Adi Greenfeld of Combatants for Peace has an American accent. While standing in the J-Street conference registration line, a Freshman from Oberlin, hearing Adi speak and noticing “Israel” on her name tag asked when she moved to Israel and where in the U.S. she was born. Adi then teased us by shifting to a thick Israeli accent, which, she said, she could use in a pinch if our friends at home refused to believe she is Israeli, or perhaps, I thought, if I wanted to hear from someone sounding like the daughter of Henry Kissinger.
Mohamed has a charming smile, warm heart, and an alarming humor. “I am the sexiest Palestinian in Israel” he announced. “How else to explain how I convinced the airport security to change my ticket to match the Hebrew spelling of my name on my Israeli travel documents?” We purchased Mohamed’s ticket by spelling his name “Owaida” as it appears on his Jordanian passport with the U.S. visa. The Jordanian document translates the Arabic spelling to the English word “Owaida”, while the Israeli document translates the Hebrew to the English “Oweida.” Leaving Israel requires that his ticket read in English the same as his Israeli travel document. The travel agent told us we must cancel the old ticket and buy a new one at a transfer cost of $240. We were all pleased when the “sexiest” Palestinian was able to effect the transfer at no charge.
Erez remains the warm core of the team. His warm voice floats now between the chirping of the crickets. I hear them now, chatting in Hebrew on my Aunts porch in Fairfax Virginia. A day at the Jay street conference completed. They laugh, exchange stories, all very pleased with the day.
I was very pleased with the quality of the J Street event. This is an extremely thoughtful community of Jews working for two states side by side, safe and secure, viable, at peace and in relationship. Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J-Street, was very clear in his key note address that the Palestinian state must, among other things, be viable, include a capital in Jerusalem, be based on the boarders of 1967 with land swaps, find an equitable solution for the Palestinian refugees around the world, disband many settlements, and have systems for ensuring Israeli security. His theme “Our time to lead” inspired the many Jews attending to make this a reality by taking action now. I was thrilled then to attend break out sessions with thinkers, politicians, members of the Knesset, press, human rights groups, and activist groups wrestling through many obstacles and inspiring actions to bring the politicians to bring peace and justice to the region. Among the strongly represented groups: Peace Now, B’Tselem, One Voice, Just Vision, numerous members of the Knesset from Lukud, Labor, Yesh Atid, Hatnush, and the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. We even heard a key note address from director Dror Moreh, of the film “Gatekeepers.” The politicians were here to answer tough questions from a Jewish audience that wanted Israel to do more than give peace lip service to peace. No one here wanted to destroy Israel, but neither would they tolerate the continued occupation of the West Bank. Arguments were made on security, humanitarian, legal, moral, and religious grounds. They were not in a casual mood, but a sober, steady, firm determination to make peace and justice a reality through careful study and action.
One constant theme was the need for Israelis to meet Palestinians. All were aware that “normalizing” the situation was unacceptable, but that Israelis were so uninformed of the realities, that direct visits to The West Bank were critical. My largest criticism was that few Palestinians were at the conference.
Tonight, at a break out meeting of about a hundred attendees, Erez, Adi, and Mohammed shared their personal stories. All I Wage Peace supporters can be proud that you brought them to Washington to the J- Street conference. We spent the night sharing, arranging for later visits and contact with congregations. Thank you for making this possible.
Tomorrow we have more sessions, visits to the hill, and some media interviews. Have a blessed night; I will see you at the walk.