I don't sleep.
So I get up regularly from 2-4 and do some reading. It's mildly relaxing, though no more comforting. The world, it seems, is in great turmoil. And so I find myself in these early morning hours taking a quick look around to see what new problems have arisen. No near-term solution seems in sight for Libya and Bahrain and last night I saw that four reporters from the New York Times are missing in Libya. God willing they'll be returned to safety. The nuclear dangers and radical dislocations of the Japanese, experiencing their worst disaster since the Second World War has the entire globe on alert--reaching out with one hand of compassion and making emergency adjustments to our own nuclear facilities in order to prevent our own potential disasters. It seems more than a metaphor for our age that we can barely control an air and water bound contamination that is spreading throughout the globe. Wisconsin, still in my mind a powerful symbol of a democratic process at a blessed, full-boil, teeters into classic partisan dysfunction when in fact its leaders have the potential to exploit the Capitol Crisis in their favor and create a productive way Forward.
Like I said, I don't sleep.
Closer to home we're zeroing in on finalizing documents for our Sanctuary Roof Repair and raising the necessary $3 million (give or take) for the First Phase of multi-year campaign to repair and restore both of our buildings. This first phase will replace the Sanctuary Roof, Parapet Walls, and Dome. It might even be enough for the Temple House windows, too. We'll know soon enough. Our community is really coming together beautifully in support of this project, lots of efforts are being expended to get our house in order so that we can raise the money we will need--what will surely be a multi-million dollar endeavor. It will come from us and a few angels out there. (If you're reading and can help, please do!)
In between books during one of my recent insomnia-driven excursions to the couch in the den I skyped a friend in Tel Aviv to check in. The Fogel family had just been savagely murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Itamar; the government announced more settlement expansion; the Quartet announced that it saw no current hope for a peace agreement. "We need a revolution like Wisconsin," he said. I tend to agree.
It's impossible to see what else can be done. There's a feeling of helpless powerlessness in the face of such intractable refusals on both sides to the necessary risks to get to peace. And we American Jews it seems are highly skilled in talking about it but not having much power to actually do anything about it.
After a year and a half on the J Street Rabbinic Advisory Board, I decided to leave it a few weeks ago, mostly because I didn't see any real positive net effect in staying involved. I was forever answering friends on the Right about all the missteps--most recently the lack of transparency about George Soros' funding (I support Soros' funding but not revealing it was a mistake) and then publicly criticizing Representative Gary Ackerman over the U.N. veto was, for me, the final straw. There didn't seem to be the required discipline to really manage a message and increasingly, it seemed, the message was getting garbled--all in an effort to expand the tent of what it means to be "pro-Israel." The Right's cynical campaign against J Street and other Left-wing organizations nothwithstanding, I reached the conclusion that while it's certainly *nice* that liberal Jews have a voice in Washington, a place to gather in the warm sun of shared concern for Israel, it was no clear who of consequence was actually listening. Frankly, if I were Israeli, I'd find it annoying that 2000 American Jews gathered at a conference to tell Israelis what to do, but not to live among Israelis and make it happen.
And so, while it's true that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government openly hold President Obama in contempt, how much more so must they consider J Street? Finally, a quick look every day at the Israeli papers demonstrates that the government is paralyzed. Q.E.D. (as Arthur Hertzberg used to say) Israeli needs its own democratic uprising. It's citizens need to demand a way forward and until that happens, the alienation will only grow between a know-it-all American Jewry that's not willing to put its own lives on the line (dispensing with advice from here--and I'm talking about ALL the American Jewish organizations that weigh in--from AIPAC to J Street).
I was supposed to be at one such communal conversation today about the crisis--but what really is there to say anymore? We meet in board rooms over nice lunches and wring our hands and yet increasingly we're not being heard.
Like I said, I don't sleep.
So here's my pledge: Teach in our Synagogue. Visit Israel. Learn about Israel. Support Israel in whatever way you decide. And if you really, truly care: move to Israel and make a difference in whatever way you can. I'd be willing to bet that if you did a financial analysis of this idea, you'd find it every bit as efficient (or perhaps even more) than the current communal structure of dozens of organizations with bloated budgets, telling Israel what to do from here, while a dangerous paralysis takes hold there.
To those who also can't sleep: Let's join together in telling everyone else to wake up. Rise up. Make peace.