After a rough, unsettling few weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly has some decisions to make.
The Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco is stepping bravely into the fraught debate over the limits of public discourse about Israel. By issuing detailed guidelines for the kinds of Israel-related programming it will fund — and not fund — the JCF is searching for a balance between supporting full and free expression and adherence to what it deems are the core values of its diverse, sometimes raucous Bay Area Jewish community. The federation deserves credit for dealing directly and openly with an issue that too many other communities would rather suppress or ignore.
There is plenty to criticize when considering the Israeli government’s recent actions and statements on the future of Jerusalem, but that should not diminish its achievement in restoring the ancient Hurva Synagogue in the heart of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter.
Hours after Vice President Joe Biden, in Israel, declared that there is “no space” between Israel and the U.S., the Israeli government announced the approval of 1,600 new housing units in contested East Jerusalem, expanding the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood for ultra-Orthodox Jews on land that Palestinians also claim. The American vice president was placed in a humiliating position. Note to Israel: That’s not how you treat your best friend.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposed national heritage project, aimed at preserving Jewish artifacts and teaching schoolchildren about Jewish and Zionist history, is flawed. Estimated to cost the equivalent of $100 million, the project has been duly criticized for including sites in the disputed cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. There’s a deeper concern, however. The thrust of the project appears to be in telling only one narrative, the Jewish one, as if no other kinds of people ever lived on the land.