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Obama vs. Israel

by David Suissa

April 22, 2010 | 11:02 am

It’s not often you get to meet and become friends with one of your heroes. For years, I was in awe of Yossi Klein Halevi, the author and political analyst. He had written books that fascinated me—like “Confessions of a Jewish Extremist,” which chronicled his transition from extremist to centrist; and “At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden,” which recounted his years hanging out with Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land, where he has lived since the 1970s. I also knew that his political analyses in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The New Republic were some of the most widely read in the world.

So when I was introduced to him by a common friend and we met in Jerusalem about ten years ago, I felt like a kid meeting his favorite sports star. I expected that we would talk mostly about his expertise, Middle East politics, but instead, we talked mostly about God and meditation.

It turned out that my hero of political analyses also had a real spiritual side.

In the years since, I have heard him speak at a number of events, usually about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And at every event, his spiritual side has added a unique flavor to his hard-nosed political insights.

So when I found out he was coming to America this year for Yom Ha’Atzmaut week, I asked if he would come to Los Angeles and speak about the issue that is on every Jew’s lips: Obama versus Israel.

I used the term “versus” not to signify a personal bias, but to touch on the confrontational nature of the relationship that we’ve seen between Obama and Israel. This crisis was captured by Halevi in The New Republic last month in an essay called “Obama’s Intifada.”

I asked Halevi not just to talk about the confrontation, but to address a rarely asked question: Can Obama be good for Israel?

That’s right, Can Obama be good for Israel?

Well, even though it caught him a little off guard, Halevi said yes, I’ll do it.

So I’m glad to announce that “Obama vs. Israel” will happen tonight at the Nessah Synagogue on Rexford in Beverly Hills, thanks to the partnership of Thirty Years After, The Jewish Journal, OLAM and Nessah.

What is happening right now in the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is for the history books. I have followed this conflict for the better part of three decades, and I cannot recall experiencing this level of tension. Between hysteria on one side and blind defensiveness on the other, lies an enlightened, insightful and spiritual middle. This is the space that Yossi Klein Halevi occupies, a space that few others do.

For more info about the event, click here.

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