Israel’s Safety, Israel’s Soul: Hopes and Fears in Contemporary Israel

By :  The Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Nov 21, 2013 / 5774 | Israel

On November 18, 2013, the Jewish Theological Seminary presented a provocative, illuminating, and critically important discussion between two starkly contrasting voices in Israeli society.

 Should Israeli society be more concerned about the price of being too weak or too strong?

 What are the responsibilities of a country under existential threat in terms of both morality and security?

 Starting from shared realities, what radically different conclusions do Israelis reach if they fear more for Israel’s safety or Israel’s soul-and can they find any common ground?


Yossi Klein Halevi is a visiting professor of Israel Studies at JTS and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His powerful new book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, has been called “the Israeli epic” by Michael Oren, who just completed serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Mr. Halevi is a contributing editor of the New Republic, and writes for the op-ed pages of leading American newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He has been active in Middle East reconciliation work, and serves as chairman of Open House, an Arab Israeli-Jewish Israeli center in the town of Ramle. A native of Brooklyn and son of a Holocaust survivor, he moved to Israel in 1982.

David Senesh is an adjunct assistant professor of Pastoral Care at JTS this fall, and a lecturer at Levinsky College of Education in Tel Aviv. A clinical psychologist, he conducts research in narratives of trauma and resilience and in the field of restorative justice and conflict resolution. He is a member of various professional groups actively dedicated to human rights and to opposing occupation and the practice of torture in Israel. Born in Israel, Dr. Senesh was a prisoner of war during in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He is the nephew of the late Hannah Senesh, whose mission in Europe during World War II made her a national hero of Israel and the Jewish People.

Rabbi Julia Andelman, director of Community Engagement at JTS, moderated.

This program was cosponsored by the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS, and was supported by the generosity of an anonymous donor.

The annual Gerson D. Cohen Memorial Lecture at JTS was established in 1993 by the Honorable Howard M.Holtzmann, honorary chairman of the JTS Board of Trustees, as a tribute to the late Gerson D. Cohen,who served as chancellor of JTS from 1972 to 1986.