the crisis and creating peace. He strongly believes that the only way to peace is to partner with the moderate forces in the region, including Palestinian President Abbas and Egypt, who have common interests in combating terrorism. He said that a peace process and a two-state solution is still possible, and people have to remember that the alternative is a one-state solution and the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. He also believes that time is not unlimited. Eventually, there will be even more pressure on Israel internationally, and even the U.S. could withdraw its diplomatic support, which would be disastrous for Israel. Hard choices need to be made now.”
“Meanwhile, the situation on the ground is a study in contrasts. Record numbers of missiles are falling on the southern part of the country, while in the center, in Jerusalem, and especially here in Haifa, life goes on as usual. Every day there are new reports of violence but also new reports of possible pathways toward a ceasefire and peace. ‘Ulai yesh tikvah – perhaps there is still hope’ (Lamentations 3:29). Tonight we will join with members of Masorti congregation Kehilat Moriah in Haifa to welcome Shabbat together and pray for peace. May our prayers and yours and those of people around the world be heard.”