Sinai Temple drew a large crowd Nov. 8 for a debate titled, "America, Israel and the Middle East: Can There Be Reconciliation?" Participants were Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow of the American Task Force on Palestine, which seeks the creation of a Palestinian state to exist peacefully with Israel.
Rabbi David Wolpe, serving as moderator, started by telling the audience of the Sinai- and StandWithUs-sponsored event that the evening's structure would be more like PBS' "NewsHour" than CNN's "Crossfire".
"We're looking for a discussion not argument," Wolpe said. "The emphasis of discussion will be peace and reconciliation."
Dershowitz and Ibish took turns speaking, agreeing on aspects of issues such as a two-state solution, extremism, terrorism, the United State's role and Palestinians' "right of return." However, they disagreed on other aspects of the same issues, talking over one another at times.
One particular area of contention was Israel's presence in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank -- and the role that has had in the conflict.
"Conflict is inevitable when one people rule over another," Ibish said. Dershowitz said: "It is not inevitable that occupation would lead to violence and hatred."
Dershowitz argued that Tibetans have lived under China's rule for more than 50 years without terrorism. He also highlighted Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance approach in India in seeking independence from Britain.
"Occupation does not cause terrorism ... terrorism causes continued occupation," Dershowitz said.
Ibish argued that when people live as noncitizens under the military rule of a foreign occupier, it leads to an aggressive resistance. He also said that some people don't follow the Dalai Lama's nonviolent approach in Tibet, and India's conflict was quite brutal.
Dershowitz responded that Ghandi led the way for Indian statehood without terrorism.
Dershowitz and Ibish for the most part agreed on what the United States could do for the conflict.
"I think the United States should play more of a role," Dershowitz said. He added that the U.S. should send credible negotiators, such as former senator and Lebanese Christian George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton, but not former Secretary of State Jim Baker or former President Jimmy Carter.
While Ibish had said earlier that Americans who favor either side of the conflict should start to work together to help Israelis and Palestinians move forward, he also agreed with Dershowitz on who should and shouldn't be a negotiator in the process.
"We need a clear vision of the peace and less of the process," Ibish said. After the debate, Sinai's young professional branch, Atid, hosted a singles salon reception, for those ages 21-39.
"We arranged that because my single son is here," Dershowitz quipped.
-- Sara Bakhshian, Contributing Writer
Israel in Crisis Campaign Raises $20 Million
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' Israel in Crisis campaign has raised nearly $20 million since its inception last summer, helping Israel and Israelis recover from the physical and psychological fallout from the war in Lebanon.
"The outpouring of support from this community has been outstanding," L.A. Federation President John Fishel said. "However, it is important to remember that Israel's full recovery from this war will still take a great deal of time and even more resources."
Of the $20 million raised by The Federation, an unprecedented $4 million came from the city's Persian Jewish community, which has been increasing its involvement, Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon said. In addition, five individual donors made contributions of $1 million or more, she said.
Unlike in past Israel emergency drives, a large number of synagogues decided against raising money individually, Dragon said. Instead, they encouraged congregants to give directly to The Federation campaign.
The Federation's fundraising drive is part of a bigger United Jewish Communities (UJC) campaign, which has raised nearly $350 million to date. As of early October, the UJC had allocated more than $90 million, including $18 million for victims of terror, $6 million to equip public bomb shelters in northern Israel and $4 million for emergency small-business grants.
The UJC represents 155 federations and 400 independent communities across North America.
During the war, donations made to The Federation's Israel in Crisis fund helped underwrite a variety of services. Contributions paid for emergency kits and trauma services for the elderly, psychological counseling, summer camps for displaced children and retrofitting bomb shelters with emergency light fixtures and air conditioning.
Although the conflict has ended, Israel's needs have not. Today, money given to The Federation's special campaign underwrites the cost of temporary housing in areas where homes were destroyed, medical care for the injured, counseling for those suffering from post-traumatic stress and repairing damaged community centers for the elderly.
To help keep Israel's difficulties fresh in Jews' minds, The Federation has distributed at synagogues and elsewhere thousands of postcards bearing the pictures of Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit, three Israeli soldiers whose kidnappings helped trigger the Israeli campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza. All three are still in captivity.
Cards and dogtags imprinted with the names of the kidnapped soldiers were given to delegates attending the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities in Los Angeles this week.
Those wishing to make a donation to the Israel in Crisis campaign can do so online at www.JewishLA.org or by calling 1-866-968-7333. -- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Ben-Gurion Letter Goes to Auction Block
A handwritten letter from Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, will be auctioned on Nov. 18 through Goldberg Coin in Beverly Hills. The letter features the secular prime minister's view on the essence of being a Jew. The auction house is projecting that bidding could go as high as $50,000.
Beverly Hill, Goldberg Coin's director of manuscripts and collectibles, said that while the consigner's identity is being kept confidential, the letter was purchased from the New York auction house, Christie's. According to a Christie's representative, the letter sold for more than $7,000 on June 17, 2003.
Written in English on Sept. 7, 1963, shortly after Ben-Gurion's retirement, the letter is a response to questions posed by Heidi Allen, a young American woman in Maine. In the course of the letter, Ben-Gurion states that the essence of the Jewish faith is characterized by the prophet Jeremiah:"Thus says the lord: 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories -- glory in this, that he understands and know me, that I am the Lord who practice [sic] kindness, justice and rightousness [sic] in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord'" (Jer. 9-23-34)."
Ben-Gurion also writes that while Jesus was a great Jew, he was mortal, and he points to the mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14, which confuses almah, or young woman in Hebrew, for virgin ("Behold, a young woman shall conceive [and] bear a son, and shall his name Immanuel").
A typewritten and autographed 1951 letter from Albert Einstein is also part of the auction, and the estimated value is between $5,000 and $7,500. In the letter, Einstein suggests to Joseph Schaffner that he should use his money to help intellectuals persecuted by Hitler, rather than donate it to Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Both letters are being auctioned during the second session, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Goldberg Coins, 350 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 350, Beverly Hills. Online bidding will be handled by EBay LiveAuctions.
For more information, visit www.goldbergcoins.com or www.liveauctions.ebay.com/catalogs/20435.
-- Adam Wills, Associate Editor