For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Jonathan Tobin Contentions/Commentary 18 September 09
At the center of the recent controversy about the participation of Israeli artists at the Toronto Film Festival was the fact that the event highlighted the city of Tel Aviv’s centennial. To the signatories of a letter of protest, a group that included Danny Glover, Wallace Shawn, and Jane Fonda, it was the notion of celebrating Tel Aviv that was the real problem. It was, they said, founded on violence and the “suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants.”
The anti-Israel protesters have their facts wrong. Tel Aviv was founded not on the site of former homes of Palestinian Arabs who were dispossessed by the Jews but on empty sand dunes outside the city Jaffa. The village that was founded there a century ago grew large as a result of Jews fleeing anti-Jewish riots in Jaffa in 1921. The city has grown to be the nation’s largest city and is as cosmopolitan … and liberal as any in the world today.
So it is no small irony that those seeking to boycott Israel and brand it as illegitimate are willing to claim that Tel Aviv, of all places, is just another illegal Jewish settlement. As pressure grows on Israel to “freeze” building in the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, as well as in parts of that city itself, it is interesting to reflect on the fact that to those who wish to destroy the Jewish state, every house in every town in the country is an illegal settlement.
Many in Israel (especially in Tel Aviv), as well as many friends of Israel in the United States, like to think of the West Bank settlements as being bizarre places where crazy, violent people live and that have nothing to do with the “real” Israel inside the 1967 borders. What these anti–Tel Aviv protesters tell us is that for much of the rest of the world, this is a false distinction. And, in a sense, they are right—just as once Tel Aviv was another empty place where intrepid Jews bravely attempted to put down roots and build homes. Today it may be a booming, bustling city, but to Hamas and Fatah—as well as Glover, Shawn, and Fonda—it is just a part of hated Israel and no more legitimate than any hilltop settlement deep in the West Bank.
Those Americans who think there is nothing wrong with the Obama administration’s decision to press for more Israeli concessions and building freezes in Jerusalem and elsewhere should think about the significance of the Tel Aviv bashers. Some may argue that the settlements, even those in and around Jerusalem, must go to save Israel. But to those whom Obama wishes to appease by this pressure policy, there is no difference between them and the biggest Jewish settlement of them all in Tel Aviv.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"