Talking Israel

July 24, 2012 by

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This piece first appeared at State of Formation, and was written by a participant in Siach, an environmental and social justice gathering with whom Makom has partnered.


More than one of my politically and religiously liberal friends, when I told them I was converting to Judaism, gave as one of their first responses, “What about Israel?”

Good question. What about Israel?

I’ve understood all along that committing to the Jewish people and tradition also included coming into relationship with Israel—but the history and the issues seemed so complex that I have been reluctant to say much, to anyone, about anything related to the “Jewish State.”

Partly, this silence stemmed from a feeling that I didn’t know enough of the history, the politics, the people, and the issues to be able to speak with any authority. Partly, my place as a new Jew gave me pause. Partly, I saw how divisive the “Israel issue” is both within the American Jewish community and among people of other religious traditions, with whom I work. It is safer not to speak.

After spending two weeks in Israel, though, I’m looking at things a little differently. I traveled to Israel to participate in Siach, a program that brings Jewish social justice and environmental leaders from the U.S., Europe, and Israel together for learning, conversation, and collaboration.

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