The Quiet Death of Interfaith Activity?

In early 1948, waiting for the British to walk away from the tinderbox they had created in the Middle East by conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs, Abdul Khader Husseini was the most admired figure in Arab Palestine. He promised his cousin, the not very pious Mufti of Jerusalem and Hitler ally Haj Amin Husseini, that he could drive the Jews out of Jerusalem through terror, before any Jewish state was declared. Thus began a series of attacks on civilian targets, decades before anyone could speak of the "occupation" and the "wall."

One attack in February that year had successfully taken out the plant of the Jerusalem Post. The coup de grace, in the minds of the Husseinis, would be the destruction of the Jewish Agency, the nerve center of the worldwide movement to establish a Jewish state in the ancestral land of the Jewish people. On the morning of March 11, 1948, they succeeded in detonating a truck full of explosives in the Jewish Agency, with great loss of life.

That afternoon, Vivian Herzog and Reuven Shiloah, two Agency officials, called upon Norwegian Colonel Roscher Lund to take him to lunch, welcoming him as part of the international effort to keep the peace in the Middle East. Only Shiloah's eyes, nose, and mouth peeked out from the bandages that enveloped his head. Herzog's clothes were rumpled, and his injured wife's blood still stained his shirt. For an hour and a half, the two men spoke nothing of the attack they had been fortunate enough to survive, but rhapsodized about their plans for the next two decades of the state they hoped to found. The Norwegian was moved to tears. "My G-d! No one will stop a people like yours."

Israel will go it alone, and with the help of G-d, it will not be stopped. It will be encouraged by millions of Christian and non-Christian friends of democracy and decency—people who are genuinely concerned for Israelis and Palestinians, and who understand that peace will only come through fairness and balance. It will do what it has to do. By lowering their expectations of dialogue with groups who offer nothing when they are being choked to death, American Jews can focus their resources more productively elsewhere. (The church groups won't mind. Over the last few years they have quietly shifted their interfaith agendas to focus almost exclusively on Muslims, afraid of what might happen to their churches if they do not.) They will find millions of friends among religious individuals of all faiths, while abandoning the so-called religious leadership to its moral mediocrity.

Liberal churches have railed against the occupation and the separation barrier as the root of all Middle East evil. They bring to mind the Czech proverb, "Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends." Having discovered that among those who appointed themselves to speak for G-d Israel has no friends, it will have to be back to fences.

8/25/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Yitzchok Adlerstein
    About Yitzchok Adlerstein
    Yitzchok Adlerstein is an Orthodox rabbi who directs interfaith affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and chairs Jewish Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He is hopelessly addicted to the serious study of Torah texts.