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January 30, 2015 / 10 Shevat, 5775
 
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Next Year In ? – An Open Letter to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod


Dear Rahm and David,

I’m writing this as I sit and watch, live via the Internet, the ceremony marking the rededication of the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem, in the area you would classify “east Jerusalem,” or “disputed territory,” or perhaps “occupied territory.”

Before asking a few questions, I’d like to describe to you several men who took part in tonight’s celebration.

First, there is Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin, presently speaker of the Knesset. A seventh generation Jerusalemite, Ruby is a Rivlin from both his mother and father’s side, descended from both the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon.

Rivlin, a seasoned politician, had trouble controlling his voice as he spoke, his words quivering with emotion, as he repeated the words of his great-grandfather, who spoke at the rededication of the destroyed Hurva shul a hundred and fifty years ago.

Also speaking briefly was former Prisoner of Zion and present chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, who described how, in 1992, he convinced the Israeli government to unanimously approve reconstruction of the Hurva, destroyed by the Jordanians following their occupation of Jerusalem in 1948.

But the man who most impressed me was Vadim Rabinovitch, an Israeli from Russia who contributed heavily to the renovation of the Hurva. Rabinovitch spoke briefly, albeit in Russian, and announced that he and his partners, whose financial fortunes built the Hurva, would participate in rebuilding the nearby Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, also destroyed by the Arabs during the War of Independence. These men, who grew up without any Jewish background, and who today barely speak Hebrew, are investing their life’s fortunes in synagogues in Jerusalem.

And you, Rahm and David, what are you investing your lives in?

Rahm, it is said you are the cornerstone of your boss’s policy toward Israel and the Middle East. Since this administration took office, you have been quoted, time and time again, as pushing a two-state solution. “Israel,” you’ve said, “now faces a moment of truth – it can either acquiesce to international demands and in return have its most serious threats dealt with, or maintain the status quo and have those threats persist.”

In other words, Israel’s future as a state, and in large part the continued existence of the Jewish people, is dependent on Israel acquiescing to the demands of the U.S. and Arab terrorists.

And David, just a few days ago you publicly turned Israel over your knee and paddled it, saying, “What happened there was an affront . It was an insult . This was not the right way to behave.” This, of course, in reference to the announcement that Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem.

Is this the behavior of two good Jewish boys who, it is said, love Israel?

Truthfully, Rahm, it’s very difficult to understand your actions. You belong to an Orthodox synagogue in Chicago. You grew up in a Jewish home, with a strong affinity to Israel. Your father was born in Jerusalem and your uncle, for whom you were named, was killed by Arabs in Jerusalem. And you still support a position forbidding Jewish building in Jerusalem?

And David, you too are no stranger to Judaism. Born on the Lower East Side in New York, you always knew you were Jewish. Yet you see fit to push your own people into security situations that jeopardize the continued existence of the Jewish state.

How is it that men like you, whose lives have always been saturated with Judaism, do not comprehend simple truths understood by others who grew up in Soviet Russia knowing almost nothing about their Jewish roots?

Even your names reflect your Jewish souls: David, dating back to King David, and Rahm, meaning “high,” hinting at the Creator, and in your case a form of the word rachamim, meaning mercy. Upon whom do you have mercy, Mr. Emanuel? Perhaps both of you should repudiate your names, changing them, as did Hellenistic Jews in Israel during the time of the Greek occupation. How can you carry such Jewish names yet at the same time assist in pushing your people to the brink?

I have one other question for both of you. I am writing this on the night that marks the first day of the new month of Nissan, the month of geula, of redemption from Egypt. In exactly two weeks we will begin the Passover holiday, commencing with the Seder, the first Pesach meal, when we relate the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.

It is said that last year both of you were invited to the president’s Passover Seder but skipped it, preferring to celebrate with your families, at home. Very touching. But why?

What I really want to know is not how you begin your family Seder but rather how you end it. Normally, Jews finish the night’s ceremony declaring “Next year in Jerusalem” or Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem.”

Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod:

Do you recite those words at your family table? If so, do you mean what you say, or just repeat the words for custom’s sake?

And would you dare recite these words in public, words mouthed by Jews for centuries as they were tortured and burned at the stake, or sent to Siberia to die, for daring to repeat the fundamental tenet of the Jewish people?

Exactly how do you say it? “Next year in Jerusalem”? Or “Next year in occupied (or disputed, or conquered, or Arab) Jerusalem”?

Isn’t it time you left the White House and came to your real home, in Israel, in Jerusalem, where you too can stand proudly at the Kotel and recite, as Jews have through the ages, “Next year in (Jewish) Jerusalem”?

About the Author: David Wilder is the spokesperson for the Hebron Community.


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