Slings and arrows      

Slings and arrows      

The essay by Winchester Thurston junior Jesse Lieberfeld, which decries Judaism as a once-wonderful religion while lopsidedly trashing Israel as the oppressor in its standoff with the Palestinians, has regrettably gone viral since its Jan. 15 publication in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Since appearing in the P-G, Jesse’s essay, “Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong,” which tied for first place in Carnegie Mellon University’s 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards, has been referenced, critiqued or reprinted in more than 7,000 blogs and websites. It has been held up as a profile of courage by pro-Palestinian forums and attacked for its shocking lack of depth and understanding by pro-Israel forums.
Whatever this young man’s reasons for walking away from his faith and turning on the Jewish state, he’s not the first, and he won’t be the last.
But that doesn’t mean he’s right.
As any Jew who has been to Israel knows, it’s an eclectic land — a place where Arabs live alongside Jews in the Galilee and have representation in the Knesset.
It’s a place that sent an Arab football team to represent it in the European Cup, a place where an Arab statesman joined the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Compare that to the Arab world where 800,000 Jews were driven from their homes before and after Israel’s independence.
It’s a place where Israeli cemeteries are filled with the victims of Palestinian terrorism — including women and children. Don’t they deserve at least a mention in this essay?
As any Jew who is active in congregation life knows, Jewish teachings and values — the very foundation of Western civilization — are taught every week in synagogues of all Jewish denominations — through Torah and Talmud classes, rabbis’ sermons, religious school lessons and many other modes.
Synagogues are places where Jews volunteer for any number of social action and community service projects, from supporting food banks to visiting the sick and elderly, to planting their own community gardens. That sounds like a still-wonderful religion to us.
And as any Jew who reads this newspaper knows, we print opinions from across the political spectrum — from those who laud Israel to those who criticize it. No one knows better than we do that Israel isn’t a perfect land (no nation is), and we don’t use these pages to pretend that it is.
But it is a great land nevertheless, and the debate our columns foster make Israeli and Diaspora Jews a stronger, more understanding people — not a race.
In the 21st century, it’s easy to make a written piece go viral, but the truth will always be the truth. What a shame this controversy arose; its fallout will likely be felt for some time. But long after it is forgotten, Jews will continue to practice their faith, and Israel will continue to be a successful democracy. Such are the hallmarks of a great religion and state: They can endure the slings and arrows.