Israel Day Parade 2010 – Standing in the Middle


Growing up in Maryland, I didn’t know what the Salute to Israel Parade was all about. I had NY friends who would rave about how big a deal it was, but it wasn’t until I came to New York for college that I marched for the first time with Bnei Akiva. And it is truly remarkable to see hundreds of thousands of people coming together in Manhattan to celebrate and support the State of Israel.

Ask anyone what part of the parade route stands out the most, and they’ll likely mention the corner of 59th and 5th where two large groups of people are gathered with signs on opposite sides of the street. Palestinian and Neturei Karta protesters are on the West side of the street, and (mostly Right-Wing) Pro-Israel protesters are on the East Side. People are yelling and screaming, and the emotions are running high. It is an ugly scar on this day of celebration, and a stark reminder of how far we still have to go as a community.

It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am in favor of a two-state solution, and would not oppose a Palestinian Capitol in Eastern Jerusalem. I think this is the right thing to do for moral, legal, pragmatic, and religious reasons. I know these views do not make me very popular, and I am often in the minority among my fellow Zionists and Orthodox Jews.

It’s not easy to think about asking (forcing) people to leave their homes. It was a horrible process for the 8,000 Israelis who left Gaza in 2005, and it will be a horrible and painful process for those living in areas of the West Bank which will hopefully be part of a future Palestinian state.

We have been jaded by the years of violence to believe that Palestinians are the enemy that has no desire for peace, and that the Israeli government/military is the infallible  and sole agent of good in the Middle East. We need to break ourselves from these false conceptions, and realize that this is a complicated situation that requires a nuanced and difficult response.

A recent article in the New York Book Review by Peter Beinart highlighted the problem that many young American Jews don’t feel connected to Israel or Zionism because of the attitude that Israel must be never be criticized, and that Palestinians are “violent and hateful.” As long as our community promotes these ideas, we will never have peace, and we will collectively lose our connected to the State of Israel.

There are Palestinians who will be partners in peace, and there is hope for a better future. We need to have faith that a better collective experience is out there if we are willing to find it. The process will not be simple, and a fledgling Palestinian State will not be without its shortcomings. We will need patience and resilience, but that is the only real option we have.

So when I arrive at the corner of 5th and 59th this afternoon, I will truly feel as if I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. I can’t relate to the Neturei Karta who deny the validity of Israel, and I can’t relate to the Right-Wing Zionists who refuse to trade land for peace – they are simply opposite sides of the same extremist coin. I am a Religious Zionist who believes in both the importance of a Jewish State in the land of Israel, and the need for a sovereign Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza.

As the rain falls during today’s Salute to Israel Parade, we should realize that the more ominous clouds are those that blind our judgment and perpetuate strife and discord in the Middle East.


7 thoughts on “Israel Day Parade 2010 – Standing in the Middle

  1. bukingolts

    as a RELIGIOUS zionist do you believe that Gd gave us the land? what right do we have to give away whatever little we have?

    also… what evidence do you have from the last 60+ years that land for peace is even remotely possible with the palestinians especially after thousands of rockets after the forced removal and displacement of 8000 ppl??

    Are you blind to the reality that while there are ppl in charge with blood on their hands, no matter how much the americans call them moderates or naive ppl like you think they r looking for peace, it will never happen?

  2. MC

    Hi Aaron,

    1. Don’t you think its a tad extreme to compare neture karta–who’ve met with Ahmadenijad (and I’ve met with them personally, they claim all zionists are murderers of little children and that Ahmadenijad’s a holy paradigm of perfection) and no ‘land-for-peace’ zionists as two extremes? I think the neture karta have taken themselves outside the fold or a spectrum of Jewish opinions. I can tolerate the opinion of a Jew who disagrees with me (I don’t believe in land for peace, but I respect your opinion to say otherwise). But I will not tolerate or accept as a Jewish opinion, the view of a bunch of crazy people who’ve prayed for Arafat’s sake, attended Holocaust-denying conferences and whose sole goal is to hurt the Jewish state.

    2. Forget philosophy for a second—practically speaking—what has giving land to the Palestinians accomplished practically? Most people, even left-wing ones, agree that it was a tremendous security mistake. I haven’t seen any peace come from giving away that land. I also don’t see any good partner for peace in the Palestinian authority. (The people with real power—such as Hamas and Fatah—do not even recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and they are against a 2-state solution. Unlike you, they believe in a 1 state solution—a Palestinian state). So I guess my point is, from a realistic and historical point of view there is no current powerful and stable partner for peace in the Palestinian side of things, that would warrant us giving away a single inch of the precious land of Israel (and this is leaving religious ideals aside)

  3. Daniel,

    First of all, believing we were given something does not at all mean we don’t have the right to share it with someone else.

    Secondly, there are Israeli leaders with blood on their hands, but I wouldn’t let someone use that to discredit the government of Israel.

    The violence in Gaza is not surprising, but may disappear if Gazans are given the ability to pursue a fully functioning economy with imports and exports. They don’t have enough oil to keep electricity on 24/7 because of Israeli restrictions, how are they supposed to build a functioning society under such conditions?

  4. re Ask anyone what part of the parade route stands out the most, and they’ll likely mention the corner of 59th and 5th where two large groups of people are gathered with signs on opposite sides of the street.

    The parade is in support of the the Democratic Zionist State of Israel. But it is not a time for left / right, Likud/ Labor, pro-Obama/anti-Obama…

    I dont like like the politics at the parade. 59th and 5th is NOT my highlight. I remember marching as a kid as I watch my own kid march. I remember the pictures of my parents at the first few parades.

    And yes I enjoy seeing friends, classmates, teachers come together in support of Israel…. and yeah I’m a sucker for a marching band or bagpipes doing hatika or he’veynu shalom:)

  5. That part is definitely not the highlight. I think it stands out for many people beause of how much it doesn’t belong at the parade.

    Nonetheless it provides the opportunity for us to reflect on our feelings about israel.

  6. chaim

    and when we give back the west bank and e jslm what exactly are the Palestinians being asked to give up on? the right of return? their homes in jaffa? the things we ask the Palestinians to relinquish are things that if we were to give in to them would mean the end of Israel as a state. why is Israel giving and receiving nothing in return? unless u imagine that the cessation of Palestinian terror as something to achieve in return for giving up Israel heritage then maybe the Palestinians are not as fun and peace loving as you imagine they are, the cessation of terror is not something to achieve as part of a deal, it shouldn’t even be on the table, any moral nation must realize the terror must be stopped immediately, there is no excuse for violence. the whole concept of land for peace makes no sense to me, when what Israel is getting in return in this trade is something that shouldn’t even be on the table as an option it should be a pre-requisite before any one even begins to discuss the creation of a Palestinian state. if the Palestinians truly want to trade they must offer Israel something else besides for the cessation of terror, for that should be something they should want to do for themselves, for their own diminishing morality.

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