Reprinted with Permission (emphasis mine)
Engaging With Israel: Challenges and Opportunities for American Jews
Discussion with Peter Beinart at CCAR Convention, New Orleans
March 30, 2011
By: Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
Chevre: This feels really good. It has been seven years since I have addressed so many rabbis in one place at one time. Thank you for inviting me.
Thank you also to Peter Beinart. It is good to see you again. You are among friends here. We cherish debate. And we welcome, and thank you, for these opportunities to dialogue together.
You can hear variations of the following conversation every day in our rabbinical work: A rabbi asks a congregant: “How are things going at home.” “In a word,” the congregant responds: “Good.” And in two words, the rabbi asks: “In two words, “not good.”
There are some good points that Peter raises. Let me briefly address these first:
One: Peter is right to emphasize that values matter. Jews, especially, cannot retreat from the struggle for human dignity, decency and democracy. Nor can we overlook our own misdeeds, even if they are painful to admit.
Furthermore, the high moral ground is not merely the most pleasing and values-compatible place to be, it is also a matter of national security for Israel. The perception that Israel is a decent and moral country is the key ingredient of American political support.
Two: I agree with Peter that in the long run, continuing Israeli rule of Palestinian-inhabited territories is untenable. Israeli leaders from Rabin to Sharon, from Barak to Olmert and Netanyahu – have all cautioned that the very nature of democratic Zionism is threatened. They have all, therefore, agreed to a two-state solution.
Three: Peter is right to emphasize that settlements are an important component of the Palestinian/Israeli dispute and a two-state solution will require dismantling some settlements.
Four: Peter is right to point out that we must pay close attention to the next generation of liberal Jews.
Five: Peter rightly encourages us to reflect more deeply on whether the “Jewish Establishment” – whatever that means – is, in fact, as broadly representative as we thought.
So – what is not-so-good in Peter’s analysis? I will highlight four points:
One: The Jewish Establishment
As I read it, the main assertion of his important article, entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” is that the Jewish Establishment bears central responsibility for pushing Jews – especially young Jews – away from Israel.
Fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster – indeed have actively opposed – a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank.
Come on: You mean to tell me that if we only criticized Israel more our Jews would be less alienated from Israel; that the reason they are becoming alienated is because we are all marching in lockstep with some neo-conservative philosophy that has overtaken American Judaism?
There is alienation occurring; there is a distancing taking place, but it is not because of AIPAC or the American Jewish Committee or the Jewish Establishment. It is because of what we rabbis confront every day.
Anyone who has spent any time with liberal and progressive Jews knows that identification with Israel tends to be in direct proportion to identification with Judaism. Identification with Israel is the consequence of Jewish identity, not its cause – especially for younger Jews. American Jews identify with Israel if they identify with Judaism. If they do not identify with Judaism they tend not to have strong feelings for Israel.
There are studies that support this – I draw your attention to some recent surveys: the Brandeis group: Still Connected; Cohen and Kelman, Beyond Distancing, Barack-Fishman: Reimagining Jewishness, and Ukeles Associates’ Young Jewish Adults in the United States Today.
While the data are mixed, there appears to be a certain consensus that the roots of alienation have practically nothing to do with the Conference of Presidents or the ADL – but rather – that assimilation is the root cause of alienation.
What we are experiencing in our individual synagogues is occurring throughout the country: a fight to keep Jews affiliated and a shift in the attachment of those who are affiliated from the communal arena to the personal sphere – a form of religious identity that is the norm in Christian America.
What did we think? That year after year and decade after decade of assimilation would not eventually take its toll and finally express itself in multiple ways? The discussions we are having about the URJ and its future are a reflection of these mega-trends.
To suggest that these historic changes are occurring because of AIPAC or the Jewish establishment is wrong. The so-called Jewish Establishment does not create Jews nor is it responsible for their alienation. All that the Jewish Establishment does is to harness Jewish energy that has already been created and leverage that energy towards broader goals.
Among the key forces that actually creates Jewish identity is us: synagogues. And therefore – with respect to Jewish identity and attachment to Israel, rabbis, collectively, have more influence on future trends than the national Jewish Establishment.
In the United States groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents patrol public discourse, scolding people who contradict their vision of Israel…
So what? That is their job – to lobby for their views. I have heard a lot of scolding from the opponents of AIPAC too – actually more.
AIPAC is a broadly representative body of that part of American Jewry that is politically, religiously or institutionally active. If it is influential it is not because they patrol the mean streets looking for unruly liberals, but because they broadly represent Jewish opinion on Israel and do an effective job. We ourselves, Reform rabbis and leaders of the URJ, are on the AIPAC board.
You can say a lot of things about us, but you cannot credibly claim that we have been snookered or intimidated by a cabal of neo-conservatives who have silenced our voice, and this is what is causing progressive Jews to become alienated from Israel.
Two: Red Lines
I believe in pluralism; I believe in dialogue and I believe that the Jewish community is better served when it has the broadest possible organizational representation: And even if I didn’t believe this – so what? Can anyone prevent Jews from talking and organizing?
But I have red lines.
- If Jews, in the name of Judaism and the Jewish community, advocate boycotting Israel;
- if they lobby for UN and international sanctions against Israel;
- if they propose divestments;
- if they pressure Congress to reduce foreign aid;
Then – the organized Jewish community – what Peter calls the Jewish Establishment – must oppose these forces with everything we’ve got. Scolding them is the least of it.
First: because these views are marginal in the Jewish community.
Second: because these views threaten the very existence of Israel. I draw the line at restricting Israel’s right or capacity to defend itself.
And third: these views are morally outrageous, especially if you express them in the name of the Jewish people.
Not in my name.
Anti-democratic regimes are boycotted not democracies. Libya should be sanctioned, not Israel. Myanmar should be boycotted, not Israel. Divest from China if you care about human rights, not Israel.
The idea of an international order might be good in theory. In practice, when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, the UN often resembles a den of iniquities producing a din of inequities.
Until Gadaffi’s bloodbath, Libya was a member in excellent standing of the UN Human Rights Council. 155 states voted Libya in. The Goldstone Report emerged from this forum. The flotilla investigation emerged from this forum.
In January, a month before the outbreak of violence in Libya, the following members of the UN Working Group reviewing Libya praised Libyan human rights efforts: Algeria, Qatar, Syria, North Korea, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Venezuela, Cuba, Egypt, Iran and Myanmar.
And it is democratic Israel that should be boycotted?
In the midst of revolutionary uprisings exploding in the Arab world, the UN Security Council voted on condemning settlements. Are you kidding? Many Jews urged the Administration not to veto the resolution and allow it to pass.
Freedom forces are fighting to break the shackles of authoritarianism in the Middle East and in the midst of all this the UN is attacking the region’s only democracy: and Jewish organizations, in the name of the Jewish people, are lobbying for American support for the resolution?
These revolutions sweeping the Arab world lay bare the preposterousness of the argument that we have been subjected to for so many years: that Israel causes the anger on the Arab street.
It is now clear for all to see. The primary cause of the anger on the Arab street is corrupt Arab regimes that cannot deliver food, medicines and decent standards of living to their populations. You mean to tell me that a few apartment complexes in Gilo – or Maaleh Adumim – or even Ariel – is what caused the Egyptian street to revolt? You think that the Libyans in Benghazi care about the Jews in Efrat? If Israel plays any role at all – it is that Arabs look at Israel and ask themselves: why over there and not over here?
How preposterous it all seems now. While brittle Arab regimes were oppressing hundreds of millions of their own citizens there was barely a blip in the international community; the moment the streets explode, the UN votes to condemn Israel?!
It is reflective of the mass confusion of our era when we allow a small democracy fighting for its life in the world’s worst neighborhood to be savaged as if it were an anti-democratic dictatorship; savaged by forces that are themselves anti-democratic dictatorships and who perversely appropriate the very language of human rights that we progressives developed over centuries of hard struggle.
It is not the language of liberal Zionism that has been drained of meaning, as you write, Peter; it is the language of human rights that has been drained of meaning.
Three: Context Matters:
Oscar Wilde attributed to Thomas Carlyle the idea that you could write an entire biography of Michelangelo without mentioning the artistic works of Michelangelo.
Reality is so complex, said Carlyle, and so fragmentary, and history is so simplified, that you could write a history of Michelangelo’s dreams, a history of his medical conditions, a history of the mistakes he made – but never actually mention the sculptures of David and Moses or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
And such a biography might be true in every last detail, but the net effect would be to portray a false impression of Michelangelo.
This is what often happens when activists – Jews and non-Jews – speak about Israel. By obsessive focus on Israel’s failings, by singling Israel out as if she alone has such failings, even if these failings are real; by refusing to take into account the unique context under which Israel labors – these accounts become distorted and deceitful.
It is not “shaa don’t talk;” not at all. It is that if all you talk about is Israel’s failings, you are distorting the reality. And it is not enough for us to say that we are simply repeating what many Israelis themselves say.
When Haaretz writes an editorial or when a member of Knesset gives a speech, or when Israelis protest on the streets, these are processed through a shared context of love for Israel and a strong Zionist identity. The identical words here are understood in an entirely different way.
We know this from our own personal lives. It is one thing if our spouse or partner tells us what they consider the truth about our failings in the privacy of our home. It is quite another thing if our partner were to say the identical words at a board meeting that was convened to discuss our contract – let alone – if these statements were to appear on the front page of the local newspaper.
And let us not be seduced by the rather condescending argument that we are helping to save Israel from itself. I think that Israel has done a pretty good job saving itself in the past six decades.
It is not a political tactic: By joining those who speak only of Israel’s faults and not the enormous contributions that Israel has made to the welfare of Jews and the world; by allowing unimpeded Israel-bashing masquerading as justice, human rights and international law, we distort reality.
And it is our role – and certainly the role of the Jewish Establishment – to put the discussion about Israel in proper and more balanced context. If not us, then who? Life is about context. Truth is about context. In Israel this context is already taken into account when people protest and assert rights. But abroad, the context is often dominated by Israel’s enemies.
Even if you were to concede that Israel has made mistakes, surely it is not Israel’s fault alone that there is no peace. After all, it takes at least two to make peace. You cannot make peace only with yourself. Often people talk about how Israel should do this and Israel should do that as if it is in Israel’s power alone to shape events. As we speak the Palestinians refuse even to negotiate with the Israeli government.
Most Israelis are desperate for peace. Is it that Israelis like sending their children to fight and die in wars? Surely, there is some fault on the other side as well, no? And isn’t that also part of the context?
There is a campaign to delegitimate Israel. To deny this is to deny reality. There is a campaign to weaken Israel. There is a campaign to portray Israel in the most negative light possible. This is an existential threat to Israel – a far greater threat than apartment complexes in Efrat, which in any case, will remain in Israel upon the permanent resolution.
We rabbis, the Jewish Establishment, and all others who define themselves as pro-Israel – cannot place ourselves in circumstances where we actually give aid and comfort to those who seek Israel’s destruction, or weaken Israel in any way, especially in its capacity to defend itself.
4. Liberalism and the Youth
Because [the younger generation’s] liberalism is real, they can see that the liberalism of the American Jewish establishment is fake.
As a liberal, I recoil at the characterization that the liberalism of the Jewish establishment is fake, and it is the youth who represent true liberalism.
I was once in college. Some of us are not necessarily proud of the positions we held in our salad days, when we were young and green in judgment. As important as the youth are to the future of the world, they are not always right, as each of us is not always right; and they are not decision-makers in a complicated world where theories meet the ultimate test of reality, and thus, over time their positions often change.
Mark Twain wrote:
When I was fourteen my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Peter, himself, has changed his thinking dramatically in the last seven years.
In fact, seven years ago, when Peter was the editor-at-large of the New Republic, he might have been able to give my speech this evening. Seven years ago, in 2004, he wrote an important essay entitled: “A Fighting Faith: An Argument for a New Liberalism.”
Peter wrote these soaring and inspiring words:
Islamist totalitarianism…threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world. And as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism’s north star. Methods for defeating totalitarian Islam are a legitimate topic of internal liberal debate. But the centrality of the effort is not. The recognition that liberals face an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush should be the litmus test of a decent left.
Now, like anyone, Peter is entitled to change his mind. Still, his argument seven years ago did not constitute fake liberalism. It was real; it was compelling – and it is the liberalism we need today more than ever.
Israel is on the front lines of the free peoples of the world facing down what you, Peter, called Islamist totalitarianism. It threatens Israelis like no other people in the world. It is right across the border, coming ever closer to the heartland, casting a deepening shadow over the Middle East and slowly surrounding the Jewish State. And as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be Jewish liberalism’s north star.
Methods for defeating totalitarian Islam and other threats to Israel are a legitimate topic of internal liberal debate. But the centrality of the effort is not. The recognition that Jewish liberals face an external enemy more grave and more illiberal than Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman should be the litmus test of a decent left.
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Enjoyed the speech. It sums up the situation quite well.
Writing from England, were the anti-Israel (and anti-Jewish) sentiment has become all pervasive, and the observations made by Ammiel Hirsch, all too recognisable, it is heartening to read this.
>Anyone who has spent any time with liberal and progressive Jews knows that identification with Israel tends to be in direct proportion to identification with Judaism. Identification with Israel is the consequence of Jewish identity, not its cause – especially for younger Jews. American Jews identify with Israel if they identify with Judaism. If they do not identify with Judaism they tend not to have strong feelings for Israel.
No shit. Now let’s see if Hirsch will ask the *really smart question*, which is: what conditions among American Jewry have fostered such a high rate of assimilation?
>The so-called Jewish Establishment does not create Jews nor is it responsible for their alienation.
Wrong! It is quite responsible for their alienation, responsible for building a Jewish world in which there is no place for a young Jew who wants to live as a Jew *and* as a member of broader society. The Jewish establishment believes that a Jewish life runs as follows
2. Brit milah (for men)
3. Jewish day school (costing thousands upon thousands of dollars per year and restricting where the parents can live to a small set of costly upscale locations)
4. Bar/bat mitzvah
5. More day school (to teach you what all later steps will simply expect you to know).
6. Either move on to yeshivah, or spend a year in Israel before college (those who take neither path on this fork are considered to begin the assimilation process; *aliyah* to Israel is accepted happily but not quite openly encouraged).
7. Continued involvement in Jewish life throughout college (in a form which presumes all the above steps were completed, *Batei Hilel* are godawful at *qiruv*).
8. Locate the mythical creature known as the “nice Jewish boy/girl”, preferably without engaging in secular dating or, God forbid, premarital sex.
9. Marry via a halakhic wedding (if you’ve gotten all the way up here, this is the easy part).
10. Have children. Recurse onto step (1) of children’s lives.
At some point, a paying career was hopefully obtained to support the spouse and children, but as usual The Plan doesn’t go so far as to actively help in obtaining what it later requires.
What you should notice about this life-cycle is that it’s *restrictive* (well beyond the restriction imposed by say… being Modern Orthodox or *mesorati* in Israel) and *costly*. *This* is why young Jews now assimilate, *because they’d rather assimilate in whole or part than confine themselves to such an over-constrained life*.
I attended this event at the CCAR convention last week. I am an early signer on to Rabbis for Israel, and I was somewhat skeptical of Peter Beinart going in. However, I have to admit that he gave an excellent speech and there was nothing that he said that I could disagree with. I was disappointed that Ami Hirsch did not actually reply to Beinart’s point – which was that the current position (which Hirsch propounds) is NOT resonating with American Jews, especially those under age 40, and, if we want to have a pro-Israel US Jewish community, we need to go about it in a different way. I would hope that We Are for Israel would ask Peter Beinart for a copy of his address, so that both could be presented here, side by side. Finally, I would disagree with the force of Hirsch’s point regarding attachment to Judaism and engagement with Israel. Many Jews, in this generation as others, define their relationship with Israel as their sole tie to Judaism. It is disingenuous to say that these Jews are disaffected with Judaism and so they are disaffected with Israel. It flies in the face of programs such as Taglit/BirthRight, which aim to use Israel to strengthen the ties to Judaism.
At the moment, I do not have any way of getting Peter Beinart’s presentation. I will see if I can find it somewhere. If nothing else, I could link to it if it can be found online.
Funny how I’m 21 and most of the young Jews I know agree with everything written here on this blog post.
Dr. Harold Goldmeier, wrote a response to the Haaretz article PUBLISHED in Haaretz, and
Subject: Beinart’s attack In a recent article, Peter Beinart is quickly becoming the intellectual spokesman for the new left establishment trying to have their voice heard over the old Zionist establishment that supporters Israel right or wrong. In his two most recent articles in the last ten days or so, he has turned his attentions to Israel.
Today, in Haaretz, but also in the general media he holds nothing back in his painting Israel as doing no good for American prestige and power among Muslims. He can find nothing more to blame on Israel than for what P.M. Netanyahu did not say to Pres. Obama at the White House this week. No mention of a Palestinian state or discussion about Gaza at a joint press conference are adequate grounds to accuse Netanyahu of treating the President like a schmuck writes Beinart.
Israel just can’t win with people like Beinart. There is no pleasing Beinart. Well Beinart is the schmuck. He reminds me of the Palestinian woman interviewed on NPR who complained that the IDF does not rape Palestinian women, because their women aren’t good enough to be raped by an occupying force. Whoever heard of such a thing, she screamed. Our women are not pretty enough or human enough to be raped by Israeli soldiers according to this Palestinian knucklehead.
I think Beinart is confusing Americans’ lack of concern about the survivability of Israel as a nation with a lack of interest by Americans. Sure there are existential threats to Israel, but Americans are worried sick over their faltering economy, joblessness, and the high cost of health care if they can get it all. Israel has survived for more than six decades, and her future is not dependent upon the formation of another Palestinian or Arab state; that’s just not high on the agenda of young Americans or American Jews.
Could Israel be doing some things better? Of course Israel is not perfect, and her leaders say some awfully stupid things that a better public relations program at the very least would improve her image. But attacks from our friends demonstrate how free speech thrives in Israel unlike in her enemies’ countries.
According to Beinart, a false liberal cannot be an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. He doesn’t define me or my politics. An American liberal can be for the war in Iraq and against it in Afghanistan; for pro-choice, unemployment benefits, child welfare support, and an avid supporter of American aid to Israel.
There is anguish among American Jews, but we always worry about everything, and no people has a greater guilt complex than Jews–thanks Mom. Mr. Netanyahu and Pres. Obama focused their public remarks on the Iranian threat of nuclear destruction in the Middle East and its potential for making dirty bombs that could be easily transported anywhere in the world. then you will see anguish.
Beinart must have been too busy to hear the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. who publicly told Congress that the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose (according to Eli Lake in The Washington Times). Or how about the reports that Egypt will not open it’s locked and sealed borders crossings with Gaza, and pleads with Israel not to loosen her borders with Gaza for fear of Hamas getting too much a political jump start from winning political points while the P.A. festers.
For the record, Mr. Beinart, a schmuck is an insult usually meaning an obnoxious, contemptible person who is stupid, foolish, or detestable. Did you really mean to call our President that; or, did you mean he was treated like a shmendrick, best defined in The Joys of Yiddish as physically impressive but a weak person who has not yet grown up (politically wet behind the ears). A cute description would be of a woman who beat her shmendrick of a husband who crawled under the bed. “Come out!” she cried. “No!” he said. “I’ll show you who’s the boss in this house!”
No, Mr. Beinart, neither of these gentlemen is a schmuck or a shmendrick. They are two powerful leaders trying figure out how to survive in a world where the Flintstones have automatic weapons and nuclear bombs.
Dr. Harold Goldmeier Chicago, Ill. 773-764-4357 firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Goldmeier was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University where I earned a Doctorate in Education, and taught as an Assistant Professor at Tufts Medical School. He taught public elementary school, worked in government and education for nearly two decades, and in business for nearly three. I am married more than forty years, have children living in America and Israel, and a son who recently served with the Israel Defense Forces. He has published more than two dozen articles in professional journals and popular magazines and newspaper, is now a writer, consultant to government agencies, and to small businesses on economic growth and marketing.
Here is a reaction from a 21 Year Old Jew, and President of the Bates College Hillel.
I could not disagree more with Mr. Hirsch’s second half. It is precisely Jewish leaders like him that not only alienate young Jews from Israel, but also from Judaism. I think he is entirely mistaken about the influence that AIPAC’s staunchness has on alienating Jews from discussion. Such a removal from the halls of debate creates an apathy towards the entire subject. I have no doubt that there is a strong correlation between religious orthodoxy among youth and support for Israel. I strongly doubt that this is a causal effect as he hints.I also believe that he entirely fails to recognize the rainbow of ways to affiliate with Judaism. Religiosity is one dimension. Cultural and traditional affiliations are others. In fact, he believes support for Israel to be drawn on religiosity; I emplore him to consider the views of secular Israelis and Israeli youth. I have no doubt that they have strong support. Sure, he can pull back and defend such naivety in terms of the American Jewish youth. He is still wrong. I am a young Jew with a strong Jewish Identity. I am not religious. I do, however run a Jewish community. I can tell you that AIPAC and the Jewish Establishment have pushed me out of their conversation so far that they have just about cut of any affiliation I had with Israel. It is very difficult to affiliate with a nation whose representatives preach their disrespect of you. Israel not only welcomes the Jewish establishment that does so, but is making efforts to deligitimize the up and coming Jewish establishment that is trying to bring the liberal youth who still identify with Israel and Judaism back into their rightful place.
I also strongly disagree with his arguments about the role of the Jewish establishment. He is correct in saying that AIPAC has the right to lobby for what it believes. It does not, however, have the right to act as the Jewish Lobby. I pay no dues. I refuse to sign their membership list. I refuse to be counted among those whom they claim to represent, yet simultaneously ignore and insult. Worse, the Jewish establishment, by claiming such universal authority, has cut from the fold any doorway by which dissent might enter conversation. The Jewish establishment is at fault.
Hirsch acknowledged Beinart’s claim to involve the youth. He is ignorant enough to include only the youth that he defines as religious and hence identifying with Israel. Have fun recruiting at Brandeis and Penn. Just realize the thousands of activists who will take up arms in NGOs to fight him. When he claims to observe the diaspora of opinion as witnessed through his congregants, he fails to realize the sample bias inherent in his unworthy survey. Perhaps there is a third variable that is effecting both the willingness of young Jews to support Israel, as well as the likelihood of young Jews to attend synagogue in the first place. Perhaps at the root of this is the Very Jewish establishment he wishes to vindicate. I am not interested in hearing his sermons. For I know that they will insult my integrity, my identity (of which he claims I have none), and my Jewishness, which rests on a greater sense of morality than most of the Jewish establishment wishes to recognize. For, true following of the morals of Judaism require that we uphold others dignity not just when convenient, but universally. The progression of Human rights in Palestine is impeded by the juggernaut of Jewish extremists building moral forts in the form of settlements. It is politically inconvenient to challenge them, and hence, the moral harms to Palestinians are often not worth considering legitimate by the Jewish establishment and right. Reality Check… Morality is not a pick and choose topic.
I am sick of being told that I am a minority within the Jewish world view. I am only a minority in the samples of which the Jewish establishment collects. Broaden your definition of who is Jewish. Include those who consider themselves Jewish. Those who practice Judaism through culture, religion or tradition. Include the youth. Stop the gerrymandering of Jewish public opinion. You will see that the Jewish establishment is not only not representative, but offensive in its efforts to cast out the voice of so many.
Mr. Hirsch. You and the Jewish establishment are succeeding. Your unwillingness to count me and my contemporary peers as Jews with a voice worth hearing is making me question my Jewish identity. You are winning the battle in so far as many youth now are too saddened to speak, knowing their words will be silenced or insulted by Allan Dershowitz or AIPAC. I ask you, however, to consider who you will be able to claim amongst your members? If you alienate all who wish to partake, you will have a gentleman’s club of self righteous zealots. You will not have respect. You will cut the roots of young Jews who will lose their grounding. You will lose the forest of Judaism and gain a desert with a few prickly cacti claiming to rule the undesirable territory.
Thank you for your response and for your commitment and activism. Please know that your voice is heard.