Questions Waiting to be Asked

by Elise Berman | 5/24/02 5:00am

As an active member of Hillel I feel, unfortunately, that I have no choice but to criticize the resolution to print the statement, "Wherever We stand, We Stand With Israel," by Dartmouth Hillel. Part of me feels that my criticism should be a private affair. However, I also strongly feel that in order to strengthen an understanding of the relationship between Jews and the state of Israel, the public ought to be aware of the reasons for which I disagree with this statement. I criticize this statement because in alienating members of its own Jewish community it refutes the very purpose of Israel and because it fails to represent accurately the complexity of the relationship between Jews and Israel.

By isolating Jews on campus from the only Jewish community available, I suggest that Hillel's statement in The Dartmouth serves to refute the very purpose for which Israel exists.

However, the statement in The Dartmouth fails to reflect the vast heterogeneity of the response of Jews to the crisis in Israel. First, Zionism is not and has never been a uniformly accepted Jewish value, a concept that I feel few non-Jews (or Jews, for that matter) recognize. The lack of understanding as to the diversity of beliefs among the Jewish community is also reflected in a lack of understanding as to why many Jews feel as strongly as they do. I have realized that very few of my friends understand why I personally support the state of Israel despite my misgivings as to the present government of the regime and my uncertainties as to the moral rightness of its very existence.

A true understanding of the Jewish relationship to Israel thus necessitates an anthropological analysis of Judaism as well as an understanding of the past 3,000 years of Jewish history. This depth of understanding is an unachievable but nonetheless laudable goal. It was irresponsible of Hillel members to print a statement that failed to even attempt to reach that goal. As Hillel's decision has been democratically made, what is left to each of us now is to make individually active attempts to understand the nature and diversity of Jewish beliefs.

We here at Dartmouth are the future leaders of the world. Therefore, we must learn to both think critically about our belief and to take time and care with the manner in which those beliefs are propagated. Sharon and Arafat will not come to any agreements until they adopt the two principles just outlined. If Dartmouth students cannot learn to adopt these central principles of critical thought, we have no hope for resolving the complex conflicts that face us in the world today. I love Israel. I cry when she bleeds, my soul screams when she is injured, and my heart would despair should she fall. For myself, I will state that I fully support the existence of a Jewish state. But I will not support this statement that alienates members of a religious and cultural community. I will not support a statement that does not reflect the beliefs of a vast community that Hillel by its very nature represents; and I will not support a statement that fails to educate, question and add to a fuller and more vibrant understanding of the world.

I challenge the Dartmouth community to take this opportunity to educate and to question itself. I ask every student to make an active attempt to understand the opposing side of every discussion in which he or she is engaged. I challenge all who support Israel to consider why they do so, and I ask all who support Palestine to do the same. I challenge every student on this campus to question why we are here and what we mean to learn from our Dartmouth education. I challenge all of us to stop ourselves at least once a day and wonder at what we are doing in this one life that we have to live. I refuse to betray my education by failing to question myself. And now, having written this article, I step back from it and wonder why I believe the arguments that I have asserted.