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Rabbi Fred's Dispatches from WZC

RABBI FRED SCHERLINDER DOBB’S DISPATCHES from the WZC

October 2015 (as sent daily on the Adat Shalom listserv, lightly edited since)

Monday night, 10/19/15:

Friends -- from Jerusalem, Monday night: 


Despite jetlag, my day began at 6:45am local time, courtesy of a very loud trash truck just outside my window.  How ironic, I thought, to be in Israel to advance Green Zionism, and be awakened by what is at once a symbol of unsustainability (for in the closed-loop systems enviros advocate there'd be little need for such trucks), and also a symbol of good stable society (for until we close the loops of our systems, we all want our trash picked up!).

It then continued with nine straight hours of meetings with leading Israeli environmental leaders -- including Green Party (which ran in coalition with Labor last election) leader Yael Cohen Paran, who was expected to become the newest Knesset member, filling the seat now being vacated by new JNF exec and exiting Labor MK Daniel Atar -- she had been the next on the list, last election night, and we were possibly the last folks she spoke with before entering the legislature!  

We learned of solar successes and challenges from entrepreneur/activist Yossi Abramowitz (who sends regards to Rabbi Julie and to Minna ;-) ... got rich perspectives on the environmental movement from dynamic leaders like Dr. Orr Karassin and former Jerusalem deputy mayor Naomi Tsur, and from the Heschel Center's brilliant Dr. Jeremy Benstein (who sends da"sh to everyone he met on our last Israel trip and when he's visited Adat Shalom, along with Minna, Sid, and Irma and Bob :-) ...  heard about the transformative impact of Shmita Yisraelit and of the major Hakhel celebrations just organized by Einat Kramer ...  brainstormed ways to address the dangers of fracking with activists from the Golan...  and much more.  Kudos to party organizer David Krantz, of Aytzim.org, for pulling such great folks together.

Whether our tiny party is able to advance and pass any resolutions at the WZC, or not, it was worth it for the learning and sharing and knitting together of the global Jewish environmental movement that took place today -- ironically, across the street from the heavily guarded Prime Minister's residence, in themoadon of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society ;-).  And I'm thrilled that the Green Zionists have officially made common cause with Ameinu and ARZA -- now the three lists with the most Reconstructionists (and personal friends) on them are all in one sacred progressive Zionist bloc. 

And mazal tov to our own Judy Gelman, on being elected to the WZO executive!  Exciting news, and hopeful, since the WZO is the leading target of the "transparency" effort, so the world can know just how much goes to the settlement division.  With that issue on the table, the current wave of violence, and the horrific killing of the Eritrean refugee-seeker, it'll be interesting to hear PM Netanyahu in the morning....  All day and night, tomorrow, at "Binyanei Ha'Umah," the International Conference Center.  Wish us luck!  

l'shalom,     Rabbi Fred

PS -- I'm staying with old friend, current rabbinic student, former Adat Shalom Torah School teacher, and treasured Jewish environmental colleague, Laura Bellows, in Baka.  She's studying this year mostly at the Conservative Yeshiva -- and who taught there today, to a joint seminar of rabbinic students from four major seminaries, but Rabbi Deborah Waxman, RRC President?!  She got incredibly high marks for her eloquent articulation of dynamic, progressive, serious, evolving Judaism...  

Tuesday night, 10/20/15:

Overwhelming; ridiculous; remarkable; anachronistic and archaic, painful; awesome.  By turns, these descriptors and more came to mind for the first full day of the World Zionist Congress.  Some quick snapshots:

            PM Bibi Netanyahu was by most accounts (a) predictable, giving essentially a stump speech; (b) deep in his relatively-right-wing narrative, even as he faces pressures from those yet further to his right; and (c) not particularly energetic or eloquent today.  [Note, there was little buzz at the time about the crazy Mufti flap; only slowly did the magnitude of his mistaken effort become clear, trying to paint the Palestinian and Nazi narratives together into one].  So I don't feel bad for missing his opening session.  Why did I, along with my co-alternate-delegate Evonne, miss it?  Because the WZC is a balagan (mess) – even after registering two months ago, with all needed info, we simply didn’t show up on their ‘confirmed’ list.  Even after that snafu was taken care of and our badges finally issued, we still weren't on the list that the Israeli secret service had, at the checkpoint to screen entry – so we stood in the sun for 45 minutes waiting for the one person in the entire system who could vouch for us to security's satisfaction.  Oh well.  It was the only sun we got; the rest of the day was intense, and indoors.

            For those in the Jewish world, it was a bit of a reunion party -- hugs and hellos to dozens of old acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.  Long conversations, not so much; though RRC President (and my classmate) Rabbi Deborah Waxman and I got some nice time together.  But the presence of so many familiar faces was a boon, since the main effort of our small 3-person delegation was pounding the hallways, seeking signatures on our petitions, to advance resolutions at the last-minute, in a way that smaller parties tend to have to do (only "world union" slates with partners in at least 5 countries have full access to channels ahead of time; that does include our partners Ameinu/Hatikvah and Artzeinu/ARZA, but not the Green Zionist Alliance).

            Rewriting Schoolhouse Rock, the process here is byzantine.  First, today, we needed to collect signatures from about 1/8 of the total number of delegates (50 confirmed signatures from among the 500 official voting reps, with overage necessary because so many signatures get thrown out), deliver them in time, and rely on the good graces of the staff in the resolution room.  It took all day, but through great grit and teamwork (and with just minutes to spare), David and Evonne and I defied expectations, and placed four resolutions before tomorrow's committee.  These were:  one, to establish a renewable portfolio standard for the Zionist institutional sector, to use ever more renewable energy; two, to take climate change into account for planning purposes, including establishing a baseline; three, to require new JNF, JAFI, and WZO buildings to be LEED certified so as to waste less energy; and four, to have JNF/KKL never frack on the 13% of Israeli land over which they have control, and to oppose fracking efforts upland and upstream from their lands.  Call it Zionism-for-the-Long-Term...  

            All comes down to tomorrow's three-hour committee meeting, with an average of only ten minutes per item, and with items including some hot-button issues like a proposal deeming as anti-Zionist (and thus to be cut off from the WZC and its institutions) any group advocating even selective BDS, such as refusing to buy goods produced only in the contested/occupied/Judea-Samaria territories -- advanced by the party headed by the chairman of tomorrow'ssession, an outspoken right-winger (who I'd already dusted it up with after objecting at a lunchtime press briefing to his repeated monolithic description of today's "Muslim-Arab war against the Jews").  And in this system, committee chairs are given wide latitude in how to run the gathering.  Kudos to the Ameinu team (including Judy Gelman here, plus Karen Paul Stern, Haya Laufer, and Rabbi Sid on the slate), for leading the opposition to that one, and introducing a counter-resolution.  We're in it together, Ameinu/Hatikvah, and the mostly-Reform-plus-some-Recon ARZA, and our scrappy little Green Zionist Alliance.  Expect fireworks.  We'll have lots more to report tomorrow!  Blessings, all...  

l'shalom,     Rabbi Fred

Wednesday night, 10/21/15:

Shalom all, from Jerusalem, just hours before the final sessions of the World Zionist Congress.  Judy's email (copied below) well captures the day, and the feeling inside the rooms, noting how the experience was different across each of the eight resolution sessions.  Here I share the important events that I saw unfold during those hours.  After that long and convoluted but fascinating bit of Zionist politics, comes a thought about Jerusalem, then a reflection on coming home.

ZIONIST DECISION-MAKING (SUCH AS IT IS ;-)

            Of the eight groups tasked with sifting through resolutions -- whose range and randomness Judy so poignantly described -- I and my Green Zionism colleagues were in the one addressing the very meaning of Zionism -- "The Central Subject: Zionism, Without Pause".  (No, I didn't make that title up; larger-than-life images of Herzl against the new pedestrian bridge at the city gateway, with that "Non-Stop Zionism / Tziyonut L'lo Hafsaka" phrase, have been plastered all over the city).  Ours too was selective, skipping around at the chair's discretion, getting bogged down on four controversial issues, to the exclusion of others.  At least, unlike some rooms, ours remained quite civil -- but ours ended up taking votes on just half of the 18 resolutions before us; the rest go the leadership "Va'ad" next year, where who knows what will come of them, if anything.  

            The first one we took up, though #13 on our docket, was to seek UN classification of Jews as a group indigenous to the land of Israel -- not to the exclusion of any other group, the sponsors said, but a designation needed to change both our self-image and the image others have of Israeli Jews as European colonists and then refugees, rather than as folks who have returned to their ancestral homeland (though can't both be simultaneously true?!).  It was debated endlessly, with some good points made along the way.  Once satisfied that it was not a "wolf in sheep's clothing" resolution, the "whip" of the liberal (ARZA/Ameinu/Green) group -- which was a plurality but far from a majority in the room as in the Congress, made a last-minute decision:  rather than the previously-agreed "vote no" stance, it was now "vote your conscience."  Interestingly, the Mercaz/Masorti/Conservative delegates still voted against it as a bloc, even as smaller right-wing parties voted in unison for it.  But since the liberal coalition vote was now split, that's what gave this resolution its narrow edge, 30-25-2.  I was proud of the effort towards unity, which and showed the progressive Zionists stretching toward the center, where possible.  It struck me as coalitional politics, with greater respect for either the group or the individual depending on the level of urgency of the matter at hand, at its best.  

            Speaking of Jewish unity, the second extensively-debated resolution had that in the title, though it was introduced by a right-wing Orthodox party, and it called for a unanimity of effort and even of rhetoric in a "pro-Israel" direction.  This, the kippah-wearing British "World Union of Jewish Students" delegate noted powerfully, was not only a very un-Jewish thing to do, but it would actually make it harder to stand up as a Zionist, since one of our movement's points of pride and key strengths is precisely the diversity within.  Even after amending it to strip the explicit insistence on lining up "with the Israeli government", too many groups could not see themselves voting for it, and the "Jewish Unity" resolution failed.

            Third, an ARZA-introduced resolution to affirm the centrality of Israel's Declaration of Independence in global Zionist educational efforts, passed -- but only by a three-to-two margin, and only after much debate (which included expression of fears that in focusing on the Declaration, Zionist institutions would be open to lawsuits from those who'd claim to be denied "equality" as promised in the Declaration, such as a gay woman rabbi who wouldn't be hired by an orthodox shul!).  Here, again, the internal divide was noteworthy -- much of the Zionist right, including Likud and other parties who have pointedly avoided enshrining the Declaration of Independence as a "Basic Law", feels that the 1948 text was too soft, and gave too much away; the Zionist left (and most of the center) cherishes it by its original title "Megilat Atzmaut, the [sacred] Scroll of Independence."

            And the other long-debated resolution was to call for restitution for Jews from Arab lands who were forced to flee in and just after 1948 by a wave of anti-Zionism that spilled into anti-Semitism -- and who, by many estimates, numbered about as many (between 600,000 and 850,000) as the best guess of the number of Palestinian refugees from 1948, who also fled (due to a mix of still-hotly-debated factors, with blame enough to go around to all involved).  Though this issue has been raised mostly by right-wing voices as if to balance out any future Palestinian claims to restitution or to a right of return, there is no denying the truth of the matter.  One older delegate shared her memories of growing up in Egypt, having her father unjustly imprisoned for a year and a half, and having all their property confiscated as they fled to Israel.  The core concern of the liberal parties was a line that insisted on recognition of the matter and of our right to restitution "as a precondition to comprehensive peace talks" -- which one delegate eloquently suggested was a mistake, "because both the matter of restitution and any possibilities for peace are too important to wait for any other matter, including each other -- we should pursue either one whenever and however possible."  His proposed amendment to strike that "precondition" phrase, in a pleasant surprise, passed -- after which the resolution calling for education and advocacy around the wrongs done to Jews in Arab lands in and after 1948 passed unanimously.  Very impressive.

NU, THE ENVIRONMENT?

            And about our four green resolutions?  Well, I'll tell you ;-)  Our meeting happened to be chaired, as previously agreed under a proportional rotation system, by a delegate from perhaps the most right-wing of all parties in the room.  We were worried going in, and not without reason.  But while clearly being strategic about cutting the right's losses once he read the tea leaves, and leaving some hoped-for liberal resolutions behind, the chair did an admirable job of keeping the conversation civil, and giving everyone something to feel good about.  After the unanimous vote on the Jews from Arab Lands resolution, he quickly pulled up two "that shouldn't require much debate", again out of order, and asked the room to quickly address them -- and they were two of ours!  

            So suddenly, we were called on to introduce them:  One, establishing a baseline measurement of the carbon footprint of the entire WZO/JAFI/KKL/JNF Zionist apparatus, and then insisting on taking climate change into account in all future planning efforts.  And two,defending Israel's precious watersheds, by asking the KKL (Keren Kayement L'Yisrael which is the on-the-ground arm of the global JNF or Jewish National Fund) to never use hydrofracturing (fracking), nor to ever use in-situ-underground-heating, to extract fossil fuels from beneath the 13% of Israel's land under its control -- and to oppose any such efforts proposed for places upstream of JNF lands (which is most of the country ;-).  Only one concern was raised, namely, that the phrase "may impact Israel's water" wasn't clear or strong enough, so we should make it "may negativelyimpact Israel's water!" -- needless to say, it was accepted as a friendly amendment.  

            Both resolutions passed by an overwhelming majority, 50 to 2.  We were thrilled.  Remarkably, one of those two no-votes came from the chair himself, who had sole discretion over raising or burying these resolutions!  So the ones about renewable energy and green buildings, alas, went unexamined, and thus effectively died in committee.  But still, two of the resolutions on which we worked so hard -- and "we" very much includes Judy, along with Ameinu faction leader Kenneth Bob, and others, with our great gratitude! -- sailed through.  They are now in the stack of approved resolutions to be voted on by the full body in just a few hours.  I'll keep you posted.

OH, JERUSALEM

            Like most others, the long bus ride to the south that was the planned evening program couldn't compete with other choices, especially for we who had zero time for anything outside of the conference.  I joined some acquaintances on a long walk: to and through the shuk / market, to help drive the local economy (yes my chocolate and halva purchases were a pure expression of Zionist commitment ;-) -- and then continuing on foot through the heart of the new / western side of this beloved city, all the way through the center of town, to the edge of the Old City, through Jaffa Gate, down along the main shuk, up over the rooftops, to the overview above the Kotel (Western Wall) and Har HaBayit (aka Haram al-Sharif, aka Temple Mount).  

            As it came into view, one of my companions wept at the sight.  It was a quite a moment, and touched me deeply.  

            I had been reluctant to make the pilgrimage:  not out of any sense of fear for our safety, despite the recent rise in violence; we actually felt quite safe the entire time, though aware that such safety came from short-term fixes like more checkpoints, more restrictions on Arab travel, and more Israelis in uniform, armed, everywhere.  Rather, I had a quotidian concern, since walking there and back would make me quite late for dinner at an old friend's house in West Jerusalem, quite a ways away.  I went there just the same, drawn for just two reasons:  to be in solidarity with my colleagues; and out of a sense of history (it would’ve been my first of ten or so Israel visits without the Old City).  

I even admitted en route that I had not had a spiritual experience at the Kotel in eons -- the site is distractingly contentious between liberal Jews who seek egalitarian access to the Wall, and the ultra-Orthodox men who currently set the rules there -- and it is dangerously contentious between Muslims and Jews, who cannot agree on the ownership, history, control, future, or even the very name of the site.

            But standing there -- overlooking the beautiful dome erected by our Muslim cousins in the year 691, towering over the stones Herod placed there seven centuries earlier, to hold back the earthen platform on which the Holy Temple stood -- is inherently moving.  And my colleague's tears moved me even more, reminding me of the sacred power of a place which has been loved, prayed over, bled over, imagined, and reimagined into something truly holy, even as it may also be a place of strife.  It touches the heart and the spirit, as well as the mind and the conscience.

            As I bade them -- colleagues, Dome, Wall -- farewell, and wended my way through the Jewish quarter to the Zion Gate and back out to the new city, I found myself softly singing.  It was the refrain of a dramatic post-1967 song about that very spot, and those who had just fallen there, "Hakotel" -- Yesh anashim im lev shel even; yesh anavim im lev adam -- "there are people with a heart of stone; there are stones, with a human heart."  

FROM THE HOMELAND, RETURNING TO HOME

            Tomorrow, soon after the Congress closes, I'll head straight to the airport.  As I've often said, we as Jews have more than one home, at least in potential: Takoma Park and Tel Aviv both have their charms; Bethesda beckons, but Beersheva awaits us as well.  

             I'd have loved to enjoy a bit of time on the ground at either end, but this was a trip with one critical communal purpose -- upholding Zionism, specifically PROGRESSIVE Zionism, specifically GREEN Zionism, in this unique only-twice-per-decade (and for many of us once-in-a-lifetime) way.  I could this, without missing either simcha at either Shabbat, before or after.  My long-layover flight brings me home just before Shabbos, so I'll ask you to attendFriday evening's Israeli-wine-tasting-Kabbalat-Shabbat in my stead...  But I'll be there with bells on (if with toothpicks in eye sockets following jetlag and an exhausting-though-exhilirating Congress) come Shabbat morning, as we celebrate Gabe Marks becoming bar mitzvah, and discuss the "Lech Lecha" story of the very first monotheists to build a connection with this remarkable land.  

            How apt, that the WZC takes place in this week of Avram and Sarai:  the very folks whose tale marks the mythic beginning of the ever-evolving, needing-improvement, often-too-narrow, contentious, sacred movement that we call Zionism.  May we each understand, even as we stand in different places relative to it, how that story is indeed our own.  

           

            l'shalom,     Rabbi Fred

 

 AND A BONUS:  SUMMARY OF THE TALK BY HAVER KNESSET ISAAC HERZOG

            This morning, opposition leader Herzog was eloquent in both languages.  You've heard from Haya and Judy both, about how he attacked the Prime Minister's apparently ahistorical effort, two days earlier, to pin the Nazi's "Final Solution" of 1941-45 on a Palestinian leader.  That's what he singled out in English.  In the much fuller Hebrew address, he also spoke of the "sad story of Zionism," in which we can and should be an "or l'goyim", beacon of light to the nations of the world, but so often find ourselves bickering with one another instead.  

            He used the key phrase "tzedek chevrati", "social justice," thrice in a row, underscoring how Labor is trying to hold onto the energy of the 2011-12 "tent protests", and does claim some of that effort's leaders as their own.  He spoke of the "erosion of the democratic basis of Israel," an accusation against the Israeli far right with which most American Jews who follow these things would agree.  He emphasized how we must change the current political situation, by working with Palestinians toward a two-state solution, for there is no other way to remain a democratic-Jewish state.  

            He also argued for the critical need to develop "the periphery" (towns in the Negev and in the far north), rather than continuing to build up settlements inside the West Bank.  And he got major applause from the Mercaz/Masorti (Conservative) and ARZA/Artzeinu (Reform-plus-Recon) factions for speaking to the need for religious pluralism.  

            He ended by addressing "the challenges that lie over the horizon," identifying the need for Jewish education that increases both Jewish and Zionist identity, coupled with efforts to reform and improve Israel from within, so that we can wear those labels proudly.  I was proud to join in the standing ovation that we (some though not all of the delegates) gave him....

JUDY'S EARLIER LISTSERV MESSAGE:

On 2015-10-21 11:11pm, Judith Gelman wrote:

Today started extremely early.  Factions started meeting at 630 am to discuss their strategies  for the 8 committees that would deal with resolutions. Some factions are more homogeneous than others. The faction that includes Labor, Meretz, the Greens and the Reform movement has some significant points of disagreement regarding core issues and so the bargaining was pretty intense.   
                  By 10 am, we had climbed many flights of stairs to go from our faction meeting space to the auditorium for our general session of the day.  Binyanei HaUma—the Jerusalem convention center—is remarkably lacking in accessibly by US standards.  There are elevators but they are tucked far away at the periphery of the building.  This is another huge cultural difference that we as Americans just take for granted—that a person with mobility issues will be able to navigate public spaces.  
                  The leader of the opposition, MK Isaac (Bougie) Herzog was the speaker at the  only plenary session of the day.  He started in English—to make clear his absolute rejection of what Bibi Netanyahu said the previous day about the mufti's authorship of the "final solution".   As you all know, what Bibi said about the mufti is now huge international news, with Angela Merkel weighing in and stories on the front page of many papers around the world.  The rest of Bougie's speech, in Hebrew, shared his vision of a difficult kind of Israel than the one Bibi is trying to forge. 
                  The congress then broke into 8 committees, considering 12 to 30 resolutions each.  The procedures in these committees are "chairman's rules" so some committees rule by Robert's Rules and some run by autocratic procedures made up on the fly.  If the chair leaves, even to use the facilities, the vice chair can take over—even briefly-- with completely different rules.  Yes, it does make the US House of Representatives seem like a well-oiled machine.
                   A fellow delegate told me that his committee had a very light agenda of 12 resolutions but only made it through 4.  My committee had an unimaginably heavy load of 30 constitutional amendments to consider and made it through all 30, with 3 minutes to spare.  How did my chair do it? He severely limited discussion and forced up or down votes.  A positive vote means that the resolution will go to the full congress tomorrow.  A negative vote means it won't—unless someone in the  faction that proposed the resolution yells out "Votum Separatum" (VS) as soon as it is defeated and before another resolution is brought forth.  If there is a Voter Separatum (and there ALWAYS IS), the resolution goes to the plenum, living a sort of zombie half-alive/half-dead existence.  The committees reflect the make up for the plenum so it is very very rare that a resolution defeated in committee will pass in the congress, but it can occasionally happen. However, usually it does not and so a tremendous amount of time gets wasted on these zombie resolutions.    
                  The votum superatym  is an arcane World Zionist Congress procedure , adopted from Austrian parliamentary procedure in the late 1800's.  Austria has moved on from this odd parliamentary loophole, but it continues to exist in the world of zionist politics, courtesy of Theodore Herzl.     The only way to kill a resolution dead is to never consider it in committee at all.  Thus, in my friend's committee, 8 resolutions died from neglect.  In my committee, all the "defeated" resolutions will come to the floor tomorrow in this "zombie" status.  A few were tabled, to be considered by the WZC's General Counsel when it meets next years.  
                  By the way, had the chair of my committee truly objected to, say, resolution #6 in the list of 30, he could have skipped it, go on to #7, dawdled and never come back to it. Or he could have adjoined the committee with time to spare and resolutions still unconsidered.  That is how arbitrary "chairman's rules" can be.  
                  After a truly terrible boxed lunch of very bad lunch meat (and a "vegetarian" option of TUNA—I am wondering what Rabbi Fred ate!), the delegates were invited to board buses to go tour of the Gaza Periphery.  The buses were projected to return about midnight.  Having done this same tour last January and with tomorrow's meetings starting at 630 am, I took a pass.  I had coffee with some friends and then dinner with other friends.  The bus still won't be back for at least an hour. 
                  Shalom.    Judy 
 
 
 
FRIDAY OCT 23
 

Shalom from 38,000 feet, on the way home.  A few closing thoughts about the WZC are here.  First a disclaimer:  as I write this in the final hours of a long way home, with a long layover and with the airline's promised purchasable wireless on board not working, I am utterly out of touch -- I don't know if something big might've happened in the world, of if Judy has already posted something like this or even something different, or if the Jewish press and blogosphere have begun saying important things about the WZC...  in any case, it's composed en route, to be sent when wireless resumes shortly before Shabbat.  Hope to see many of you on Saturday morning....

            1 -- the final speeches.  All important people, almost all male, almost all saying predictable things.  LIke Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (noteworthy for being secular in a city with a massive religious Jewish as well as Arab population, though also quite right-wing) celebrating tourism and Jerusalem as the "eternal and undivided capital of Israel" (suffice it to say that the truer something is, the less often it needs to be repeated; the claim of 'undivided Jerusalem' rings hollow to those like me staying anywhere near the north-south line that divided it until 1967 saw just how divided it remains).  And like Soviet dissident hero turned conservative legislator turned Jewish unity advocate as head of JAFI (the Sochnut, the group we work with to bring the likes of Sahar and Erez to these shores).  And like Moshe Ya'alon, the very hawkish defense minister, whose long speech was an eloquent impassioned and eminently debatable message of "we're right, they're wrong."  Then there was the outgoing director of the WZO, whose life story had some impressive highlights; I know, because he deemed it appropriate to share with us each and every one of them...  

            2 -- voting -- the speeches.  Did I mention long speeches?  Sailing through the resolutions process the day before were scores of resolutions that garnered the majority of the fairly-representative room, along with a dozen or two placed there by someone calling "Votum Seperatum" and enabling it to reach the ballot without any wider support.  Each of these was subject to an up-or-down vote only, with no discussion -- except, that members of the Zionist Executive were allowed to make a pro- and a con-speech before each if they so desired (as they often did).  Occasionally they were fiery and memorable or eloquent and thought-provoking -- occasionally.

            3 -- voting -- the process.  Did I mention a lot of resolutions, a hundred or so total?  And was it clear that we're talking about an auditorium full of over a 1000 global Jewish leaders, all with strong opinions, with few if any shrinking violets within?  Yup.  Balagan:  chaos, disorder, ridiculousness.  It was for moments like this that the word ‘balagan’ was coined, and became a household term.  Best of all, this was the first congress which attempted electronic voting; it was clear that a percentage of the e-units were failing, and some votes were uncounted.  The decisions about which votes to let stand and which to redo were contentious, loud, and memorable.  And between the long speeches and the insanity of voting, no surprise, we didn't get to nearly all the resolutions -- ending up partway through the resolutions of the sixth group; those of the 7th and 8th, including critical issues of policy and transparency among which was the all-important question of calculating and publicizing how much actually goes to the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, were left to the Zionist Executive to handle on their own when they meet next year.

            4 -- voting -- the outcome.  Still, it was a remarkable happening, with some real accomplishments to show for it.  The two green resolutions which were the main focus of my own efforts and presence there, sailed through, with 97% majorities, and are now "Zionist policy," hopefully to leave lasting impact on the sustainability of our little corner of the universe.  Important efforts, often championed by the Hatikvah activists (whose power in the Congress came disproportionately from a stronghold in one little Bethesda shul), succeeded -- like an explicit commitment to LGBT equality; an insistence on avoiding politically charged language when discussing the political conflict; a redoubling of the importance of Israel's democratic as well as Jewish character; an effort to focus on Israel's (impressive and progressive) Declaration of Independence in future Zionist education; supporting increased separation of religion and state; calling for the establishment of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall (with a great 382-163-6 supermajority!); and barely squeaking by, a call on Israel "to refrain from steps that might be detrimental to the delicate fabric of therelationship with American Jewry," and to engage in dialogue with the full ideological spectrum of the diaspora.  These are huge...

            5 -- the closing.  Not much to say; it fizzled out, already running late, with folks running for delegation debriefings and whatnot.  My green trio joined with the ARZA closing, which clearly had a lot to celebrate:  success on most of their efforts; the largest single representation at the Congress; great steps for progressive world Jewry; and a central position in the largest alliance out there, including the great folks of Ameinu, Meretz, and the Green Zionists ;-)  Four green leaders (3 Green and 1 ARZA, COEJL’s Liya Rechtman) then had dinner together to talk about keeping the movement strong going, both in the States and in coalition with our Israeli partners.  Indeed, the effects of the 'networking' we all did there may be the greatest legacy of Zionist Congress XXXVII ;-)

            6 -- my closing.  What a simultaneous mix of ridiculous, and awesome.  It was open to special interests, yet broadly democratic.  It lent disproportionate power to its internal "old boys club," even as clear minima for each slate and other affirmative action efforts are improving the representation of women and young people.  Its gains can be easily undone, yet the potential for change was amazing.  It was real. It was a great opportunity to connect with old friends and acquaintances and allies, and new ones, and to broaden our perspective.  It was a powerful place to argue about what is Zionism, and to sing Hatikvah.  And I'm honored to have been a part of it.  

            7 -- going forward.  Blessings to all who voted, and talked it up, and thus enabled folks like Judy and I to be there -- and next time, we'll try even harder, motivated by having seen the number of resolutions won or lost by a handful of votes (in one case, the margin was just one!).   I had to cross a hundred rowdy hard-right activists, leafletting to “not employ the enemy” and “hire only Jews”, there clearly to intimidate the 20% of democratic Israel’s citizens who are Arab (and succeeding), just to get to the bus to whisk me to the airport:  It was a final stark reminder of how contentious “Zionism’’ still is; let us not concede this sacred ground to the many in our midst whose values would point Israel and Zionism in a different direction altogether!

So keep making a difference, for Israel and the Jewish people as well as for those around you and the world, wherever you can -- and, for sure, in fora like the World Zionist Congress.  Shabbat shalom...