On Wednesday the majority of observers believed the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians would continue, even if they were not likely to achieve very much. In the morning all the talk was about the expected release of Jonathan Pollard, with members of the right generally stating that it should not be done, (since they expect the U.S. to unilaterally release him). I was going to write a long article on Pollard, but events of the remainder of the day have made it irrelevant) By Wednesday night it became clear that the peace talks had not hit a bump, but rather, a huge pot hole. Israel was ready to agree to the release of more prisoners and partial building freeze, in return for extension of the talks and the release of Pollard. However, one right wing minister, Uri Ariel, Housing Minister from HaBayit HaYehudi – who opposes ANY agreement – together with what seems to be the calculated decisions of the Palestinians put an end to the talks.
On the Israeli side, it’s an old story … HaBayit Hayehudi opposes any agreement what so ever– since they want to settle the entire West Bank. Unfortunately, they control the Housing Ministry and thus can make an announcement – whenever they wish – guaranteed to derail any talks. This time it would seem that Abbas did not need any excuse from HaBayit Hayehudi’s action to derail the talks. Instead, Abbas used of the excuse of Israel’s delay releasing more prisoners (even though they were about to agree to the release) to destroy the talks by applying for admittance to key U.N. committees. For the last month Abbas has been the one saying “No”. Unfortunately however, our own ministers (who cannot see beyond their own narrow ideologies) have managed to give Abbas just enough smoke to hide his obstinacy. Reports in the last hour claim Abbas is now making impossible demands in return for agreeing to return to the negotiations. In response, Secretary of State Kerry stated: “You can bring a horse to water, but cannot force him to drink.”
Much of Israel yesterday was talking about the hour-long exposé on Israel’s Channel 10, by Ravid Drucker, about the JNF – Israel’s richest charity. The JNF currently has 4 billion shekels in the bank and controls some of the most expensive land in Israel. When I have time I will write a long piece on what was discovered. Suffice it to say, anyone who gives money to that organization is not helping Israel, but is in fact supporting an organization whose time has long passed, and whose current activities are taking place without any supervision.
Wednesday night I attended a performance of Bundibar at the American International School in Even Yehuda. I was genuinely surprised and moved by the performance that was attended by U.S. Ambassador Shapiro (the American Embassy had co-sponsored the production, together with the Czech Embassy). Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron, and a large number of members of the diplomatic corp serving in Israel came to see the performance as well. The play was written by Czech playwright, Hans Krasa in 1938. Brundibar was first performed 70 years ago (in September 1943) in the “model ghetto” of Terezin by the children of the Ghetto. The play, which was in effect a children’s opera, tells the story a group of children who overcome evil. The play recreated and performed expertly by a cast of students ranging from 2nd graders to 12th graders. However, it was what happened at the end, when 12 survivors of the Terezin Ghetto joined the student actors on stage and briefly told their stories. Most of them had performed in the original Brundibar (one appearing 50 times. Almost all of them live in Israel. After telling their stories, they joined the cast – children from dozens of different countries in repeating “Victory”, the final triumphal song of the opera. The message of the play, first performed in the darkest times, is that if we work together, right will eventually triumph over evil.
Seeing this play brought home to me (once again) the two competing narratives of the Holocaust that we have here in Israel. One view contends that the world is an evil place and we can rely on ourselves; our primary goal is to survive another day. The second view holds that while there is profound evil in the world, we are not alone in fighting that against evil. Evil will not triumph and we must always fight against it. The first narrative promises a grim future- the second the one that the Zionist movement worked so hard to bring about offers the promise of bright future for the Jewish future. I know which vision I embrace- what about you?