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Some Mixed Emotions on Withdrawal's Eve
The spectacle of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza has evoked a variety of emotions from American Jews who follow the drama from afar.
Many of us grieve at the loss of homes and the sacrifice of decades worth of building as the Jewish communities there are dismantled. Others are happy that the burden of staying in Gaza has been lifted from the shoulders of the Israeli people.
But the truth is that all of us should be viewing events there with both of these perspectives in mind.
Even the most hard-core peace sympathizer needs to understand that the Jews of Gaza were sent to this place by Israel's government. Most of these settlements were, after all, founded by Labor Party governments in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, and not by their right-of-center opponents. Critics of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement scheme are also probably right when they predict that the Gaza pullback will not result in a lessening of Arab pressure for more concessions.
At the same time, the most fervent opponents of Sharon must try to look past the suffering of the displaced Jews and understand why so many people are ready to part with the area. The majority of Israelis - no matter how they feel about the decision to leave Gaza now - almost always viewed the densely-packed area as a security and demographic nightmare.
It's one thing to point to the threat from terror groups in an independent Gaza, but critics have no answer to the question of what Israel is to do with an extra million hostile Arabs within its borders if it doesn't withdraw now.
What is clear is that no matter where you come down on the wisdom of what Sharon has promulgated, it must be admitted that there were no other attractive options available to him or to Israel.
There's little doubt that the coming year will bring new security and diplomatic challenges. But however passionate our feelings about the Gaza disengagement might be, the time will come again when what will matter will be our support for Israel and its people, and not the debate over the wisdom of this move.
An Educational Challenge
As this week's collection of local education stories shows, Greater Philadelphia can boast of a variety of Jewish institutions that serve the needs of families in our region. But as much as we can be proud of these schools, we must also face the fact that there are still many Jewish children out there who are not getting a quality Jewish education.
Part of the blame for this ongoing problem are issues surrounding cost, both in terms of the exorbitant tuition fees required by day schools and even lesser, but still considerable, funds associated with synagogue membership and supplemental schools.
As much as we are right to focus on ways to create more scholarship money and subsidies for tuition, let's not forget that the primary obstacle to better Jewish education begins and ends at the same place where Jewish identity is created: the home.
The painful truth is that unless parents convey to their children the value of their heritage, nothing else will convince them of the value of what they are receiving.
As we approach the new school year, our community would do well to ponder the need for more educational funding, as well as the imperative to make the quality options of day schools affordable to all who seek them. Nonetheless, let's remember that the front line of Jewish education isn't in the classroom, it's in the home.