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Rabbi Neal Gold

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View of coastal Netanya Israel with both industrial buildings and lush beaches in view

It’s almost Shabbat in Netanya, a coastal town in central Israel, and I’m with Rabbi Edgar Nof, the Energizer Bunny of mitzvot and inclusion.

The synagogue where Edgar works, named simply Natan-Ya, is a boxy building that was Haganah headquarters in the days before the Independence. Next door is a school that, in those pre-state days, was occupied by the radical Zionist organization Lehi. The mainstream Haganah and the extremist Lehi were bitter rivals. Edgar smiles: “Even then, left and right were fighting each other.”

Netanya doesn’t seem like the cutting-edge of...

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Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993

“There is a short road that is actually long, and a long road that is actually short.” -- A young boy to Rabbi Yehoshua, Talmud, Eruvin 53b

The play “Oslo” opened recently on Broadway: a timely, talky drama set in 1993 during the secret talks between Israelis and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, at a time when it was illegal to speak to the PLO, which rightly was considered a terrorist organization.

Like many shows and movies – “Titanic” comes to mind – the playwright has a challenge from the start. Everyone knows how the story ends: on the White...

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Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “I would like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone who may show me kindness.” “Yes, daughter, go,” she replied. -- Ruth 2:2

It was summer 2014, and Israel was at war. Tourists were sparse and so were volunteers. I was in a field outside Rehovot, picking daloriyot (butternut squash) alongside a dozen other visitors. And I was thinking of Ruth the Moabite.

In the Book of Ruth, which is read on Shavuot, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem from their tragic sojourn in Moab, and Ruth goes to the fields to collect...

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Four young children, each on his/her stomach resting arms on a book

The Land of Israel is a ghost throughout the haggadah, even as it is a constant presence in the background of the Passover story. Liberation isn’t solely freedom from Egyptian bondage; it’s also intentional direction toward Sinai and the ultimate arrival in the Promised Land. Yet Eretz Yisrael itself is rarely mentioned in the haggadah text.

But the whole mission of the seder is to interpolate our questions, values, and thoughts about freedom into the story. As the haggadah itself says, “The more you expand on the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy you are.”...

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Rabin Square in Tel Aviv

The publication of Dan Ephron’s Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel is timely, coinciding with both the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination and with waves of violence in Israel at the hands of Jewish extremists.

Ephron begins with events leading to the signing of the historic 1993 peace accords on the White House lawn, setting the Middle East off in dizzying new directions. Suddenly, nations around the world were making diplomatic overtures to Israel. The accords triggered a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994 (the first Arab state to...

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