In this spring holiday season, when Jews celebrate the delivery from slavery to freedom and Christians celebrate the resurrection, it is appropriate for each one of us to consider what we can do to bring peace to the Holy Land. Recently, we represented Madison at the J Street Conference, along with 2,500 others (including 650 college students) from the U.S. and many other countries, in a concerted effort to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.
For the past four years, J Street has provided an alternative Jewish voice to present a pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy, two-state solution to the crisis in the Middle East. At the conference we heard from luminaries, such as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; President Obama’s most trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett; and Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) and Palestinians from organizations as small as NGOs up to members of the Israeli Knesset. The common theme was that we already agree on how to solve the decades-old Middle East crisis. The maps are drawn and majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. However, there is a failure of leadership on both sides, as well as internationally, to follow the will of both peoples and to implement a just, secure and enduring peace.
On the last day of the conference, hundreds of J Street members met with over 200 members of Congress to send this message and influence U.S. policy to promote this solution. Our Wisconsin delegation met with our own congresswoman, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and also with Congressman Ron Kind, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and Sen. Herb Kohl. With each of them we engaged in important dialogue about how the U.S. can help the parties take the appropriate measures to achieve peace. These measures include Israel refraining from building more settlements in the occupied territories and Palestinians recognizing the need for Israeli security by ensuring that they do not have rogue elements lofting bombs into Israel.
The two of us are working to increase dialogue in Madison about J Street and its mission to create a just and secure peace in the Middle East. Watch for J Street events in the coming months to learn more, or go to: www.jstreet.org.
Eli Gold and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick are members of the Madison J Street group.