This is a guest post by Leora Goldblatt, a junior at University of Wisconsin – Madison studying Communications (rhetoric) and Middle Eastern Studies. She is originally from Minnetonka, Minnesota but is currently studying abroad for the year in Jerusalem at Hebrew University. Follow her online on her “Hi from the Holyland” blog.
Last week, the Palestinian Leader, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the UN General Assembly and requested UN membership for Palestine. Less than an hour later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the UN asking members not to grant this request. While the UN has not formally voted and probably won’t for a while, this was a momentous time in Middle Eastern history, and rather troubling for me.
Listening to Abbas’s speech was difficult. He recounted numerous Israeli faults, mainly referring to violations of International Law and Israel’s Jewish settlements that embody the discrimination the Palestinians have endured. I almost turned his speech off halfway through because the half-truths that Abbas was speaking were difficult to listen to.
But this is not what I want to draw attention to. After listening to Abbas’s speech, I went downstairs to a friend’s dorm room to have Shabbat dinner with others. We did the prayers, ate (a lot) and enjoyed each others company. We had Shabbat, which in my eyes, is the most important Jewish holiday. And with everything going on, it felt really good to enjoy the true essence of Shabbat – rest.
After Shabbat, I returned to my room and watched Netanyahu’s speech, and this is what I think needs to be focused on. Netanyahu took a stand, not against another state, but in defense of his own. He did not talk for 40 minutes about the faults of another people, but rather asked those who had recounted his faults to work with him. He boldly challenged the body he stood before to realize that their “security council” contained a country run by a terrorist organization. He intelligently explained that while Israel left Gaza, a precondition for peace negotiations, this only fueled violence and gave Hamas, another terrorist organization, a strategical place to further terrorize Israel. Netanyahu stood in front of the world and spoke the truth that many people, especially Americans, are too afraid to see.
In the middle of his speech, I began to get very emotional. For one, I was proud of Netanyahu’s strength and eloquence. I was proud to call myself Jewish and to know that my peers’ and my studying in Israel, although a small move, was still a sign of support of our great Jewish homeland. However, most of what I was feeling was immense sadness. It pained me to see that another Jew had to stand before the world and in essence justify our defensive actions, and in some cases even our existence to others. It hurt me to know that there are not only people, but influential leaders of large countries, who wish for my state’s demise. And it saddened me the most to understand that these individual leaders might actually succeed.
I believe strongly in compromising, in working things out, and in peace. However, I also believe in the reality of situations, and just like Netanyhu said, “Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.”
I believe that everyone should have a place they can call home. But when the leaders of that home are threatening others’ existence, then the reality is that we cannot allow that to continue. Abbas’s speech was difficult, but I had anticipated that. It was Netanyahu’s speech that made me realize that wishful thinking can only go so far.
And if we see the future as we want it to turn out, and ignore the signs of what is really to come, we will never be able to correct it. And as Jews, we can’t ignore the signs again. I just hope the rest of the world can see them as well.
If you haven’t listened to both speeches they are available to view here: