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A Response from Dr. K

May 11, 2009

A Street Sign on GraetzA number of years ago, we had a bit of a motley crew over for Shabbat lunch.  I remember that my brother was in town, visiting from New York. Another friend, a significant player in the Federation world was also there, as was a high school friend of one of our kids.  And we were joined by one more friend, an Israeli Arab woman whom we’d initially met through my work.

It was an interesting, though hardly relaxed, Shabbat afternoon.  (The conversation took place in English ironically, since even though the Arab woman spoke a mellifluous Hebrew, our American Jewish leader friend didn’t. But the abandonment of Hebrew on the part of American Judaism is a subject for a different conversation.)

Though it’s been years since that lunch, I thought of it again this week, particularly one moment at the end of the afternoon.  Lunch was breaking up.  The Arab woman left, as did our American Jewish friend.  My brother was still around, as was our son’s friend, who, by the way, had been born in Israel and lived here his entire life.  We were all catching our breath from what had been a pretty intense conversation.

Then the friend said, “That was really interesting.”  I, frankly, hadn’t noticed that he was paying much attention to the discussion, and was surprised.  “What did you think was particularly interesting?” I asked him.  “Well,” he said, “I’ve never met an Arab before.”

That line stunned me more than the rest of the conversation.  He’d been in Israel for fifteen or sixteen years, and had never met an Arab?  Part of me couldn’t believe that.  But I knew that it was not only possible, but it’s common.  (Israel’s no different than America in this regard, by the way.  In Los Angeles, for example, how many Hispanics or Asians did I really meet socially?  Very, very few – and in my community, I was the norm, not the exception.)

Why did I recall that conversation this week?  Because I got a response from Dr. K.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for the Jerusalem Post that I subsequently distributed here, about a correspondence I had with a certain Dr. K about the Jerusalem home in which he’d grown up prior to the War of Independence.  (You can read the responses to that column here, too.)  Just as I was preparing to write Dr. K and to tell him about my column, I heard from him.  He’d come across the article on the web, it turns out, and wrote me.  I asked him for permission to post his response here, and he agreed.

I was struck, in reading the many responses to my column that were posted on my site that many of the people writing had probably not ever met anyone like Dr. K before.  Like my son’s friend at that Shabbat lunch long ago, they are passionate about much of what goes on here, but haven’t actually conversed at all with significant swaths of the “players” in his complex situation.

So (yes, with his express, written ­permission), I’m posting Dr. K’s response to my article, and his invitation to others to engage in conversation.  The issue, I believe, isn’t the disposition of his particular house (about which I’ve done no research, as my column was about the uses of memory and how we overcome loss and work for a better future).  The issues that ought to concern us are broader than that.  But feel free to engage him on whatever subject you’d like.  Any comment that’s respectful in tone will be permitted.  In this week prior to Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Reunification Day), what subject could be more pertinent?

As Dr. K asks below, is it possible that we might begin to know each other and to hear each other in ways that we haven’t so far?

I am the Dr. K that Dr. Gordis refers to in his post above. The responses to his column raise so many issues that I find myself unable to respond to all of them. I will be short.

My father had this house built in 1932, and I was born in Jerusalem in 1937. My family left Jerusalem because of the state of war that occurred in 1948. Regardless of why we left (it was not voluntary), why should we lose title to our home because of that war? The Israeli government did not allow us to return to it (nor to pay taxes on it!) after May 1948. To this day we have never been offered compensation nor any acknowledgement by any party for our loss.

My original purpose in communicating with Dr. Gordis was to try and connect with another human being who can help provide me a sense of connection with my home and land of birth. I am a realist and not stuck in living in the past. Yes, I was shocked at the changes that have occurred but who wouldn’t be?

I am interested in a dialogue and not in having people talking at me and telling me how I should be feeling or behaving. I hope we can talk about ourselves and not lecture others. Is this possible in this forum?

Interested in responding to Dr. K?  Post your comments here.

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