By Arthur & Betty Levy
Special for Shalom New Haven
In December, we went on a five-day mission to Israel with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). The JCPA is the “umbrella” organization for more than 125 JCRCs nationwide as well as several other Federation organizations.
The purpose of the mission was to investigate and improve our understanding of some of the challenges which the Jewish State faces including the Israel-Palestine conflict, the challenges to religious pluralism, and the status of undocumented immigrants.
During our trip, we visited a school for undocumented immigrant children. We also met with activists working to promote religious pluralism and discussed the conflict over the Kotel, the status of non-Orthodox branches of Judaism, and the debate over conversion.
We met with undocumented Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants, Israeli Arabs, including Christian Arabs, and activists working to protect and expand pluralism in Israel. We also toured the security barrier with the IDF officer who designed it and explained the unique challenges in situating it in such a way as to minimize negative impacts on this tiny country with closely intermingled communities.
We visited a hospital in Safed and met with wounded Syrian combatants receiving state-of-the art care in an Israeli facility.
We also received a security briefing from an IDF officer at the border with Syria on the Golan Heights.
We were scheduled to travel to Ramallah and meet with members of the Palestinian Authority but that had to be cancelled because of President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement the night before which raised security concerns.
We met with entrepreneurs working to advance the accomplishments of this amazing “start up” nation.
We were awed by the strengths of this amazingly diverse, energetic and accomplished nation in the face of enormous challenges.
Although we can’t say that we saw easy solutions to the many challenges the Jewish State faces, we feel that we understand its complexities much better than before. We believe that if any country can untie the Gordian knot, Israel can. We came away more convinced than ever that any solution requires two states - one Jewish and one Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security.