Feb 1, 2009

Richmond Rabbi: no fears about Israel trip

Richmond Times Dispatch - Richmond,VA,USA
Published: January 31, 2009
A Richmond rabbi heading to Jerusalem for a convention isn't fearful for his life because of Palestinian-Israeli fighting.
"Israel is thriving and growing. Babies are being born. People are being married. Commerce is continuing. People have stress. Just as going anywhere, you need to be cautious," said Rabbi Gary S. Creditor of Temple Beth-El on Grove Avenue.
"My fear is my luggage not arriving with me," he added, laughing.
"When you are not near the action, which is in the south [of Israel], you don't experience any military events," Creditor said. He compares the fighting between Gaza Hamas militants and Israel to Katrina hitting New Orleans: People are aware of it and concerned about it, but it isn't all-consuming.
Creditor will leave tomorrow for a 13-day trip to Jerusalem, where he will attend the Rabbinical Assembly, an organization of Conservative rabbis. The trip was planned two years ago.
While there, he also will visit his daughter, who emigrated to Israel in December. In addition, he will go to Emek Hefer, an area north of Tel Aviv with which the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has a partnership.
Israelis will elect a Knesset, or parliament, while Creditor is in Jerusalem. The elections were set for Feb. 10 before the current war broke out.
"Israel has so many things at its attention," the rabbi said. Israelis are concerned about their economy, the war and their elections. They are also interested in what goes on with Turkey, Iran and other countries, added Creditor, who has been to Israel a number of times, including for two years of schooling there.
Israel is a true democracy, but the political structure is different from the United States, Creditor said. People vote for the party. The party getting the highest percentage forms the government, and the party leader becomes prime minister. Because there may be 10 or 12 parties in an election, no party ever receives a majority vote, Creditor explained.
"It seems to be that, balancing the many issues facing the Israeli electorate -- economy, security, internal balance between religious and secular, relationship with the Palestinian Arabs and the possibility of peace -- that the Kadima Party, on balance, seems to have a better platform," Creditor said. The Kadima Party is currently in office.
Asked to comment on the elections, Jameel Abed, a Palestinian-American who owns the Mediterranean Bakery and Deli in Henrico County, said he is skeptical that the Kadima Party, or any other party, would improve the situation in Israel.
"These are the same people who wage war against Muslims. From a Palestinian perspective, we don't see this as a good party or a bad party. They are all the same to us," Abed said.
"Their interest is not to have peace with the Palestinians. If they really wanted peace, they would not destroy Gaza and kill 1,300 Palestinians and injure over 5,000. This is not the way to make peace with the Palestinians."
. . .
Abed helped organize an Arab-American political group called the New Dominion Political Action Committee. He said Palestinians in certain areas of Israel, such as in East Jerusalem, can vote, but those in the West Bank and Gaza cannot.
Creditor said the American Jewish community has deep love and affection for Israel and pays attention to Israel's elections, he said. "We don't vote in it and don't have any part in what's happening. I don't think the Israelis listen to us," he said.
The rabbinical convention will include briefings on issues of concern for growth and development of Conservative Judaism and will work on revising liturgies.
"From the Israeli side, to see Jews coming from around the world to Israel gives a sense of unity . . . .There is no growing isolation of Israel," Creditor added.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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