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How American Jews view Israel’s latest Gaza assault
Conflict after conflict, U.S. Jewish groups and citizens have wielded grass-roots political clout to garner American support for Israel.
November 21st, 2012
01:30 PM ET

How American Jews view Israel’s latest Gaza assault

By Joe Sterling, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – The code-red siren blaring in Israel on Tuesday hit close to home for Rabbi Adam Starr.

His wife and daughter were visiting the Jewish state Tuesday, where Israelis have been darting for cover from daily Hamas rocket fire.

Starr breathed easy after he got off the phone with his wife.

"She's in Jerusalem," said Starr, leader of the Young Israel of Toco Hills synagogue in Atlanta. "She called me to tell me she is OK."

But he and others in his congregation and across the country remain anxious over the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

"We all have many friends and family in Israel," Starr said, referring to his congregants. "We're seeing on Facebook and Twitter our good friends and what they are going through, the complexities in trying to explain this to their young children."

Starr's angst underscores the close bonds between the American Jewish community and Israel, a relationship that predates the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.

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American Jews long have felt an affinity for Israel as a bulwark against anti-Semitism and a refuge for a people escaping persecution and surviving the Holocaust.

Since its 1948 founding, Israel has fought wars with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.

Conflict after conflict, U.S. Jewish groups and Jewish citizens have wielded grass-roots political clout to garner American support for Israel.

Latest on the Israel-Gaza conflict

The bonds are underscored by their size. The world's largest Jewish community is in Israel at nearly 6 million people, according to estimates. The U.S. Jewish community is the second most populous at an estimated 5 million plus.

After Israel kicked off its offensive last week to stop Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli communities, Starr and others in the U.S. Jewish community sent an SOS across the United States: Help Israelis. Send donations. Demonstrate for the Jewish state. Let our brothers and sisters in Israel know they're not alone.

Jewish groups staged rallies in cities across the United States, including Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. More than $5 million in pledges to help the battered southern Israel communities has poured in, according to the Jewish Federations of North America. Jewish leaders have traveled to Israel to show their support, it said.

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"You've seen a startling consensus," said Omri Ceren, a senior adviser with the Israel Project, a pro-Israel information group, "from the right to the left, from secular/cultural to religious groups."

Ceren said things were different when Israel launched its Cast Lead offensive in Gaza in December 2008 when, he said, not all American Jews were on board.

"There was naïveté in parts of the Jewish community to the effect that maybe President Bush's unpopularity and his refusal to appease" rejectionist Palestinian elements blocked peace.

Arab-Americans watch conflict with mix of worry, relief

After four years of continued hostility, Ceren said, there is more of a clear-eyed view of the perceived motives of Hamas, regarded by the United States and Israel as a terrorist group that is backed by Iran.

The 2008-09 operation failed to loosen Hamas' hold on power in Gaza. The militant rocket attacks from the territory ramped up year by year.

Hamas remained staunchly anti-Israel, and Israel's economic blockade to choke off the delivery of weapons from abroad has generated grass-roots support for the militant group.

"Now that naïveté has become impossible to justify," Ceren said. "The claim that Hamas can be peeled away from Iran doesn't pass the laugh test."

Israel has massed troops at the Gaza border and has threatened a ground offensive.  Even though American Jews widely support Israel's right to defend itself from rocket fire coming from Gaza, there is disagreement about the best way to do that. Prior to the recently announced cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, there was much hand-wringing over the wisdom of Israeli ground troops re-entering Gaza.

Some hope a ground war will be avoided, but it's a hard call.

"It seems to be a no-win situation," said Max Rosenthal, active in the small Jewish community of Huntsville, Alabama.

Israel can't live with thousands of rockets coming in every single day, he said. And it faces the challenge of trying to thwart Hamas without killing "huge amounts of people."

"If we go in with a truce, it'll be OK for a few months, then they'll start over again, they'll get more rockets in."

But Rosenthal and other U.S. Jews stress that the destruction of Israel is Hamas' avowed goal. And the future he sees is one of constant conflict.

"There's a feeling this is not going to end well, one way or the other," he said.

"My own feeling is a feeling of despair. I don't see any way of resolving it other than going in and wiping out Gaza and that is certainly not what anyone wants to do."

The executive director of J Street, a Washington-based advocacy group which bills itself as "the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," questions whether further military action by Israel "would end the rockets and make Israel more secure" after Cast Lead.

"Today, rockets are more numerous and powerful. Israel is more isolated in its region and more ostracized around the world," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street executive director.

"Only a political resolution to the century-old conflict with the Palestinians resulting in two states living side by side can end the conflict. Without that, in a few short years, we'll be right back here again: anger deeper, rockets more powerful, and political forces yet more extreme."

There's no question that Israel has a right to defend itself, just like any other sovereign nation, said Lindy Miller Crane, a member of Atlanta's Jewish community.

"If rockets were fired to the United States from Cuba, I would hope that the U.S. would react," she said.

Yet, like many Jews who consider themselves politically liberal, she is "ambivalent and conflicted" about how to achieve peace.

If and when a cease-fire comes together, she's worried about the follow-through.

She said that's because it seems as though no progress has been made to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue since the 2008 Israeli military operation in Gaza.

It's like the movie "Groundhog Day," Crane said.

She believes that if Israel can start addressing issues of racism and inequality, this will help the Jewish state initiate a strategy that will bring permanent peace with Palestinians.

"It's something that's going to have to happen," said Crane. "When I think about the future of Israel peace with the Palestinians is one aspect of that."

Israel has negotiated with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which runs the government in the West Bank.  A main stumbling block to an Israeli-Palestinian peace has been the existence and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

There is vehement disagreement among U.S. Jews about Fatah and its motivations.

Fatah casts itself as distinct from Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel (Fatah does not).  But they aren't much different, according to Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of pro-Israel group StandWithUs.

Just read and listen to Fatah's anti-Israel rhetoric, educational system, and media, she said.

They "don't acknowledge there's an Israel next door," she said.

Israel "can get tough on Hamas" and weaken it  politically by working with the Palestinian Authority - which is dominated by Hamas' rival, Fatah – toward creating  an Israel and Palestinian state, wrote Peter Beinart for the Daily Beast.

"The problem is that in order to make Hamas suffer for opposing the two-state solution, Israel's government would have to truly embrace that solution," he wrote.

But he didn't hold out any hope that Israel would do that.

"Taking a hard line against Hamas requires taking a hard line against the settlements and at the end of the day, this Israeli government is soft on them both," he wrote.

Near the war but far from the political ferment, Jodi Mansbach, an Atlanta urban planner, sat in a Tel Aviv cafe this week.

Her 16-year-old son is spending a semester at an Israeli high school, and she was visiting him for the Thanksgiving holiday.

After the conflict started, her son had to be transferred from his school in Be'er Sheva, in the southern Israel danger zone, to Tel Aviv - a relatively safer location, despite a bus bomb and air raid sirens.

Mansbach admires the cool way her son's teachers and counselors and Israelis in general cope with fear. They know how to handle life amid air raid sirens, shelters and rocket fire.

"It's so much more scary on the news," she said.

She also draws inspiration from people of other nations, tourists and business people from places like Sweden and Germany, who share her hotel in Tel Aviv.

"The American Jewish community should take a cue from the rest of the world. They are here," she said, referring to Jewish and non-Jewish visitors.

"They are not letting the conflict get in the way. To me, that's incredibly inspiring."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Israel • Judaism • Palestinians • United States

soundoff (619 Responses)
  1. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Iranian roots are foundation of Hamas, criminals of arab s, crooks, and buildings built on Gaza are on faulty foundations have no chance to stand, hindus, Jews, Christians, atheists, cross dressers, Hamas ism have no place in muslim world, Islamb, filthy secularism is a house of horror, Mecca s faulty foundation, having no chance to stay up, but to fall on it's ass faulty roots, goons.

    November 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, idiot.

      November 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. cynthia

    Those who dwell too much in the past will cost others their future.

    November 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      Roots are foundation of trees, and buildings built on hindu faulty foundations have no chance to stand, hindu Judaism, filthy secularism is a house of hindu faulty foundation, having no chance to stay up, but to fall on it's hindu faulty roots.

      November 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Paul Stufflebeam

      When a child is born, they are born into an environment that is dictated by the past. It is that every singly human on the face of the earth is living entirely in the past.

      November 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  3. Paul Stufflebeam

    A blessing is a separation.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
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    November 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Paul Stufflebeam

    Doubt is truly the beginning of a real education. The sequential removal of doubtful doctrine reveals the truth of it. It is that the only thing that we are required to do to receive the blessing is the only thing that we have rejected. That that we have embraced is everything that we have been told not to do. The results could not be more evedent.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Please explain what a blessing is.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Saul Pufflesteam

      Herp, derp. Derp.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Akira

      Paul:
      Did you learn your style of writing from lionlylamb?
      (With all due respect to ll, of course.)

      November 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Words To Live By!!

      Mathew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God!"

      Luke 17:21, "The kingdom of God is inside you!"

      John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world!"

      1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building!"

      G.O.D.

      November 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. Can we all just get along!

    i can see how resting in a cafe, sipping on a cappuccino and watching Israelis overcome the bombs, the turmoil , and the fear can be inspiring. And bravo for giving your high school son a bit of the culture in Israel by sending him abroad. But the men who hold high places have some important decisions to make. The bombs are getting bigger, the anger is getting deeper, and the feelings are getting more desperate. Next year may not be a good time to send your son into the war zone and sit at that cafe. Fewer high schools may exist in Israel due to more destruction, and Gaza may be overrun by the Israelis. Enjoy those peaceful cafe's and student exchange programs while you can.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • cynthia

      Dwelling too much on the past will cost others their future. I am not religious, but" The Lord's Prayer" holds some answers... so too do the lyrics from the Beatles's song "Imagine".

      November 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Akira

      'Imagine' was John Lennon solo, not The Beatles.

      November 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  7. Vic

    Jesus Christ Lord and my personal Savior is the SOLUTION!!!

    November 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • The Truth

      Water is a better solution...

      November 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • sam

      Well, what are you waiting for?? Call him up and get him over there!

      November 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Corner Cafe

      Try Vic's "Born Again" Martini. We shake it once, pour over ice and then shake again to make it more nice! Try it dirty with your choice of Top Shelf vodka or gin! $10.99

      November 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  8. Holy Bowler

    I pissed on the Wailing Wall. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • The Truth

      It's nice of them to provide all the tiny pits of paper when you need to wipe...

      November 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      They are very kind.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Joe Somebody

      I'm a Jew, and I have to admit that was pretty damn funny.

      November 22, 2012 at 3:06 am |
  9. Apple Bush

    Paul is just another Christian "drive by" poster. He has nothing to say.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Paul Stufflebeam

      It is true that I am new to this. Rather or not I have anything to say remains to be heard. To be specific about my religous convictions, I tell you and everyone, Every religion that has been established by men on this earth is the worshiping of satan. And I mean every single one !

      November 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • sam

      Oh, this just got interesting. Time for popcorn.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Paul S,

      The christian word of truth being the wordage of gospels to which are now way too varyingly many to be had and can no more be held up in weighty agonies of righteousness sakes. To the christians; "The troubles with faithless and unfaithful trinitarians, those who belly-up to one god times three is, they read but only into it and get very little out of what they make 'gospel' in treacherously unsound morbid amplifications of unblessed pleasings by the manly adaptive and grudgingly adopted childishness views of Godly egregious moralisms.

      November 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  10. Reality

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    Added details:

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    November 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • hindu filthy cheating wife ism

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      November 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Akira

      Once again, the phrase "bulge inequality has me cracking up ism...

      November 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Manly made Gods in name onliness euphemisms have become false-cherishing sublimations not to be subliminally outdone by anothers' naming of God such as Elohim or Jehovah etc etc. Is it not of more-so importance to write or make small-talk toward others to 'menstruatively' condition the morals of youthfulness than to bicker and banter about as elder-aged 'gossipers' seeking shadowy umbrage praises of youth-based others to justify their own selfishness sakes? Who therefore is to be pitied more, the one behind the podium with playing cards or the audience who does sit in waiting to be as leavened bread ever to rise up in unwaivering unison?

      November 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  11. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Hamas is not a invading force but native of Philistine unlike hindu Jew's, criminal self centered by faith, deniers of truth absolute God of hindu pagan Egypt and Persian heritage, blood brothers of hindu criminal Nazis of hindu heritage. believers of nothing else but hinduism, racism by faith, deserving to be eliminated from face of earth with their hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, for peace, Islam among humanity. cause of Mayhem among humanity and corrupter of truth absolute called religions. for more visit limitisthetruth,com to learn hinduism, criminality of hindu Jew's, criminal Jew's against humanity and truth absolute GOD.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • hindu filthy butt ism

      “Operation Bleach my Anus”, Ya, it was long before "wax my balls", metro sexual, is nothing more than a bi-sexual to find shoes with no socks of a sweater wrapped on shoulders, according to GQ teachings, GQ was taught "wax my balls" to 1000th generation of metro sexual men after Adam and Eve liked to swing in bible, straight men can’t bleach anus, wax all they want, they can never keep stubble perfect real meaning of "wax my balls", because nice bleached anus, smooth absolute anus, creator of polo and pressed blue jeans, kept it smooth and clean.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Go back to school, it is still not too late.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Akira

      Okay, now that was TMI. Yikes.

      November 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  12. Paul Stufflebeam

    There are only two ways of life on this entire earth, the blessing or the curse. You are either obedient and receive the blessing or you are disobedient and receive the curse.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I do not believe you. Please prove what you say is true.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow....who knew is could be so simple? oh yes, simpletons

      November 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      hindu Jew's self centered are chosen to be curse upon humanity for denying truth absolute GOD, hindu Jew's secular s, crook deniers of truth absolute GOD , people of hind, hell.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • hindu filthy cow poop ism

      Day of cow chip throwing contest, absurdity celebrated by Oklahomans, ignorants to seek trophy from poop long horn filthy beast, source of rodeo lasso displayed on belt buckle of every cowboy, ignorant female calf ropers of cow chip throwing contest, illegality of opening shoot early To learn cow chip throwing contest, absurdity of oklahomans, goat ropers please visit nationalfinalsrodeo.com filthy cow chip ism.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • sam

      God...the holidays must be fun as hell at your house.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      hhahahhhah obedience almost always equals damnation my friend

      but if god told you to r@p3 a woman do you obey

      and before you say god will never say that

      Zechariah 14:1-2 NAB

      Judges 21:10-24

      god is the same yesterday today and forever

      also if he tells you to kill your son for worshiping the sun i guess you would do that to

      November 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  13. Corner Cafe

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    Our creamy and delicious Hummus is made with roasted garlic then sprinkled with chopped parsley and paprika and served with warm pita. $7.99

    November 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  14. bo

    why does the palestinians not have access to live in their own country only govened by them selves, who can find happiness without that, imagine the usa living in a province of the country they hate most, and no more basic rights than the people in gaza, – the idear of agression to replace peoples basic rigts is simply inhuman.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  15. Paul Stufflebeam

    It is hard for me to believe that so many people, for so many years, do not see the results of their disobedience. It is not isolated to any particular spot on the face of the earth, it is all of it !

    November 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Why, what did you do Paul?

      November 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      disobedience to what? iron age comic books?

      November 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • sam

      What the hell kind of surname is Stufflebeam?

      November 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  16. equality

    Don't send Israel a dime. The last thing they need is more money to terrorize their neighbors. Israel needs to learn to resolve their conflicts in a TRULY peaceful manner. Pro-Peace? It would be funny if it wasn't so deadly.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  17. Holy Bowler

    Orthodox Jews are very weird and scary.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Pot & Kettle

    Ah Judaism, the religion of peace.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • VanHagar

      You seem to have missed what's going on. Isreal (rightly or wrongly) is not bombing Gaza in the name of God, but for sovereign integrity. Do you have any doubt that Hamas is sending its rockets as part of a Jihad?

      November 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      Do you have any doubt that if the Jews would give them back their land, they would stop fighting for it? Thieving, sniveling, lying Jews. Problem is, the Muslims are even worse.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Paul Stufflebeam

      This may come as a surprise to you, religion and peace have nothing to do with each other.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Wow Paul, you are super smart.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  19. Book

    Five million jews who still live in the USA obviously don't really believe that so-called "Israel" in Palestine is their homeland.

    More jews still live in NYC and Miami than Tel Aviv...lol.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      They have nice hats and curly sideburns but they spit a lot.

      November 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Towelie

      Towelie says, "Don't forget to bring your Tzitzit!"

      November 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  20. Apple Bush

    The Old Testament sells fear and guilt. The New Testament is a good code of ethics, created by poets and philosophers. But the message is never practiced. Fairy Tales build churches.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.