"Etrogize" peace?

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

Every Jewish holiday comes with its set of very particular traditions. There is the carefully-prescribed sequence of shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah, the prohibition on putting anything (even a toothbrush) in one’s mouth on Yom Kippur, the precise order of lighting the menorah’s candles during Chanukah, and of course the uncompromising war on chametz in preparation for Passover.

Then along comes Sukkot, when the focus is the etrog, the yellow citron used as one of the ‘four species,’ plants and fruit ritually used by observant Jews during this holiday. A kosher etrog must pass a battery of tests. It must have the right proportions and color, be free of stains or blemishes, and above all, its pistil end (or “nipple”) must be intact. Hasidic Jews at Jerusalem’s Sukkot markets are often seen holding up magnifying glasses to these lemon-like fruit, meticulously scrutinizing them for imperfections. You don’t want to end up with a lemon. It must be perfect.

And once a perfect etrog is found, it is wrapped in layers of cotton wool and linen and placed in a metal case, from which it will be unpacked with great care for blessing.

That zealous protection of the etrog entered into Israel’s political lexicon some twelve years ago when Israeli pundits advocated protecting then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from pending criminal investigations to allow him to complete Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. It was even made into a verb: l’atreg, which can be translated as “to etrogize.”

While in politics nothing is perfect or sacred, and no one deserves to be wrapped in linen and encased in metal, there are goals and ideals that shouldn’t be compromised. For us, that goal is peace and democracy for a State of Israel that lives by the values shared by Jews around the world.

Today, we face a peace-agnostic Trump administration and a peace-antagonistic Netanyahu government doing all it can to thwart a two-state peace deal. Does that mean we should throw up our hands and throw in the towel? To the contrary. We at Americans for Peace Now – together with our partners at Shalom Achshav, Israel’s preeminent peace movement – vow today to do anything and everything within our power to protect the path to a two-state solution.

We lack a peace to “etrogize.” We yearn for the day when we can define our mission in such terms. But what we can do is work to protect, to “etrogize,” the prospects for peace. It’s not just a matter of keeping hope alive. It’s a matter of keeping the option within reach. It’s a matter of making it as difficult as possible for Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu (together with his hardline government) to slam the door on the two-state solution. It’s a matter of blowing the whistle on Netanyahu’s destructive settlement policies and Trump’s ignorant, irresponsible, and blasé “one-state-two-state” attitude. It’s a matter of educating the public – reminding Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans – that the only viable option for peace is the two-state solution.

We do this uncompromisingly. Perpetually. Even compulsively. Because we know that this is the only way for Israel to survive in the long-term as a secure and respected member of the family of nations, one that is both a democracy and a Jewish state.

To continue to do this work, we rely on your support. As you celebrate Sukkot, please make a generous donation to Americans for Peace Now. Thank you. Happy Sukkot! Chag sameach!

Ori Nir