To the editor:
As I am sure you are fully aware, I never said in my response to Rabbi Boteach that, as your headline puts the words in my mouth, “Jews do not need a state.” I did not make a single policy proscription regarding the very difficult question of how the law should define ethnicity in relation to rights and citizenship in Israel, a question that many thoughtful people are questioning in various ways.
Rather, as I am sure you know, I asked a moral question about what the larger definition of “the Holy Land” might be. This is a term embraced by Muslims and Christian for centuries as well as by Jews, a major historical fact about which your headline writer seems shockingly ignorant. The headline is a serious misrepresentation of my words and I am very sorry that the editor chose to debase this important conversation about the meaning of Judaism and the moral mission of Israel, that many people around the world, not just Rabbi Boteach and I, are having. It is reasonable to ask, as many Jews who care about Israel are asking, if Israel’s mission could be a more lawful and inclusive one and if its policies more aligned with democratic norms in advanced democracies around the world. This is a far cry from the grossly distorted and inflammatory headline you assigned this piece.
Thank you for your immediate correction and for your publication of this letter.
I appreciate your letter. I have been learning a lot from the back and forth between you and Rabbi Shmuley and I agree with your point that it’s been an important conversation not just for you two old friends, but for all those reading it.
I am going to leave the headline as it is. While I take at face value your contention that you meant your words a different way, I think Shmuley is entitled, in an opinion column, to his interpretation of what you meant.
I have, however, printed your letter in full, and I’m grateful for it, and I respect you for engaging in this tough dialog in a blunt but civil way.