From Dubai to Jerusalem, with Rabbi Asher Lopatin

From Dubai to Yad Vashem

Yesterday I briefly updated my status after arriving – welcomed and accepted with kippot – in Jordan.  But after the one hour honeymoon in the VIP lounge –  I heard later that Hanan Ashrawi whom we are meeting later was in the room next door! – we schlepped through Amman to a revealing but painful meeting. Basically, the Jordanian Minister of Religion and his “lackey” Institute Director and Orthodox clergyman tried to use our group as an opportunity to bash Israel for not making peace and for self-defeatingly oppressing the Palestinian people.   This is certainly not surprising, but the amateur and crude way they did it was revealing. I think I am used to Palestinians who are simply much more sophisticated on these issues. Jordan is just a bit nebbech, but hypocritically nebbech. 
  The Americans in our group want our mission to remain religious and not political;  some of the Indonesians feel a need to go into the political. But Muslims, Christians and Jews alike in our group were offended by the Jordanians who just didn’t get that their talk of Israelis killing men, women, children and animals didn’t do the Jordanian cause any good. But it was fascinating to see how the Jordanians with their rhetoric and the Dubaiins with their “how many Jews you have in your group” were still unchanged from yesteryear. 
Jordanians have a high regard for their centrality.  Talked about all the initiatives for peace which  all came from Amman. 
Just nebbech. 
My Catholic friend sitting next to me was writhing in pain from the frontal assault on our intelligence. It was  particularly painful for me to hear the Jordanians talking about the horrors of the “Occupation” with their history “occupying” the West Bank 1948-1967. Painful. 
Interestingly, the minister mentioned that people want to make the Palestinian solution on the East Bank – in Jordan.  Which actually makes a lot of sense since the majority of Jordan is Palestinian. Whether you want a Palestinian state on the West Bank or not, having one on the East Bank does seem like the democratic thing to do. 
From the Minister of Religion we drove again through Amman – which does have some pretty neighborhoods – to meet with the 
Islamic Moderation Party and the Islamic Moderation Forum. 
They quoted Quran 49:13 – which espouses diversity… “I created you from one drop … So you would becomes nations…”
But they are very party – line re Israel. Love Jews, not  happy with Israel, Zionism.  Require full return of refugees. 
They are against a Jewish State. No need – the Muslims will protect the Jews. What makes them moderates is that they spoke calmly and nicely about their rejection of a Jewish State amongst the Arab states. Also, they only hate Zionists, not Jews. That makes them moderate. 
Oy!  I was happy that my question re. a Jewish state that clarified things for our group. The question was straightforward and the answer not surprising, but I think my background in fundamentalist Islam gave me the confidence to ask it. Maybe all those years at BU and Oxford paid off…
In any case, the rejection of a Jewish State deeply disturbed the Indonesian Muslims in the group  One of them who has written a book re  Israel quoting Chomsky and Walt and Miersheimer said he finally understood the opposition Israel was facing and would revise the book in the next addition.  
The Indonesians Muslims on the bus ride to the Allenby  bridge – Israel! – discussed how their Islam can Recognize a Jewish state. 
It was exciting at least for all the Jews to be getting close to Israeli border. First time Alenby crossing for me.  Coming home!
Israel border patrol felt so friendly! A lot more smiles than Dubai and Jordan and even relatively efficient. 
But a member of our group – a Palestinian American who is the President of Clergy Without Borders and is actually a good ally for Israel, and a defender  of Israel was not allowed into Israel. He had a US passport but there is some law re returning Palestinians. And it might be different if he flew in via Tel Aviv, but I’m not sure. We will meet him in Ramallah on Sunday – yes, even though there is no Palestinian state, somebody (Israel?) is letting him go to Ramallah but not Israel. We’ll get a fuller story from him on Sunday, and maybe this is something Israel needs to do, and he’s angry but not bitter, but it’s not going to help with PR. Oh, well. I’m not in charge…
We got to Jerusalem at 9:00 PM – not bad considering we left Dubai at 9:00 am and spent the day in Jordan (Shacharit in Dubai, Mincha in Jordan) and had a fantastic session with Avraham Infeld and a Palestinian leader, Hanna Siniora. And then this morning, Yad Vashem was incredibly powerful with this group of Christians and Muslims, from all over the US and Indonesia. Including a polygamist with three wives.   
Yad Vashem with my my new Christian and Muslim Indonesian friends. Very powerful. I was crying at end – and was hugged by the Indonesian photographer from Embassy. Really bonded over the Holocaust. Strange, but makes some crazy sense. 
(I wrote this Friday afternoon in Jerusalem…)
And now Shabbat is coming to our holy City of Peace. 
May Hashem spread the tabernacle of peace over all of us, Israel and Jerusalem. Shabbat shalom from the spiritual capital of the world, but the national capital of the Jews. 
Shalom al Yisrael,
Asher Lopatin 

4 Responses to From Dubai to Jerusalem, with Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. Well considering how enthusiastically you’ve written about ending the Jewishness of Israel and replacing it with a multinational state that just happens to have a sizeable Jewish population I’m surprised you weren’t greeted more warmly.
    Seriously though, you are what Lenin once termed “a useful idiot”. You had to go to Jordan to learn what anyone with a passing interest in the news has already figured out?

  2. Chaye Kohl says:

    Rav Asher,
    Thank you for your honest and insightful comments on this intriguing trip. Your optimism gives me a kernel of hope for peace…maybe in my lifetime?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why do you put occupation in quotes, and are really unaware of that Palestinians are denied the right to return to their homes regardless of whether they travel to tel-aviv?

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      The Jews are living in their homeland. They are not occupying someone else’s land – they are living in their historical, rightful land. Now, we can talk about the right of Palestinians to live in their own land – and that land might also be the Holy Land, the same very land of the Jews – but it is wrong to denigrate the Jewish right to the land in order to promote the Palestinian relationship to the land.

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