February 17, 2016
By Harris Konter
Virtually every briefing with every speaker started the same way: “It’s complicated,” the speaker would begin before delving into the specific topic. And, by and large, they were correct. Even a topic that seems simple, like being able to choose the Rabbi who presides over your wedding, is layered and complex. “We can certainly understand the validity of the Conservative and Reform movements and agree that those Rabbis should be able to preside over a wedding…but what if that authority is abused by one person and used to give citizenship to people who only want to change the nature of Israel away from being a Jewish state?”
What once seemed simple can quickly become murky.
This is to say nothing of complex issues like, oh, I don’t know: let’s say the peace process with the Palestinians. Even its simplest of concepts, the idea of having two states, is complicated when you start discussing what would be on either side of the border (wherever the border is). Everyone we met with could agree that on one side of the border was Palestine. Yet the representatives from the Palestinian Authority and the Joint Arab List, with whom we met would not agree that on the other side of the border would be Israel, a Jewish democracy. They agreed with the name of Israel and the democracy part but were unwilling to acknowledge the state as Jewish. A complex place to start a peace negotiation, to say the least.
I constantly espouse a layman’s version of Occam’s razor: “The simplest explanation is most often correct.” So you can understand my frustration at learning that every issue in Israel, from every side of that issue, is, in fact, complex. When I came home and shared this frustration with my wife, she said something that clarified everything I had experienced. She said: “That’s why I think it’s more important that we support Israel today than it has ever been before.” Truer words may not have ever been spoken.
In fact, every speaker followed saying “It’s complicated” by saying “Right now is a very difficult time in Israel.” Sadly, this is also true, but, as Jews, we’re used to difficult times, and one might argue that it’s where we excel.
I’m grateful to Lois and Larry Frank as well as to the JCPA for sending me on this mission. My resolution from the trip is to be a stronger supporter of Israel, in its simplest form, as a Jewish democracy. The most important point is to support Israel’s validity to exist and to thrive as a Jewish democracy. Perhaps if we can unite under this simple concept, we can find solutions to some of the most complex problems.