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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
"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."
This all goes back to Abraham and two sons Issac and Ishmael, same dad, racialiy different mothers
As I've said before, the only difference between Arabs and Jews is a story no one really believes.
LOL, other than hundreds of millions of people....
Now after all the loud rallying and fundraising you did for Israel, we look at you, "American Jew" and ask why didn't you raised your voice against this massacre of Gaza population, when it became clear that that's what it was?
I'm an "american Jew" (whatever that means), and all I have to say is that when I see those bombs drop and those little kids torn to shreds (on both sides), it is obvious that no matter who did what to who and when, nobody can justify bombing, shooting, and killing. G_d made all of us and gave us all the Earth to live on. I'm also convinced that this has nothing to do with people and everything to do with governments and geopolitics. The reason I say this is because I know way too many Muslim/ Arab/ Palestinian/ Persian people and guess what!? They're just like me – they want to work, care for family, hang out with friends, and enjoy life. Before 1948 Jews and Palestinians lived as friends and neighbors. It wan't until governments like England and the USA got involved and created a "Jewish State" that war broke out. Let's all ask G_d to heal the region and bring peace to the Middle East. I don't want to see any more dead babies on the news.
"those little kids torn to shreds (on both sides)"? No, no, we are looking at 150 people killed (many kids and adults) on one side, and 3 people on the other side. Now you're blaming this mess on England and USA?!
@Drew: yes I second that!! It is obvious that you believe in G-d not Greed. I know Jewish Americans who brag about how many people were killed so they may have a 'home' in Israel. And I know people who were killed for spoils of a 'home in Israel' and it has made me ill. The 10 commandments are human commandments and should be for everyone. It is unfortunate that there are people who look to this as 'sides' rather than remembering The Truth. I encourage you to uphold that view. I know what it is like to have family killed by war. I have had my family killed by people who claim 'Islam' but I am not on Israel's side either. I find the entire thing rather disturbing. And I am on my own side-the side that says fascism doesn't work. For anyone fascism doesn't work-for we were all created by G-d or none of werew created. It is a very lonely place for me.
@ American, I agree with you, a lot of clamor and God talk to obscure the real, tragic picture: a 21st century GENOCIDE.
Considering the size of the population living in Gaza enclave, the short time and the large number of victims in gaza, the possibility this conflict may reopen, this remains a serious matter.
Another example of how religion poisons everything, with attribution to Christopher Hitchens. Have any of you ever looked at a historical timeline of this piece of dirt on the Earth? The current "State of Israel" and the so-called "Palestinians" have as much claim to this dirt as do the heirs of the Caananites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the British, the French, the Turks, various Arabians, Italians (through Rome), the Macedonians, through the Ptolemaic successors of Alexander the Great, the Iranians, through Cyrus the Great, and who knows how many others. The current State of Israel's claim of "legitimacy" is based on writings of it's own people (the bible), which really only presents their version of "history." So-called "christian" nations have backed this version of history, notwithstanding that, for centuries, they labeled the jews "christ killers." They now support Israel because they buy the biblical "prophecy" of Armaggeddon that willl lead to the so-called "rapture," which will get those "christians" to the "promised land" of "heaven." Again, this is all religiously based, and otherwise has no basis. Need I say it again? Religion poisons everything.
Setting the Bible aside, the land was taken by force from the Turks by Britain. Britain gave the land to the Jews. And then the Jews defended it against numerous Muslim attacks. That makes the land Israel's, until someone can take it from them by force, which Muslims are trying to do.
Some of the $$ we gave Israel might have killed innocent people in Gaza. Stop the aid!
Some of the money you paid for peanut butter at the grocery store might have eventually gone to the mafia. STOP THE SPREAD OF PEANUT BUTTER!
@End Religion, is that the best you can do? What are you, 5th grade?
The Jewish people have made enormous contribution to humanity in the arts, sciences and other human endeavors down through the centuries but in their current treatment of the Palestinians they are wrong. There will never be a Palestinian State because Israel has not acquired all the land that the Zionists believe God gave them thousands of years ago. Yes, the Arabs and Palestinians have committed atrocities against the Jewish people and others who support Israel. But Israel has equally committed atrocities against Arabs and Palestinians. American politicians and journalists have stood by as rocks throwers, and in one case, a 12 year old child who was hiding, was deliberately shot dead. America should stand by Israel if its existence is seriously threatened and make it perfectly clear to Iran that if they threaten or use a weapon of mass destruction against Israel they will cease to exist as a nation.
Again the Jewish rhetoric about them being smarter than the others.
You guys open a dangerous door for other countries to start wars in order to get some old territories, and because the borders were forever changing throughout world history, there could be endless wars...
When do we get the guts to call this last conflict for what it was, a genocide.
Funny how you can post comments here about the Jewish-Americans but CNN is not allowing comments by and about the Arab-Americans.
@American – not true, there are lots of comments
You have failed as a human being. That is why I am canceling your comments before they are posted.
Sincerely, CNN Moderator of Idiots
You can't steal land from a people just because you think you have historical God given rights to it. That's like saying if your born in a house and long after your parents foreclosed on it, you come back and invade and steal the house back. that is criminal in nature. so you can't steal a land once upon a time where you were welcome to stay (after the holocaust), and close off borders, declare a state, get military and financial support from crusaders and claim that its your own state, and kill people and say that it is self defense. now, saying that, Palestine should be a sovereign state just as it was before Jews were relocated to Palestine. The violence is emanating from injustice. There are other words for it too, like genocide, ethnic cleansing etc.
Never understood why the jewish people are upset or angry if they are referred to as "jews".
As is using the appellation "jewish people" means that they aren't totally jews but only affiliated with this jewish notion. simply semantics...
* as if
Bahaha, so true
Israel is a smart criminal state and Hamas is a stupid political organization. They both deny the existence of each other. Without Israel aggressions on its neighbors, the region will be much more peaceful.
You hit the nail on the head!
@hitman,Isreals Netanyahu complains constantly to Pres.Obama like the wimp you say that has a bully in America on its side ..He constantly threatens Iran with nuclear war and they're just as guilty as Iran never signing the Nuclear NonProliferation Trearty of 1968 that America and others did so in my eyes Isreal should shut their mouths or reap what they've sowed,right without any military help from us..That's Americas trouble,we always intercede in other countries problems and basically get hung out to dry financially,lives lost and you can go back to a perfect example in the Vietnam War in which we went in as observers and got stuck with then Pres.Eisenhower by sending in military assistence and France high tailing it home leaving America holding the bag..Let some of these countries fight their own battles,we've got enough problems in our country without interfering in other countries affairs...
Prayer changes things .
Then let'd pray that your computer crashes!
Leave Israel to its own devices and you will see a path to peace paved very quickly. It is the outside influence of American jews and American money which has prolonged this crisis.
@brown,you hit the nail on the head..If American Jews want things done in Isreal so bad let them go over there and use their money to settle it themselves.The Adelsons and others only wanted Romney as president for that reason,a puppet to manipulate saying Romney owed them for past contributions that's all to use him for military intervension at a moments notice,when and where the Jews wanted it!!
Down wirh the Israeli settlements. Down with the blockade of Gaza. A viable Palestinian state, free and independent.
CNN, please stop headlines with racist overtones "American Jews and Arab-Americans"
Why not Jewish-Americans or Israeli-Americans as well. Are hyphenated terms reserved only for those deemed inferior or hate-worthy?
BOTTOM LINE- palestinians=Barbarians....i have personally been to the region and have seen first hand how they live. Listen, what more do you need after knowing that they kill in the name of their religion? If thats not enough proof that they are animals then i dont know what is!
When a country kills 153 people in retaliation for 3 deaths it is barbaric.
Soon in the conflict it was clear that one side can't do too much harm to the other, yet Israel continued their killing spree.
Tommy...the problem is the Israelis will be glad to tell you that a Jewish life is worth more than an Arab life because there are so many fewer Jews. This is the twisted logic that allows them to level whole towns when a soldier gets a rock thrown at his body armor.
What you say thetruth is just self-serving rhetoric, the numbers speak louder than words. A biased news media and an impotent public opinion assisted powerless at this murderous muscle flexing on one side of the barricade.
What's funny about Jewish people is that they speak for themselves and they speak for their enemies, and yes, they also speak for you, the listener.
Fred, it's probably how they're raised – to think of themselves as superior to all others. This raises serious concerns and complications for any state headed by a jewish government vis-a-vis human rights of its non-Jewish minorities. We have already seen the treatment of Palestinians. They are blockaded, given "sovereignty" but unlike ANY other sate in the F-ing world, not allowed to purchase military hardware to defend themselves. In spite of this latter restriction, are bombed to shreds at the drop of a hat. Which other country solves problems within its borders by bombing them with laser-guided bombs, killing them along with destruction of lots property, causing untold misery, or which government of the world wages "wars" against people within their own borders. I know some would say Pakistan againt Taliban in Waziristan province, but that's a whole 'nother situation – they're slaves of the US/Israel, so they have to carry out their mission.
I know what you mean Rasheed. Sometimes you get so frustrated in Gaza you just have to let off a few rockets. Perfectly natural. Everyone would agree.
Birzeit, lets not try to make this mass murder a trivial matter. I feel part of an impotent civilization which watched backbone-less at these barbaric atrocities while having to listen to "Israel wants peace" hypocrisy.
Interesting how the CNN allows REDFIREBALL's "Obambi-poo poo" comments to get posted on this forum, yet deletes others.
Are you surprised? CNN also writes headlines with racist overtones. They just wrote American Jews and Arab-Americans. Whhy not Jewish-American or Israeli-American. Hyphenated words or words where another ethnicity before American means they are't quite Americans.
Okay, this how I see it. A bunch of Arabs went to Israel and took big stinky dumps on their lawns. After doing this for a while Israel got tired of it and decided to take a few dumps of their own in Gaza. Then the Arabs got upset about it and said it wasn't fair. Seems to me that both sides are full of krap but the Arabs started it.
Kanageloa, this is how I see it:
Israel committed mass-murder, and they have nuclear weapons.
You need to look a little further back in time to understand the issue. Israel didn't exist before 48 when the Western world, feeling guilt over the atrocities committed by Hitler, basically carved a chunk out of the Arab world and called it Israel. The west had good intentions, but as the saying goes.....
Anyway, for some reason the Arab world didn't really think that was such a great idea and tried to take the area back..but they lost and Israel saw that as an opening to grab more land...and thus started occupying land which was not originally given to them. And then the Palistinians started taking a stinky dumps on Israeli lawns as you put it
To Ron and the other ignoramuses on this page: the Arab world? That little stretch of land termed Palestine by the
Ancient Greeks has passed hands through all of history. More recently it was controlled by the ottomans and they were not Arabs. When the ottomans lost their land that piece fell under the British mandate, also not Arabs.what's their claim to Congolese all of the land, the fact that they happened to live there for a long time ir that they controlled it fir some time centuries ago? Jews can make the same arguments. And when the un proposed the two state solutionsplitting the land., the Arabs should've agreed if they wanted their own state. They didn't agree, gambled on warfare and lost. They need to m
*control. They need to move on and deal with the consequences of their decisions. Maybe actually try to build normal communities thatvalue their people as individuals rather than continue to uphold a fascist regime. Iguarantee their lives will improve.
yrotsih it's interesting how you sift through historical facts in order to find excuses for this conflict-stirring country.
I suggest one way to solve the problem of peace in the region is make Jerusalem an independant state similar to that of the Vatican and declare the new state as world heritage at the united nations.
That's not an original idea.
Here's another version:"Noahide Nations". Google it.
Glad all that money AIPAC dumps into Washington continues to brain wash the masses. Gaza is 25 miles long and maybe 5 miles wide and is the home to 1.7 million people!! They are basically locked in there by the Israelis and yet Americans don't recognize this as apartheid. As long as the Israelis continue to subjugate the Palestinians, there will be no peace.
U obviously do not know the history of the region, yet u spout u ridiculous statement. Did u ever visit the region? I bet not. I have, covering the Lebanon Civil War as a journalist where I wtnessed the murder of 100,000 Maronite Christians by the Palestinians & their Muslim Militia allies. To put matters in proper context, Palestinians have systematically murdered & maimed Israeli civilians since 1948 & before when in 1929 before there were Palestinian refugees & Israel to blame for their racist hatred these so called "victimed Palestinians" who u shed tears for murdered the entire Jewish community that existed there since biblical times. Gaza is boycotted because its citizens voted HAMAS into power whose charter calls the compl;ete destruction of Israel & "liberation" of Jerusalem (Kind David's city) as their capitol. Strange simnce Jerusalem isn't even mentioned in the Koran once. If Mexico murdered & maimed US citizens in California, Arizona, or Teaxes, and their government vowed to destroy us & set up their capitol on Los Angeles or San Antonio plus rained missliles on us, the United States will do everything in its power to defend its citizens just as Israel has to do. The greatest enemy of the Gaza Palestinians is HAMAS. Israel allowed tons of humantarian aid to flow into Gaza daily. No other country would do that. 1948 war of extermination against Israel by 7 Arab states resulted in their defeat, producing 600,000 Arab refugees & 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands who multiplied with the Arab-Jews absorbed excellently into Israeli society while Arabs have been kept in squalid refugee camps. That's aparthied. In Israel Arab-Israeli citizens enjoy equal rights & you don't see them moaning or whining because they have it good. My suggestion is for the Gaza Arabs to rise up against HAMAS, but they're too afraid because they know they'd be slaughtered. If you care this much about human life, and human rights, go to Syria where 39,000 + have been killed already instead of inciting hatred towards Israel & its warrior Jewish people who will not allow themselves to be slaughtered the way these Arab barbarians r doing to their own.
i dont believe you are/were a journalist. The way you put the things in order doesnt seem like a journalists article.
Frank Vivaldi, what a bunch of... You talk about barbarians, right? We look now at the conflict and what do we see? 153 deaths in Gaza and 3 in Israel, and ask who are the barbarians? Why didn't Israel stop the killing at 8, 10, 15, 20? It would have been enough murder. How much is enough killing for them?
At this ratio of deaths (153 to 3) this conflict actually represents Israel's mass-murdering of a population, they became a terrorist nation.
The jews are wimps!
Do you mean American Jews because they don't serve in the miliatary but get easy high-paying jobs through connections/nepotism?
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.