Letters to the Editor

Lerner opinion disregards Israeli wrongdoing

I read the opinion of Rabbi Pesach Lerner in the September 3 issue of the AJP with incredulity.

When I started reading this article, I was encouraged by the implication that reflection and self-examination are necessary to the work for peace in the Middle East. But for me, the argument quickly lost all value as the author failed to apply his own advice to himself.

Most Jews could tell you that teshuvah, the act of retrospection and repentance, applies to oneself, and not to others. One does not approach the High Holy Days remonstrating about how others have to change. One must look objectively at one’s own actions to create teshuvah, the act (in Rabbi Pesach’s own words) “of acknowledging our flaws and transgressions, of owning up to our errors and dedicating ourselves to self-correction.” Nothing in his definition refers to pointing out unacceptable behaviors in others.

So I would ask Rabbi Pesach, regarding the obligation of Israelis to perform teshuvah: “Do you really believe that the Israelis have been completely innocent of any wrongdoing vis-á-vis the Palestinians?”

Mistakes have been made all around in Israel. There will never be peace without all parties acknowledging the wrongs committed against each other. If Israel wants peace with its neighbors it will have to do the painful work of teshuvah in order to negotiate a solution with those neighbors.

I believe that Rabbi Pesach’s article demonstrates that the real meaning of teshuvah passed right over his head.

—Renee Sebag