Rabbi Adam Feldman of The Jewish Center welcomes community members to the rally.
Photo by Marilyn Silverstein
February 3, 2009
Against a backdrop of growing international opposition to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza — and the mounting toll of civilian casualties — members of the Jewish community arrived at the Jan. 13 solidarity rally in Princeton with a lot on their minds.
Herb Horowitz of Princeton, president of the Central NJ Chapter of American Jewish Committee, said that he had recently approached a neighbor — a Christian minister — to ask him how he felt about Israel’s actions in Gaza.
“He said, ‘Hamas can stop anytime it wants; Israel can’t,’” Horowitz said. “I think, in a nutshell, that’s what this is about.”
Andrew Frank, executive director of United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, said he believes that Israel moved forward with its defensive action in Gaza only after careful consideration. “Israel has the right to defend itself and to protect its citizenry.”
When he saw the TV images of the bodies of innocent men, women, and children lying in the bombarded streets of Gaza, Frank said, he thought about the fact that all it would have taken to end that loss of life would have been for Hamas to stop launching rockets against Israeli citizens.
“I deplore the tragic loss of life on both sides, and I long — I yearn — for a time when the people of Gaza can live side-by-side with the people of Israel,” he said. “But that cannot happen with the continual, indiscriminate bombardment from an ideologically driven bunch of terrorists who have rejected any semblance of coexistence.”
Rob Davidson of Princeton, chair of the Princeton Leadership Council of AIPAC, the Washington-based American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that Israel did everything in its power to prevent injuries to civilians. “Israel’s efforts to spare civilian casualties represents the best of Jewish values,” he said. “Most of the civilian casualties are the responsibility of Hamas more than of the actions of the Israel Defense Forces.
“I don’t believe any other country would have waited four years and sustained 6,000 rockets launched into its country before acting as Israel has done to defend its population,” he added.
Trenton attorney Lonnie Kaplan, a past chair of AIPAC’s national board of directors, said he would have liked “to see the world call on Hamas to stop putting women and children and old people in harm’s way. It’s a shame that Hamas gets away with it and the world just watches.”
Rysia de Ravel of Princeton, the federation’s vice president for Israel and overseas, said she hoped the rally would give community members a better grasp of the situation.
“The issue foremost in the minds of caring Jews who love Israel,” she said, “is the issue of proportionate response [which] is only a valid concern when you are coming from the same place, with comparable values.
“When one side values life above all else and certain elements of the other side are willing to put their own loved ones at risk — in mosques, in schools — it’s very hard to talk about proportionality,” she said.
Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life/Hillel at Princeton University, noted that the CJL had recently joined hands with the Muslim Student Association on campus to sponsor Standing for Hope, a silent vigil for peace in the Middle East. “So 125 students came and stood in silence outside the Firestone Library for 15 minutes. It was quite powerful.”
In addition, Roth said, the CJL hosted a Shabbat dinner program during which Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt who is now serving as the S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies at Princeton, briefed the students on the situation in Gaza. The evening also showcased a forum with four Princeton students — two Israeli, two American — representing different parts of the political spectrum, according to Roth.
“The purpose was to say that there are a lot of views in the Jewish community on this war, and we wanted to give voice to them,” she said. “That also was a very powerful event.”
Roth also noted that the Jewish community had rallied for peace at a Havdala gathering on Jan. 10 in Princeton’s Palmer Square. “We came to pray for peace and to acknowledge the loss of life on both sides.”