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Jewish Journal

Israel Is Not Alone

by Yuval Rotem

July 26, 2001 | 8:00 pm

This past Sunday thousands of individuals, representing the full spectrum of the Jewish community's diversity of thought and opinion, gathered on Wilshire Boulevard to express solidarity with the people of Israel. Those who came to the rally helped to send a loud and clear message to Israelis who have increasingly felt a sense of physical and emotional isolation from the rest of the world. To each of you who stood with us on the streets of Los Angeles, let me say that we appreciate what you did, and we value it.

As much as the demonstration sent an important message to Israel, it also served a significant function to our community. It is undeniable that deep rifts exist between various segments of the Jewish community (as they do in Israel). In that respect, there is no doubt in my mind that solidarity with the people of Israel can serve a unique role as a unifying force. Sunday's rally demonstrated exactly that point, providing an all-too-rare opportunity to bring all such diverse groups together with a common purpose and shared resolve.

Perhaps Sunday's rally will cause all of us to pause and consider that despite our differences in religious observance and political affiliation, there are many initiatives in which all of us can cooperate for the common good of the Jewish people. Such an occasion compels us to remember that we are one people, with only one Israel -- the only place where Jews can defend themselves, by themselves.

Lastly, the solidarity rally sends a critical reminder to local, state and federal elected officials that America's friendship and alliance with Israel is tremendously important to their constituents. When the political leaders and broader community of American citizens see thousands of people demonstrating in the streets of Los Angeles on behalf of the Israeli people, it makes an indelible statement in their hearts and minds.

Still, I cannot help imagining that if we could accomplish so much with the thousands who were present, what could we have done with 20,000, or 50,000, in attendance? That would actually represent only a small portion of the Jewish population in this area. To all of you who did not participate, I challenge you to reconsider your decision.

During the past 10 months of violence, the diplomats at the Consulate have met with thousands of individuals in this community who express frustration as to why more is not being done. This past Sunday, something important was done, and far too many did not rise to the challenge. If you want to have a place at the table -- if you want to be among those standing with Israel in the good times -- you can't remain disengaged in the times of sorrow. It is an issue of credibility.

For those who did not participate in the rally due to some disagreement with a certain Israeli policy, I believe you erred in judgment. We never ask that our friends and supporters agree with all of Israel's policies, for diverse viewpoints can only strengthen our people. Your disagreements should not have prevented you from attending. I believe that we are all in agreement about the right of the Jewish people to live securely in Israel. We are certainly united in the conviction that young people can go to a disco without being blown up in a suicide bombing. At the rally, we were joined by two teenagers from the Shevach Moffet High School in Tel Aviv. They were among the youngsters who saw their friends and classmates murdered at the Dolphinarium. How can someone express reservations about offering sympathy to them?

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