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Building for the Future in Israel

With so much back and forth about what’s happening in and with Israel – often no more than the same old name calling and Israel-right/Israel-wrong mantra, it was fascinating to read this commentary from the Israeli orthodox rabbi, and liberal thinker, Donniel Hartman of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute.  It is fascinating to read such a forward thinking, pro-active suggestion. 

Donniel Hartman’s latest commentary, “A Time to Build, a Time to Lead: The Difference Between Engaging and Advocacy,” continues his thorough, creative, and groundbreaking recasting of the way Israel thinks of itself and presents itself on the world stage. In describing the standard ways that Israel and its advocates have been explaining the current controversy over building in East Jerusalem, Donniel notes that:

because we are locked into limited advocacy arguments, we have limited our thoughts and even our policies to merely ensuring that we are doing nothing wrong, and not changing the status quo, rather than asking ourselves whether we are doing something right, and maybe even trying to improve on the status quo.

Donniel suggests engaging Israel rather than advocating for Israel:

When one goes beyond advocacy to engaging Israel, we search not for the relative legitimacy of Israel’s policies, in relation to the past or in relation to other nations in similar situations, or in relation to our neighbors. Rather one engages in a search for how Israel can be a vehicle for leading and expressing the best and most noble of our ideas, ideals, and values. Engaging Israel does not stop at justifying the present. It looks for opportunities for shaping the future of Israel in order to fulfill its identity as a Jewish state.

Donniel also makes a bold proposal: that Israel build thousands of apartments, and even new towns, for the Israelis who may be relocated in the event of a peace deal with the Palestinians, even before a peace deal is negotiated:

Let us begin to build cities and towns in the Negev and Galil, and to expand the settlement blocs in Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel, so that almost every settler will be able to relocate no more than 30 minutes from their current homes. Let us build a monument to the peace that has so far eluded us – cities and towns and apartments which will lie empty – waiting to embrace their inhabitants who will pay the price of relocation so that all of us can begin building a new and better future.

Read all of “A Time to Build, a Time to Lead: The Difference Between Engaging and Advocacy” by clicking here. Please note: A Time to Build is the second column on the subject of engaging Israel (read “Engaging Israel: Beyond Advocacy,” the first article).

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