Reflections on a Yom Kippur Sermon

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The rabbi of a suburban Washington, DC congregation chose Yom Kippur to deliver a sermon on Israel.  He correctly identified the divisions within Israeli society and expressed concern about the increasing polarization between what he termed the “exclusionists” and the “inclusiveness.”  Unfortunately, in an otherwise admirable and instructive sermon, he displayed his naiveté when he expressed the view that Israelis could never make peace with the Palestinians as long as Benjamin Netayahu was Israel’s Prime Minister.

The rabbi correctly deduced that only an Israeli political leader from the right side of the political spectrum, and only one with the courage to stand up to Israel’s ultra-conservatives, would be able to reach a peace agreement with the Arabs.  What little progress that has been made towards achieving peace has been made by right wing Israeli political leaders, namely, Menachem Begin, Yitzak, Rabin and Ariel Sharon.

The rabbi also believed, as too many American Jews naively do, that Netanyahu was the impediment to reaching a peace agreement.  He gave no credence to Netanyahu’s reminder of the Arab saying that you cannot applaud with only one hand.  The rabbi seemed to be of the opinion that if the Israeli government made enough concessions, at some point the Arabs would reach across the table to embrace the Jewish state, and Israelis and Palestinians would live happily ever after in a land of milk and honey.  This is as delusional as thinking that Barack Obama is a friend and strong supporter of Israel.

When Colin Powell was Secretary of State he asked General Tony Zinni to try to negotiate a peace agreement between Sharon and Arafat.  In spite of the fact that Hezbollah was firing rockets into Israel from Lebanon and Hamas was sending in “martyrs” with explosives taped to the chests, Sharon, who was under enormous political pressure to stop the slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians, made a good faith effort to reach an accommodation.  Arafat, who had previously been offered almost everything the Palestinians had demanded during negotiations with Barak, could not bring himself to reach out to Sharon and come to an agreement.  As Zinni recalled in his book, Leading the Charge: Leadership lessons from the battlefield to the boardroom, Arafat reminded him of what had happened to Sadat and Rabin, men who had tried to make peace. Arafat said, “I’m not going to do that.  You’re not going to walk behind my funeral….I’m still the only undefeated Arab general.”  With Hamas in control of Gaza, and the so called Arab Spring turning wintry, Abbas is in an even more difficult position than Arafat was.

One of the things that the United States is expected to do is lead the wayward Israelis and Palestinians into a new beginning—a time of peace and prosperity.  Every American president and presidential candidate assures American Jews of his unwavering support of Israel and his commitment to bringing the two sides together.  To understand how little real influence we have in that part of the world you need only look at Iraq and Afghanistan.  All of the blood and treasure the United States has spent and continues to spend cannot get the Iraqi and the Afghan governments to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

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  • Susan Q

    The rabbi is a "rabbi". There are lots of pseudo-rabbis and rabbi-impersonators walking about. Even Michael Lerner pretends to be a rabbi. This guy is a rabbi in the same sense that I am a ballet dancer, meaning he is not.

    • Attila the hun

      I'm sure the rabbi Mr.Kaltman is talking about is a ultra liberal reform rabbi. It is easy to preach peace from rabbi's safe and secure Washington suburb. Before opening his stupid mouth he should consulted with those Israelis who live in border towns like Sderot. Those guys beside perverting 2000 years of Jewish tradition and customs and now they have the audacity to call for Israel's annihilation. I'm ashamed to call those people Jews.

  • SHmuelHaLevi

    Well. It fits.
    The US society produced precisely what it is expected to produce and that includes the pseudo American leadership as well as the pseudo Jewish leadership.
    Both totally devoid of either American Heritage identification and the other just as devoid of Jewish Heritage identification. No one that is disloyal to the American way could possibly be loyal to the Jewish values. Perfect fit as I said above.
    It is not circumstantial that the fading Jewish community identifies with the fading American line.

    Sorry, (make it the make believe post American type of "sorry"), that we do not satisfy the parameters set by the unJews over there but they will have learn to live with it, Their co travelers will have to learn to live with it as well.
    We, in turn, are well in our way to "disengage" from them as well.
    By the looks of it, much as they try, few others want those folk either.
    We also on this are well in our way to bypass them as well.

  • WildJew

    OK, Maybe people will think I am nitpicking. This is a good piece overall. I've got a few minor difficulties with some of the details.

    Mr. Kaltman wrote: "The rabbi correctly deduced that only an Israeli political leader from the right side of the political spectrum, and only one with the courage to stand up to Israel’s ultra-conservatives, would be able to reach a peace agreement with the Arabs."

    I am not sure what a peace agreement with the Arabs would look like. Begin did not reach peace with Eygpt. In exchange for the strategically valuable Sinai, Israel got from Egypt what it has had with Syria by keeping the Golan Heights; a cold peace or a cold war. As the months and the years go by, Israel will wish it had kept the Sinai. Rabin did not reach peace with the Arabs. The Oslo Accords brought the PLO to power in Israel and much terror and violence; thousands of innocent Jews murdered and maimed. Were it not for Israel's "ultra conservatives" no telling where we would be now.

    Kaltman: "One of the things that the United States is expected to do is lead the wayward Israelis and Palestinians into a new beginning—a time of peace and prosperity."

    A time of peace and prosperity is not what this is about. Can you imagine the U.S. giving way to bin Laden's demands after the 9/11 attacks. No, this is about appeasing Israel's and America's oil-rich enemies. It is about selling-out an ally to the enemy in the hope the enemy will view us favorably. It has nothing to do with bringing about peace and prosperity in the region. This charade of a "peace" process will bring war, not peace.

    Kaltman: "Until the West recognizes the need to combat, not just with weapons but also with ideas, the fundamentalist view of Islam that Saudi and Emirate funding is spreading around the world, we, not just the Israelis, will live with the constant threat of terrorist attacks."

    I am convinced (after some years of study post 9/11), after reading the Qur'an and the life of the prophet Muhammad, the "fundamentalist" view of Islam that Saudis and the Emirates are funding is authentic Islam. It is the Islam of the prophet. The Islam of Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, etc., is authoritative Islam.

    Kaltman: "We need to help initiate an Islamic Reformation, one that will reshape Islam the way the Protestant Reformation reshaped Christianity. It would be naïve to think that one day the world will be rid of all the hard core fundamentalists, but right now they are in the ascendant, and if the world is ever again to be a safer place, their ideas and their core beliefs must be challenged. We need to beat them with ideas if we ever hope to be able to stop fighting them with bombs and bullets."

    So long as the Qur'an, is the word of Allah which is eternal, perfect, unalterable, 'revealed' to Muhammad by Allah, etc., there will be no reform in Islam. It is best to face this reality. The hard core fundamentalists are in the ascendant because Muslims know they are teaching the ummah authentic Islam; the Islam of the prophet. Muslims know the hard core fundamentalists are good Muslims. They are faithful Muslims who follow in the way of the Muhammad. Once the west and Americans in particular accept this truth, only then can we devise ways and means to victory and success. Until we come to understand that Islam itself is the problem, that Islam's core texts and teachings promote violence and terrorism – that Islam is an all-encompassing political, social, economic / religious-ideology (with global ambitions) from its inception – how can we defeat it?

    • Raymond in DC

      "So long as the Qur'an, is the word of Allah which is eternal, perfect, unalterable, 'revealed' to Muhammad by Allah, etc., there will be no reform in Islam." Agree. The other major problem is the insistence that Mohammed was "perfect" and his behavior thus worthy of emulation. That includes polygamy, child brides, conducting war on "non-believers", abrogating treaties when one is strong enough to do so, etc.

      I'm reminded of an interview with a leading Islamic "scholar" at Al Azhar University. The interviewer talked of a modern, reformed Islam – abandoning polygamy, accepting women's rights and the dignity and worth of even non-believers, and so on. The scholar reacted with shock to the suggestion. "But then that wouldn't be Islam!"

  • effemall

    1. I don't expect common sense from a Rabbi or Mullah or Priest or Minister or any so-called man of God. The occasional one manages brilliance in spite of having accepted a ton of fairy tales and lies referred to as "religion."
    2. In business dealings or personal relationships it makes simple sense to distance oneself from individuals or groups who consistently lie, cheat and don't understand give-and-take. You can't make deals with such people. A peace treaty with such people is a travesty. It has taken Israel far too long to begin to realize this. Sadly, there are still people in Israel who don't understand this. The only way to deal with Palestinians is with an iron fist.

  • Stan Lee

    IMHO, that Rabbi should have given a pure Yom Kippur service. I've never witnessed Jewish services, but as others have mentioned here before I will, the Rabbi in question wasn't reflecting anything but the political philosophy in which he believes. I think one has to be living in Israel, within its tight little borders, and living under constant mortal threat 24/7. That has to bring one's thought process to reality.
    The Arabs can jaw as much as they want, the crux of the Arab/Israeli problem is not Israeli-generated.
    It is the Arab covenant that the Arabs have continually refused to drop since 1948, and that is the destruction of the State of Israel.
    The issue is not about Arab land, it's about Jews who had the guts to return to the land their bible identifies them with. And what did they do with that land?
    They drained mosquito-infested swamps and developed fertile farms in the place of those swamps. They supply much of the food that the Arabs consume and what do the Israelis receive as a "thanks?" Russian designed/Iranian made rockets!

  • beezeebeez

    I fully agree with ObamaYoMamma's analyses of the clash between the Islamic vs Western Judeo-Christian civilizations. First, the US must regain the strength and power it possessed just a few decades ago by aggressively drilling for oil and gas and building additional refineries to process and market these products. We must re-build our industrial sector and disengage from all that pseudo environmental hogwash and get back to the business of rebuilding our nation and innovating new quality products and methods that the rest of the world will eagerly adopt. In the process, we will marginalize the muslim nations, making their oil fields irrelevant and rendering them powerless. The ultimate goal should be to force them back into the wasteland from whence they came and isolate them from western civilization altogether. We must act quickly to disarm Pakistan and Iran of their nuclear arsenals and post severe warnings to all other nations with nuclear weapon aspirations to cease immediately or face extreme consequences.
    Peace emerges from STRENGTH, not from weakness.

  • Kaju

    You guys just cannot see that the Palastiniana, Hamas, Arabs do not want peace or even a Palestinian state whatever Israel offers. Israel is the only democratic state in the middle east and the Arabs want to take it off the map. Israel has offered what they wanted many times over.