Last month, while much of the world was distracted by the holidays, former President Jimmy Carter issued what he called “an open letter to the Jewish community.”
In four paragraphs, Carter expressed his hopes for the state of Israel. He ended the letter with a fifth paragraph that the world quickly came to call an apology.
“We must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel,” the former president said. “I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.”
The statement might be better termed a confession. Al Het refers to the Yom Kippur prayer recited by a supplicant who begs God to forgive a sin.
In the weeks since, the abrupt nature of the Carter statement has led many to speculate about its purpose and the former president’s motives.
What very few know is that this first step toward reconciliation was the private initiative of several influential members of Atlanta’s Jewish community, whose ties to Carter date three decades and more.