September 17, 2019

Opinion: Amos Oz inspires J Street conference in Washington, D.C.

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a pure tragedy of Greek proportions…because it is a clash between right and right…between two nations who have never known another homeland.”

So said Amos Oz this week at the opening of the 3rd annual J Street Conference in Washington, D.C. His message resonated powerfully among the 2500 activists who converged on Washington from all over America, Canada, the UK, and Israel, among whom were 750 college students from 43 college campuses. Members of the Knesset joined with members of Congress and Ambassadors from around the world to affirm both Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy, and to affirm the principle of two states for two peoples, a state of Israel and a state of Palestine.

Oz noted the necessity for a “divorce” to take place between Israel and the Palestinians because of the toxicity of the relationship. It is like two spouses sharing the same apartment who cannot find a way to leave or divide equitably the property and move on with their lives. This is a time, he said, for painful compromise and noted this truth: “Where there is life there is compromise. The opposite of compromise is fanaticism and death.”

There is good news and bad news, he said. The good news is that the majority of Palestinians and Israeli Jews accept the 2-state solution and are ready for partition of the land. But the bad news is that the “patient is unhappy and in serious need of surgery, but the doctors are cowards.” Thus, he said that the two parties need help because they cannot effect a divorce themselves.

“Nations,” he reminded us, “make peace with clenched teeth.” But the future can be bright. Who would have thought that of all the nations in the European Union that Germany would be Israel’s closest ally today, that Anwar Sadat would ever have come to Jerusalem, or that Menachem Begin would ever have given up the entire Sinai for peace with Israel? One day, it is very likely that Israel and the Palestinians will be living and thriving side by side. 

In conclusion, the Israeli writer affirmed that J Street offers the best path to help Israeli Jews and Palestinians resolve their conflict. Then he said, “J Street – I have been waiting for you my whole adult life!”

That was all I needed to carry on.

Rabbi John Rosove is a member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet, and the Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood