A meaningful peace plan

While attending a Muslim American conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2005, an Arab leader asked me at the dinner table: “Tell me, why didn’t Israelis accept the Saudi
peace proposal of 2002? In fact, they did not even respond to it. Did it not offer them everything that they ever wished for: peace, recognition, security, you name it?”

I looked at him with amusement.

“Do you know what Israelis see when they read a peace proposal in the newspaper?” I asked.

“They skip the text about peace, recognition and security and seek the one word that counts: ‘refugees.’ The rest is trivial. If that word is embedded in ‘right of return’ or ‘a just solution’ or ‘Resolution 194’ or some other euphemism for dismantling Israel, the proposal is automatically deemed a nonstarter.”

“What did the Saudi proposal say about the refugee problem?” he asked.

“Like you, I don’t have the precise language,” I said. “But like most Israelis, I distinctly recall the words ‘just solution,’ which should settle your question right there.”

“Interesting,” my Arab colleague said. “I have always assumed that if we build trust and solve the land problem, some solution will eventually be found for the refugees’ problem.”

“Yes, many Israelis made this assumption during the Oslo period,” I said. “But no more.”

I was reminded of this conversation last week, when I read President Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and found the following passage on Page 211: “The Delphic wording of this statement [the Saudi proposal] was deliberate, in Arabic as well as in Hebrew and English, but the Arabs defend it by saying it is there to be explored by the Israelis and others and that, in any case, it is a more positive and clear commitment to international law than anything now coming from Israel.”

I recalled how the Delphic wording of the Oslo agreement was deliberate, too, and how, in the aftermath of the Oslo breakdown, leaders of the shattered Israeli peace camp confessed in public that they had been fooled and betrayed by their Palestinian comrades. Specifically, sworn promises to prepare the Palestinian public for compromises on the refugee problem were never acted on (Haim Shur, Maariv, June 2001).

This inaction, according to Israeli analysts, was the main reason for the outbreak of the second intifada. Yasser Arafat could simply not face his people with “an end to the conflict” after decades of promising them a return to Haifa and Jaffa.

But more than six years have passed since the breakdown of the Oslo process, and memory is short. People tend to forget that leaving the hard problems to resolve themselves exacts a heavy toll.

Last month saw renewed calls from both Israelis and Palestinians to revitalize the Saudi proposal (e.g., Collett Avital, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23), and I was a bit concerned that another case of “hard problems later” would be looming in front of our eyes.

I was pleasantly mistaken. Israeli peace activists seem to remember the Oslo lesson vividly and painfully. In his third exchange with Palestinian analyst Salameh Nematt, published simultaneously in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Israeli peace activist Akiva Eldar wrote: “….We, the Israelis, need to be convinced that there is a solution to the refugee problem. Nothing is more likely to deter Israelis than the expression ‘right of return.’ In their eyes, these words are a synonym for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“Politicians on both sides know that it is inconceivable to strip a sovereign state, such as Israel, from its authority to decide whom to accept as its citizens. New cities have been built on the villages in which the refugees lived. Children and grandchildren of Jewish refugees from Europe were born in houses that remained standing.

“Anyone in his right mind knows that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is not to create a Jewish refugee problem. The solution can be found in a peace process that is based on two states and the absorption of most of the Palestinian refugees in their new state.”

But suppose the Palestinians do sign a peace agreement with the provision that most refugees will be absorbed into their new state. How does one ensure that after Israel withdraws from most of the territories and makes room for a Palestinian state, Palestinian refugees will not continue to be kept in their wretched camps as a source of anger and uncontrolled militancy against Israel?
After all, Israel cannot be asked to make irrevocable concessions in land and security while the Arabs are merely signing reversible promises to settle the refugees.

Here comes my humble suggestion, resting again on Saudi wisdom and good will. Instead of drawing fancy peace proposals, the Saudis, together with other oil-rich countries, should immediately launch a “Palestinian Marshall Plan” to build permanent housing for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank.
Israel would monitor the plan and lift the embargo on foreign aid in stages. Each month’s allotment would be proportional to the number of housing units completed.

We are constantly being told that the ball of peace lies entirely in Israel’s court, because Palestinians have no control over their destiny and Israel’s economy is so much stronger. It ain’t necessarily so. Here is a peace proposal that depends entirely on Arab good will and peaceful Palestinian intentions. It should start today.

Judea Pearl is a UCLA professor and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation Storyopolis Art Gallery & Bookstore

Wedding Bell Oops!

Last time I saw Barry, he was dressed as an egg at a Purim party, so I was excited to run into him last month at a birthday party.

This time, for better or worse, he was wearing pants.

“Barry, what’s up? I haven’t seen you in forever. How’s life? How’s work? Ohmygosh, how was your wedding?”

“The wedding? Yeah, um, that whole wedding thing didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would. Mostly because it didn’t happen at all. She called it off three weeks before the ceremony.”

Doctors at Cedars-Sinai are still trying to remove my high heel from my mouth.

I should have known better than to ask. I should have learned from Greg. Or Shannon. Or the nine — yes nine — other people I know who have called off their weddings. I should get them together to start a support group or form a minyan. Canceling a wedding has become that common these days. Just because a couple gets engaged, doesn’t mean that they’ll get married. It just means they’ve registered at Macy’s.

It no longer surprises me when couples don’t make it to the chuppah on time. Or at all. Which is why I keep the tags on my new cocktail dress and write “save the date” in pencil. I don’t run to reserve a hotel room in the “Rosen-Levy” block or pound the pavement for a “plus guest.” It would be rude for me to bring a date to the big event when the groom no longer has one. And yes, it always seems to be the groom who stands alone and the woman who says, “I don’t.” I mentioned this runaway-bride phenomenon to my current guy, Scott, over dinner at Denny’s last week.

“That’s because guys think about marriage a lot more than women do — we’re the ones who have to ask,” he explained. “And we don’t ask ’til we’re absolutely sure. Do you know how hard it is for a guy to pop the question? Do you know how long it takes for us to think we might possibly be ready to even start thinking about it?”

I’m beginning to get some idea.

Scott’s right, though. We’re talking about men — they spend a month choosing who to draft onto their fantasy football team. So they’re going to do a lot of soul searching and thinking — and drinking — before they decide whom they want to marry. Then they have to get up the courage to do a little thing called propose. All the girl has to do is say yes.

And we always do.

‘Cuz every girl wants to be a bride. Maybe that’s the problem. Girls fantasize about their wedding, not their marriage. I doubt my friends know if they’re wearing their hair up or down for their first week as a Mrs., but they know where every tress will be on the big day. They’re not cruising the newsstand for InStyle Marriage, but they wait by the mailbox for Modern Bride.

That’s why when some girls realize there’s life after honeymoon, that wedding gets canceled faster than a new fall sitcom dud.

Dating, proposal, shiny ring, big dress, bigger hair, saying “I do.” That’s the order. That’s how it’s supposed to happen. That’s the flow chart. So girls go with the flow. But you can’t go with the flow when a relationship gets this serious, ladies. Preseason dating is over.

Perhaps it’s just too easy for a woman to change her mind after she’s said yes. Maybe we should be required to back up our answer with a contract or a guarantee. Maybe a pinky swear. Or the bride should put her money where her heart is. Reception halls ask for a nonrefundable deposit — why shouldn’t the groom?

I’ve never been engaged, so I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to walk in a bride’s Vera Wang shoes. I don’t know how people who aren’t right for each other continue dating to the point of engagement. I don’t know if they failed to recognize their doubts or just chose to ignore them. I don’t know how much it hurts to call off a wedding. I don’t know when saying “I do” became so last season.

I do know it’s a troubling pattern, though, especially because it’s affecting my love life.

Canceled weddings are not good for us ladies-in-waiting. The worst thing about this broken engagement trend, besides the $50 I waste on each engagement gift, is the single-man snowball effect.

When a guy gets dumped by his fiance, his friends start to doubt their own relationships. The more guys entertain these doubts, the longer they wait to propose. The longer guys wait, the fewer girls who are getting engaged. What I’m saying is: It’s my friend Barry’s ex-fiance’s fault that I’m still single.

Actually, that’s not what I’m saying — it’s not entirely about me. A woman should not wed a man she doesn’t want to marry. That would be wrong. But a woman should only get engaged to a man she does want to marry.

Let’s start with the very word: engagement. It means commitment. It implies true love. There should be no take-backs. He didn’t give you his letterman’s jacket, his fraternity pin or a mix tape. He gave you a diamond engagement ring. He gave you his heart.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I truly believe an accepted proposal should lead to a puffy white veil, Shevah Brachot, a broken glass and a lifetime together.

So when that special someone — the right someone, not the maybe someone — proposes, I’ll say yes, and I’ll mean it.

Final answer.

Because I know that when a guy does get down on one knee, he’s not asking “Will you wedding me?”

Carin Davis is a freelance writer and can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Did You Know…?

Did You Know…?


• Sometimes the marriage ceremony is held outdoors. Particularly in ultra-Orthodox and Chasidic weddings — but anyone can do this — the marriage ceremony is performed outside at night. The custom developed because the stars are associated with God speaking to Abraham: “I will bless thee and multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).


• The bride stands to the right of the groom because of a biblical verse is Psalms (45:10): “The queen stands on your right hand in fine gold of Ophir.”

In Jewish tradition, the bride is a queen and the groom is the king.


• A light bulb is often substituted for a glass during the ceremony. Since many believe the main purpose of breaking the glass is to create noise (to scare away the demons), some prefer a light bulb because it is easier to break and usually makes a louder noise.

Will You Marry Me?

Grooms are making big productions of their proposals these days. Sometimes they rent a billboard; sometimes they pop the question at a quiet, intimate time; sometimes it is in a restaurant while a violinist plays their favorite song.

What’s in Style Today?


• Bridal suits are making a comeback.


• Rosette details on sleeves, bodices and backs are in the news. Rosettes are also used on the headpiece and accessories to complement the wedding gown.


• Pink, peach, and other pastels are a fashionable alternative to traditional white, ivory and silky white.


• Beads, lace, sequins, pearls and embroidery are used for embellishments.


• In place of a regular wedding album, you might also choose a “storybook” plan, where the photographer takes continuous pictures so that you end up with a copy of a picture of each event and each shot. (This produces a very large and thorough album, and is more expensive than a standard album.)

Little Tricks of For a Great Wedding

For Him:

If you are able to control the music, select a romantic one. She will always remember the song that played when he proposed — and it is bound to become “your song.”

For Her:

Are you going to have a “Presentation of the Bride?” The groom is brought into a room before the ceremony. There he finds the bride, looking her most beautiful, in her wedding attire. The couple has some time to spend together, after which they have the signing of the ketubah and take photographs.

Other Kooky Wedding Customs


•Couples in 18th-century Mexico shaved their heads to signify their adulthood.


•French suitors sent their nail clippings to their betrothed.


•In 18th-century England, a new bride’s mother-in-law broke a loaf of bread over her head to bring luck and happiness to the couple.


•Polish brides brought luck and happiness to their new homes by walking around a fire three times and kicking each door with their right foot.


•Prenuptial agreements, which have enjoyed a resurgence, actually date back to ancient Jewish and Roman marriages.

How To Get Through the Day


• Stay Calm.


• Break away for a few minutes


• Take some deep breaths.


• Keep focused and avoid problems before they become problems.


• Just remember: The most important parts of planning an event is having fun and enjoying the benefits of all your hard work. With careful planning, even the most elaborate and glamorous affair can be a dream.

Joan Greenberger Friedman lives in Reading, Pa., and can be reached at joan@friedman.net.

In Escrow

When you last left me, I had just proposed to my long-suffering girlfriend, Alison, while on the beach with a pimple. She said “yes,” and we agreed to start fighting about the wedding plans as soon as possible.

The day before I popped the question, my life was a relatively quiet place. Sure, I had business on my mind — a friend’s separation was providing an unpleasant distraction, and the Lakers’ uneven play in the first round of the playoffs was cause for concern. Nevertheless, my brow was unfurrowed, my demeanor tranquil. I was not exactly the Dalai Lama, but I want to go on record that I did not have a single gray hair on my head.

That was then, this is now. I should look like Steve Martin by the wedding.

Going together in a relationship is like shopping for a house — checking out the bones, getting dreamy about all the possibilities.

Getting engaged is like going into escrow. Drop to a knee, ask a question and the next day you’re trying to figure out exactly what it’s going to take to make this “fixer-upper” livable.

Like escrow, I can still get out of it on a technicality, like finding mold during the inspection period. I just discovered that Alison has a cracked tooth. She might as well have a leaky roof. I want the seller to either fix it before I move in or lower the asking price. And, on top of that, I just found out that she might not be as naturally blonde as I’d been led to believe. I cry foul! She’s been rolling back the odometer the whole time we’ve been dating. I would send her back to the factory like a car on recall, except I really love her.

On the other hand, she can do the same with me. Hard to believe, gentle reader, but I, too, have my faults. I’ve been able to keep most of them hidden from her for the past year or so, and that’s how we managed to get a “yes” on the whole “will you marry me?” thing. There is a lot to be said for deception, so perhaps I should be more forgiving.

Everybody around us is so happy. They’re positively thrilled for us. I find happy people so exhausting, don’t you? We went out for dinner with one couple to celebrate, and my face hurt from smiling at my good fortune. I don’t know how much of this happiness I can take.

People ask me, “Are you getting excited? Are you nervous?”

No. Why should I be? Just because I’m forsaking all others for a bottle blonde with a bad set of chompers? It could be worse. She’s got a job. And she has a really good DVD collection, which I get for free! It turns out to be a pretty good deal for me, actually.

We got engaged on a Saturday. The bride’s side, her mother and sister, are very well organized. They had their outfits for the wedding selected by the following Tuesday. My sister, who is also my best man, picked out an outfit, about which my mother said, “Don’t you have anything nicer?” So now my sister is back in therapy with nothing to wear and the clock ticking ever louder to the “big day.”

One nice thing about being a guy is that wedding plans just seem to take care of themselves. Initially, Alison asked me if I cared about things like the flowers, invitations and things like that. Under normal circumstances, the answer would be “yes.” I certainly would have an opinion. But these aren’t normal circumstance. I’m interested in problem-solving, and by recusing myself from the decision-making process, problems mysteriously solve themselves.

So now, one of the only things left for me to do, besides nodding my head in assent, is to show up in a suit. But, fear not, I am not left on my own for this.

When we were at Alison’s condo, packing up the rest of her things to move into my — I mean our — house, she cried out, “Oh my God.” Alison is not a Valley Girl, so I knew it could be important.

“What’s the matter?”

“I have a tie for you,” she said. I don’t wear ties all that often, so it seemed a little strange. She said that when she graduated from high school, Uncle Dick — aka Dick Carroll, the founder of Carroll & Company in Beverly Hills; a wonderful, warm, funny man and a great friend of my family, as well, who passed away this spring — gave her a maroon and navy “rep” tie, the University of Pennsylvania colors (where I also went to college), wrapped in the school’s distinctive red-and-black box.

And so she handed me a long, narrow box, with a nearly 20-year-old elastic gold ribbon still on it, and told me what Uncle Dick told her: “Some day you will meet the man of your dreams, and you will give him this tie.”

Like I said, these things just seem to take care of themselves.

J.D. Smith is in escrow @ www.carteduvin.com.

Happy Circumstance

Erin Falkowitz, 25, daughter of Ellen and Michael Falkowitz, and Jake Jundef, 26, son of Bracha and Moshe Jundef, met in the summer of 1997, long after the laws of probability say they should have. Both of them went to UC Santa Barbara and had numerous mutual friends — Jake had even dated a few of them. But it took some random circumstances to get the two acquainted and dating. Six years later, they’re engaged to be married.

"He was on the phone with our friend, Cydney, when I got to her house. She and I were supposed to go to the movies," Erin said.

When Erin tried to hurry Cydney off the phone, Jake wanted to know whose voice he was hearing, then demanded to speak with her.

"We were on the phone for more than an hour," Erin recalled. By the time she was off the phone, she’d missed the movie and Cydney had long since gone to bed.

"I closed up her house and went home," Erin said.

She had a date with Jake set for two nights later.

While the two had an instant rapport, they were also juniors in college. Jake was interested in pledging a fraternity, and wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. Their romantic relationship was on and off for the next few years.

Still, Erin said, "No matter what, we never went more than a few days without at least talking to each other."

Things got serious after a New Year’s Eve spent apart in 2001 when things were "off again." Erin went to Las Vegas with her girlfriends and a guy she was dating. When she came back, Jake told her he wanted to get back together. A year and a half later, Jake knew he wanted Erin to be his wife.

"No one can really tell you when to do it and when not to do it. You just know," Jake said.

For her part, Erin said she was completely surprised by the proposal — she actually thought it was a practical joke.

"Once you know Jake, he’s kind of a jokester," she said. "I asked him if it was real," she said with a smile.

Once she knew it was, she made him ask her again before she said yes.

Erin is a junior account executive at Guttman Associates, and Jake is an account executive at JMPR Public Relations. They will be married on June 28, 2003, at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge. Rabbi Micah Caplan will officiate the ceremony.

Say Hello to The Jewish Journal’s New Celebrations Section

Due to the vast number of announcements we receive, The
Journal now publishes all of our readers’ celebration announcements immediately
on our Web site, free of charge. You can upload your announcements and photos
onto the site at

When Shepherds Desert Their Flocks

The conflict over Valley secession reflects the growing gap between rabbis and the actual reality their flocks experience.

With few exceptions, the rabbinate seems to be totally aghast at the notion of dividing Los Angeles into two cities. Prominent rabbis, including Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; Steven Carr Reuben, president of the board; John Rosove, and my own rabbi, Beth Hillel’s Jim Kaufman, have already announced their opposition to the proposal.

Part of this, noted Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, is a reflection of a broader tendency for the Jewish clergy to be "far to the left" of their congregants. Many come off as knee-jerk supporters of every so-called "progressive" cause. This is clear, it seems to me, from widespread rabbinical support for every leftist cause de jour, from racial quotas and bilingual education, all the way to opposition to war against a terrorist, passionately anti-Semitic state such as Iraq.

Among such people, Feinstein noted, opposition to secession is just another part of the predictable knee-jerk leftist program. Clearly, there is room for discussion on both sides of the issue, but it seems unlikely most of our esteemed, prominent rabbis ever really considered the arguments of the pro-secession forces.

"It has to do with our training," suggested Reuben, head of the 250-member Board of Rabbis. "We tend to see ethical action and mitzvah work putting us on the liberal side of the spectrum."

When one examines the logic for the response, it becomes clear that, for the most part, these rabbis are big on symbols and short on reason or facts. For example, their two prime reasons for opposing secession are clearly based on little more than gullibility to the slick, well-financed anti-secession campaign.

Perhaps the most notable issue they raise is that somehow secession would be bad for the Valley’s poor. There seems to be an assumption that a Valley city — which would have its share of poor people and be almost half minority — would lack the compassion that our rabbinate likes to exude on a regular basis, particularly when in contact with the media and their fellow clerics.

But let’s look at the facts. Over the past 10 years, under the stewardship of the City of Los Angeles, poverty in the San Fernando Valley has doubled, a far higher rate than the rest of the city, according to census figures. "Does this mean the city is working for the poor?" asked former Democratic Assemblyman Richard Katz, who has emerged as secession’s most articulate spokesman.

To see this in perspective, all one has to do is travel to communities in the northeast Valley. These places — like Pacoima, Panorama City and sections of North Hollywood — have suffered from lack of services, street lights, decent police protection. Their representatives in Sacramento and on the City Council, for the most part, serve not the needs of their people, but political caciques who fund their campaigns and ambitions.

Do these areas have to look like this? Not at all. Just visit the small, working-class, predominately Latino community of San Fernando. As a small city, it was able to throw out the influence of the caciques and turn the city into an intriguing model of civic renewal. Is bigger better? It doesn’t seem so.

The current system doesn’t work for much of anyone, but the well-connected. The esteemed rabbis who signed a newspaper ad, apparently do not think that having among the highest taxes on business, among the worst rates of service delivery for everything from libraries, police and fire to street maintenance among major cities in the country is a disgrace.

Similar illogic surrounds the second major assertion by the clerics, that the massive L.A. city is somehow better able to bring in resources from Sacramento and Washington.

"It has to do with clout," Reuben explained. "They have a sense that being part of a larger city — [there is] the perception of being able to bring resources from the federal and state government."

Yet, reality, according to a very detailed study recently released by the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, shows that the big L.A. city actually is among the least successful in gathering resources — including for the poor — from Sacramento or Washington. In fact, according to the Claremont study, Los Angeles received far less per capita from Washington than other major cities in California, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego and San Jose. It also did worse than smaller cities such as Culver City, Santa Monica and Glendale.

The situation is even worse on the state level. According to Rose Institute’s analysis, Los Angeles ranks below virtually every city in Los Angeles County in aid from Sacramento. In the state capital, Los Angeles actually has less clout in delivering resources than such small cities as Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Burbank, Downey and, not surprisingly, plucky little San Fernando.

Now you might say, well, these rabbis are not public policy experts.

Clearly that’s true. But then why must they preach on the basis of ignorance? Jews pride themselves on the relative logic of our faith, but the pronunciamentos of our rabbis sometimes sound about as well-reasoned as the rantings of Christian ayatollahs like Jerry Falwell.

Will this logic gap on secession hurt the rabbis with their congregants? Reasonable rabbis like Feinstein argue that it will not hurt too much. The secession proponents have been poorly led and have not been articulate in making their case, which boils down to how the Valley would be better off as Phoenix.

Only now, with the emergence of the brighter bulbs of the movement, like Katz, Bob Scott, Mel Wilson and Dr. Keith Richman, are they really discussing the real issues. These include the need to decentralize decision making, reduce the size of districts to overcome the entrenched power of the now-dominant trinity of political professionals, organized labor and powerful developers.

Yet the issues raised by the middle-class, multiethnic rebels of the Valley will resonate down the line, long after Nov. 5. More importantly, Feinstein suggested, the Valley secession disconnect foreshadows more serious splits as other issues emerge over the coming year.

Perhaps most important will be those around Iraq and Israel, where most Jews are likely to support the hard-line policies of President Bush over the Neville Chamberlain-like positions of the rabbis’ favorite Democrats, such as former Vice President Al Gore or Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

By 2004, Feinstein suggested, as many as 60 percent of Jews, for example, might support Bush, simply because of his steadfast support for Israel and willingness to stand up to Saddam Hussein’s regime. This support will be higher among the groups who arguably represent the future of Los Angeles Jewry — Persians, Russians, Israelis, North Africans and increasingly conservative post-baby-boom Jewish professionals.

In this evolution, it may well be that our rabbinate, like the mainstream Protestants who are losing out to more in-sync evangelicals, may be so out of touch with their congregants that they will become irrelevant.

The time may come, as Feinstein suggested, that the congregants, tired of the reflexive political correctness approach of the rabbinate, may say, "It’s time for them to shut up" about key political issues.

Down the road, this schism between flock and shepherd could alter the ecclesiastical picture, not just in Los Angeles or across the nation. Throughout history, religious leadership has lost influence, and ultimately been replaced, in part, because its divine preachings no longer reflected human realities. This is one reason why overly legalistic, exclusivist, state-supported Judaism lost out to the more emotionally compelling and inclusive message of early Christianity.

It also may be, in part, why the Protestantism, which spoke to the right of individual conscience and initiative, appealed to an increasingly literate Christendom. It may also explain how Chasidism, with its appeal to joy and spirituality, appealed to Eastern Europe’s oppressed Jews more than traditional Orthodoxy, or why Reform Judaism appealed to modernizing populations in the great cities of Western Europe and North America.

After awhile, even the most passive of flocks learn how to bite a shepherd who has lost his way.