Why I’m here

Richard Goldwasser
on July 30, 2014

By Richard Goldwasser, J Street Board Member

I’m on the ground in Israel, writing from Jerusalem, with a J Street delegation of lay leaders, students and staff, 16 in all. We will be meeting with political leaders, journalists and members of various peace and human rights organizations. We will be visiting with those injured by the recent round violence and paying condolences to bereaved families.

The urge–because that’s what it was, more so than a decision–to jump on a plane Sunday and fly to Israel in the midst of the fiercest hostilities I can recall, was borne of solidarity. An urge being what it is, is easy to feel, but difficult to explain.

After a long flight and a couple days with friends, I can finally start to articulate why I am now in Israel at this difficult moment.

I wanted to plant my feet in the State of Israel. I wanted to be close to Jewish homeland and my people, the Jewish people. I wanted my friends here to know that my lot is with theirs; that I will be here in good times and bad. I wanted them to know that when they ache for their fallen sons, so do I.

I also came to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. I have seen their suffering and pain and it is no less real than that experienced by those in Israel. With so many casualties continuing to mount, Palestinian civilians are bearing the brunt of this war. Humanity requires our empathy, and I offer mine freely without hesitation or qualification.

But this is not enough. I wanted to do my part so that when this bitter war ends, it does not repeat itself in 18 months, or in three years, or for three generations and beyond. So I also wanted to stand in solidarity with the pro-peace communities in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Their road is tough in the best conditions, and now they must wade through physical attacks as they gather for peace. I want them to know that their battle is my battle.

There’s another reason I am here, and it is admittedly quite selfish. I don’t ever want to answer the question, “Where were you?”