Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Around Town: Yossi Klein Halevi comes to town

Last week, New Republic contributing editor, Yossi Klein Halevi, came to town. I was surprised to see other La Cañadans in the crowd when Halevi spoke at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Encino, but on further reflection, my reaction was misplaced. La Cañada Flintridgians are a well-read and inquisitive group. Plus, the event was free.

I went to the event with a friend from Pasadena.

To get to Encino, we took the 210 to the 118 to the 405and avoided the traffic on the 2 to the 134 to the 101, as depicted on my Sprint Centro real time Google Map.

When we arrived, the parking lots were full, the auditorium was full, but we found seats in the back.

There are times when a world class speaker comes to town and the audience just says, "Wow." Yossi Klein Halevi is that kind of guy.

Halevi is an American-born and educated journalist who moved to Israel in 1982. He is the author of several books on Israeli culture and politics. He has been a contributor to both the New York and our mother ship, the Los Angeles Times. He currently is a Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Jerusalem-based research center.

Halevi has street cred due to his activities in Arab-Jewish reconciliation efforts in the Middle East, and related educational projects. His efforts to "to pray and meditate with my Christian and Muslim fellow believers," are reflected in his book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.

Because he is active in reconciliation efforts, Halevi actually listens to others, a habit not often seen in U.S. media. His comments on the recent "Ground Zero" or "Park Avenue" Mosque dispute were clearly critical without personal attacks, and left room for further dialogue.

If there is reconciliation in the Middle East in our lifetimes, it will be due to the involvement of people like Halevi.

Halevi gave an anecdote of his interactions with a Jordanian official who said that the Jews do not need a nation, that just as there are Arab Christians and Arab Muslims, there have always been Arab Jews, and the Jews are merely a religion and not a nation. Halevi told us that this is a common view in the Arab world.

In response, Halevi countered that there are Jewish atheists, Jewish agnostics, and Jews with a variety of religious perspectives, therefore there is Israel is a Jewish nation and that the Jewish narrative is equally deserving of recognition as other narratives. He made the point that at the core of the Middle East struggle is the refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

In his remarks to us, Halevi made the distinction between "peace" and "reconciliation." He said that Yasser Arafat, the late chairman of the PLO, had a vision for peace in the Middle East. Once Israel was destroyed, there would be "peace."

For Halevi, "peace" is not the only goal. The goal is reconciliation.

There was a lot to think about as we drove home. We took Ventura Boulevard to Coldwater Canyon, to the 101, to the 134. On the satellite radio, cable news shows featured talking heads interrupting one another. Charlie Rangel. TSA enhanced searches. The move to defunding NPR. Charlie Rangel. Bristol Palin. The White House. Not much news about the Middle East. No news at all about Yossi Klein Halevi.

We turned off the radio and continued to talk.

Tower of Tuna count, as of Tuesday: 58. Readers are invited to add one or more cans of tuna to the tower being built in the Valley Sun lobby. The food will be donated to a pantry in North Hollywood that serves people in need. To drop-off your donation, stop by our office, 727 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

Around Town: Yossi Klein Halevi comes to town - La Canada Valley Sun

Around Town: Yossi Klein Halevi comes to town -

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