Stand Up for Israel: Resources and Recommendations

This week, yet again, I’ve found myself standing up for Israel in a literary community (in this case, a Listserv) that I don’t believe should be focusing on Middle East politics in the first place. One of the reasons I began this blog was to provide myself with an outlet to express the love and support for Israel that is part of my Jewish self.

In that spirit, I am dedicating this post to listing resources I recommend for anyone who wants to stand up for Israel at this difficult time. What is happening in Gaza is tragic in so many ways, for so many people, Israelis and Palestinians alike, but the fault rests squarely with Hamas. Period. Israel needs the world’s support, not its vilification.

Any of the organizations listed below can also provide you with background, news, and other information that can help you try to understand what is happening in Gaza, which is essential as you may attempt to discuss the situation with others. But these groups can also help you take concrete, immediate actions to support Israel. They’ve already helped me do so.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
–The Union is working with Keren B’Kavod, a project of the Israel Religious Action Center, and other agencies to help the victimized residents of Southern Israel who “have been under constant attack from rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza.” As the URJ notes, “the problems will only get worse as violence in the region continues.” Click here to donate to help.
–Pray for Israel. The URJ’s Prayers for Israel page includes “Prayers for the State of Israel, Prayers On Behalf of Israeli Defense Forces, Prayers for Peace, Prayers in Song, and Modern Readings and Poems on Israel.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
–Tired of how the UN treats Israel? Angered by suggestions of “equivalency” between Hamas’s terrorism and Israel’s efforts to rid the world of that terrorism? Sign the ADL’s “Letter of Outrage to the United Nations.”
–Express your support for Israel to the members of your congressional delegation.

StandWithUs (SWU)
(SWU is “an international education organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources.”)
–Attend a pro-Israel rally. SWU lists rallies taking place in the United States and other countries here.
–Download pro-Israel posters, signs, and icons, all accessible via the SWU homepage.

On Gaza, Sense and Centrism

There is so much being written/published about what is happening in Gaza. As usual, much of it angers, saddens, and sickens me. Once again, I’m reminded why I stopped contributing to NPR, and why even CNN (with some notable exceptions, as Seth Gitell has pointed out) lets me down time after time after time.

Then, of course, there are the reliable, reassuring voices of reason. Like Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s. See Rabbi Yoffie’s piece, “On Gaza, Sense and Centrism,” in The Forward.

Not Very Good News

These have not been happy days. Last Friday morning, my family and I lost a beloved friend, our congregation’s Senior Rabbi Emeritus, Barry H. Greene. His passing was utterly unexpected. The funeral took place on Sunday. I hope to be able to share excerpts from eulogies another time. Right now, I am still absorbing this shocking event. Zichrono l’vracha.
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Barry, as I was privileged to call him, would doubtless have forwarded at least one or two relevant editorials and similar items about the current difficulties in Gaza. Here is one I would have shared with him.
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Unfairness to Israel in academic circles is not exactly news to me, but the latest example is. After reading this, I’m glad I’m no longer an MLA member. The list of disciplinary/professional organizations I can no longer embrace with the enthusiasm I once did because I don’t wish to support their non-disciplinary, non-professional political agendas with my membership dues thus grows.

From My Bookshelf: ASK FOR A CONVERTIBLE, by Danit Brown

Over the past week or so I’ve had the pleasure of reading Danit Brown’s new book of connected short stories, Ask for a Convertible. This is a new twist on Jewish-American writing, with most of the stories focused on a Jewish girl–born in Israel to an American father and an Israeli mother–who moves to Michigan in the early 1980s with her parents. (The character is then 12 years old, which makes her my more-or-less contemporary, and heightens my appreciation for the now quasi-historical details appearing through the work.)

At some moments the book made me laugh out loud: “In the city phone book–what luck–the other Marvin Greenberg had no problem with listing his full name: Marvin Alvin Greenberg, as if Marvin and Greenberg together didn’t already invoke massive amounts of nostril hair, golf pants, and game after game of shuffleboard.” At others, especially with some of the depictions of Israel (though it’s important to remember that when the Israeli-born protagonist returns to her birthplace in her twenties it’s not exactly a happy homecoming; the unappealing way the setting comes across is surely colored by the unhappy consciousness through which it is filtered), I found myself–what’s the right word–disillusioned? See, for instance, this paragraph:

“In Tel Aviv, where Osnat lived, there was a McDonald’s on every other block, and a Dunkin’ Donuts near Rabin Square, and still everything felt to Osnat as if had been shifted a little–a smaller, dirtier, almost-America–as if someone had gone through her house and rearranged the furniture and all the closets so that she couldn’t find her shoes….When guys excused themselves and didn’t close the bathroom door behind them, Osnat gave them the benefit of the doubt: maybe it was a cultural difference. When they walked down the street, she tried not to stare if they stopped to urinate against trees and parked cars. One time, she saw a man peeing against the wall of a gas station, ten meters away from a restroom. Now, everywhere she went with Jeannie, the two of them stumbled onto naked men, sunbathers who decided to flip over right as they walked by, boys skinny-dipping at the beach. The bus stops reeked of urine.”

The book pulled me in immediately, and the crackling liveliness of the early stories kept me going even when I began to wonder how one or another story was going to end up “connected” with the others and, yes, began to wonder if the collection might have been stronger if two or three of the pieces had been left out. But that minor kvetching aside, I found this book an impressive achievement, one that makes me look forward, very much, to seeing what its author will do next.

You can preview Ask for a Convertible by reading two of its stories, “Hands Across America” (yes, THAT Hands Across America) and “The Dangers of Salmonella,” on Nextbook.org.