When Our Destiny is at Stake

For the first time, at the Conference on the Future of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, 120 participants are raising issues regarding the status of the Jewish Diaspora in peace agreements between Israel and the Arab world in issues such as the final status of Jerusalem, the Jewish character of Israel and the future access to holy sites. The conference is organized by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).

Attending are Jewish leaders, decision makers and distinguished thinkers from around the world with the goal of fashioning a strategic perspective for the Jewish People in light of the threats, challenges and opportunities that currently exist.

The issue of conversion and the disagreements between Israel’s religious authorities and the Diaspora is also on the agenda by way of a roundtable of dialogue between the religious sectors, including influential Orthodox Rabbis.

Here’s JPPI’s founding director, Avinoam Bar-Yosef:

When Our Destiny is at Stake

Facing the enormous challenges, internal and external, of the Jewish people in 2010, it sometimes seems that looking at the 2030 time horizon is overly ambitious, a luxury we cannot afford. The Jewish People Policy Institute’s 2010 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People focuses on some of the most daunting concerns in the Jewish world today while also bearing in mind the 2030 time horizon.

The most crucial process we are undergoing is the effort to achieve peace with our neighbors.

Even if at the end of the day the main responsibility for the Jewish character of the state, its capital city, the holy sites and its final borders rests on the shoulders of the elected leadership of Israel, the voice of the Jewish Diaspora cannot be ignored.

The Zionist movement, since its inception at the end of the 19th century, was based on the Jewish yearning for Jerusalem. Millions of Jews made the life decision to leave the countries in which they were born, their mother tongues and their cultural roots for the unknown Promised Land to live among their brothers. Millions of Jews who decided to remain where they were born and to be loyal to their countries, as they should, still face Jerusalem when in prayer or at least feel part of the Jewish civilization which has made a huge contribution to the whole of humanity.

For these reasons, prime ministers of Israel, have defined and represented it as the core state of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled it out when he declared, in his Bar-Ilan University speech last year his demand for a binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as part of any final peace agreement. The Palestinian leadership’s negative response and its echoes in the Arab League made Israelis suspicious that the Arabs are pushing a two-state solution, one Palestinian and the other a binational Israel. In their eyes this won’t bring an end to the conflict.

But in this postcolonial era, when many other states are challenged by social, demographic and cultural shifts, the Israeli demand for a national Jewish identity is not easily digested. It fuels the delegitimization phenomenon not only in the Muslim world but also around the globe, and it’s not only directed against Israel but against Jews wherever they are.

This may have a negative impact on Jewish identity and identification.

Jerusalem and the Jewish holy sites are not just an Israeli issue. We are a small people without a global Jewish structure to support our natural desires. There is no Jewish League to consult.

You may also be interested in these opinion pieces from the JPPI Conference: