Why Diaspora and Israeli Jews should care about Arab-Jewish coexistence.Why should Arab-Jewish coexistence within Israel be important for Diaspora and Israeli Jews?

What’s at stake?

Why is this issue so important and yet at the same time so neglected by the American Jewish Community as well as by Jewish leadership in Israel?

What’s at stake is the preservation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We once had a member of Knesset named Meir Kahane, who became famous for saying that democracy and Judaism are diametrically opposed to each other. He was repudiated and not allowed to run for Knesset again. His party, KACH, is beyond the pale in Israeli political life. Instead, the mainstream in Israel realizes the need to have a Jewish state that is both democratic and Jewish.

What’s at stake is the maintenance of Jewish values: treat the stranger who dwells among you decently, for “you were strangers in the land of Egypt;” “do unto others as you would want others to do unto you;” “love your neighbor as yourself”.

What’s at stake is the very future of the State of Israel. The problem of living with minorities in Israel will only get worse, perhaps even threatening the very survival of the state, if we don’t begin to deal with this in a serious and systematic way now.

What’s at stake is our Zionist vision of the kind of Jewish state we want to have. A Jewish state that is particularistically Jewish but at the same time universally significant – a “light unto the nations”, i.e., a country and society that fulfills a universalistic role, sending a message of freedom and justice for all people within its boundaries, a country in which Jews, Muslims and Christians are respectful of the beliefs of others, and united in reverence for this holy land.

This may not be everyone’s Zionist vision of what the Jewish state should be, but I believe that it is the vision of the majority, both of Israel’s Jews and of its Arab citizens. It is certainly my vision.