This morning I will begin my journey as the staff lead on JCRC's annual Summer Study tour of Israel. This year we are bringing Christian clergy - 14 ministers and priests with three local rabbis and myself. Though I have led many trips before -- back when we called them missions -- I haven't done a clergy trip and I haven't worked with rabbis as my chairs.
This will be a fun and interesting experience and I invite you to join me as I process it...
More later as we head off!
Wish me luck!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Let me state for the record that I'm not a soccer fan. However, as the parent of a soon-to-be 17-year-old. I've drawn into watching the World Cup. Recently, during the England versus Germany soccer game. I was asked who I was rooting for.to my surprise, my answer was Germany.
Now, I've been responsible for Holocaust education and advocacy for many years during my professional career.I am proud of the advocacy that I have done for Holocaust survivors to receive their claims from German government, as well as the relationships that I have built with them.
So what am I doing rooting for Germany?
Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with the German ambassador to Israel. It was a small group, only 6 of us in total. We began talking about Europe and its deteriorating relationship with Israel. This lunch took place during the time of the Gaza flotilla incident. For many of us at the Jewish community, we were very concerned about how the media and how European countries were piling on Israel. While all of us were upset about the loss of life, it seemed that Europe had turned a deaf ear to Israel's security concerns and its need to keep weapons and other materials out of the hands of Hamas.
I asked the ambassador why he thought the Europeans were so eager to jump on Israel at this very delicate time. He noted that this incident was particularly problematic from the European mindset. It highlighted the role of Turkey -- a country that the EU is not anxious to admit to its ranks.
He noted that Germany continues to play an important role behind the scenes as Israel's only supporter among the of the European countries. While I have some skepticism about the degree to which this is true, he waxed eloquently about debates in the European Parliament with Germany taking Israel's side. Whatever the level of support, I believe that he was describing an important phenomenon.
It seems to me that in Europe, only Germany understands the need for a Jewish state. In contrast to the rest of Europe, (and many people in the United States) Germans regard Jews as a people. The Holocaust was carried out against a people, not a religious group. Ironically, Hitler's appeal to race taught the Germans an important lesson. They have committed to remembering that what their country did under the Nazi regime in some ways, made a Jewish state necessary. That the Jews are a people apart, no different than the Japanese, Italians or Germans themselves. A people with national as well as individual rights.
I reject the idea that the Holocaust was responsible for the creation of the State of Israel. I have pointed out to friends and others that the Zionist movement existed before the Holocaust and there was significant Jewish immigration to mandatory Palestine before the Second World War. I also point out that Israel is the Jewish people's ancestral homeland and that the Jewish people have yearned to return to Zion for 3000 years.
But, my argument seems to fall flat with many people. They have a very hard time understanding why there should be a "Jewish state" when there are no longer any Christian states. I am not sure that that's really true -- but people really do see it that way. And pointing out that there are 23 Muslim states seems not to move anyone either.
So, my German friend pointed out something critical about the future of Israel and the Jewish people in general. In Europe, the idea of a Jewish state has not taken root. Israel as a Jewish state is something still foreign to the enlightened peoples of Europe.
This is a very important matter as Europe approaches a multilateral foreign policy approach. At this time, Germany is able to have its own foreign policy as is France and the other European Union partners. At some point, however, the EU will establish a one foreign-policy system and at that point Israel may be in very serious trouble.
It's ironic that Germany, of all the nations of the world, recognizes the basic rights of the Jewish people to live in its ancestral home.
And, while I'm not running to buy a Volkswagen or BMW anytime soon, I'm rooting for Germany in the World Cup.
You have to stick up for your friends, after all.