A people that dwells alone

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Many of my friends and colleagues are condemning, in strong and harsh terms, the decision of the Presbyterian Church to dis-invest from some companies doing business in Israel, effectively joining and giving legitimacy to the BDS movement.

By doing so, they sincerely believe that they are both pressuring Israel to relinquish its occupation of Palestinian areas, and also, lets be honest, demonstrating a claim of the moral high ground over the Israelis and her Jewish supporters (like me).

Let it be so.  Personally, I bear the Presbyterians no animosity at all. As the Book of Numbers makes clear, we are “a people that dwells alone” and no matter of financial and social success in the US of A will change that four thousand year old reality.   Besides, the teacher who was the greatest influence in my life, Norman Schneider, is not only to this day a devout Presbyterian elder and teacher, but the son of a Presbyterian minister, and I will always revere him and his faith.  Sorry guys, I can’t join you in bashing the Presbyterians today, even though I agree with you in your criticisms.

I can however, assert that while our opponents in the American Christian community argue that they are responding to Israeli policies, what they are really doing is responding viscerally to a series of vignettes.  You see the hideous wall that cuts off Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and damn, it is ugly.  But that is a vignette.  What you don’t see are the bombs going off daily in the streets of Israel in 2002, blowing children to bits.  What you don’t see are the concrete columns erected so that people like myself strolling in Jerusalem in 2002 would not get shot by snipers in Bethlehem leaning out of mosques and private homes.  Oh, and you don’t see Jews in Bethlehem in 2014.   Not allowed, you know.

You see a Palestinian farmer whose olive groves are taken over by insane Jewish settlers.  That’s a vignette and a real one.  You see settlers building illegal settlements on Palestinian lands.   But you don’t see friends of mine, Jewish-Israeli  peace activists, risking their lives to help harvest the olive crops.  You don’t see Jewish soldiers arresting these settlers, and pulling them off Palestinian lands.

When I go to Israel, here are the vignettes I see.  I see victims of the savagery in Syria waking up in Israeli hospitals, being treated for their wounds by Israeli doctors.  I see elected Arab Members of the Knesset excoriating their fellow Israelis in a free and democratic system.   I see pictures of Palestinians joyfully handing out sweets to celebrate the kidnapping of three kids.  I see the Israelis pull out of Gaza only to be met with rocket fire and war. 

The policy of the State of Israel is to work towards two states, living side by side in peace.  That is the policy of the current government.  I am assuming that you would agree with this policy.  What you have responded to are vignettes, and vignettes, neither yours nor mine, ever tell the full story. 


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