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Only by Ending the Occupation and Embracing Equality Can This Terrible Bloodshed End

Jul11

by: Rebecca Vilkomerson on July 11th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

The last several days have been devastating. The weeks leading up to it have been horrifying. Since the beginning of the Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014 upwards of eighty Palestinians have been killed and approximately 500 wounded by Israeli missiles and two Israelis have been wounded from rockets fired from Gaza. We have watched with sadness and anger as the deaths of children have mounted, racist mobs have rampaged, the fears of people throughout both Israel and Palestine have reached unbearable levels, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people has intensified.

Jewish Voice for Peace Protesters

Credit: Creative Commons.

In just the last few days, scores of Palestinians – with no place to hide – have been killed, while the entire population of Gaza experiences the terror of widespread bombing. Israelis have had to endure the fear of never knowing when or where the next rocket will fall.

What is worse, reports from Israel and the Jewish Daily Forward (http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war) in the United States are now confirming that this entire escalation was artificially created by Israeli political leaders and built on a foundation of lies.

None of this should be happening. As we mourn all who have died, we also reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality.

To end violence – and truly mourn its victims – we must acknowledge, and challenge the root causes beneath it. The Occupation, with U.S. military and financial support, is the root cause. The daily structural violence of the occupation systematically denies the very humanity of Arabs, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others. Our unshakeable belief in justice – as Jews and as human beings – compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation over the well-being of Palestinians or Israelis. Where our leaders have so thoroughly refused that truth, it is our responsibility to hold it up.

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Haughty Eyes in Murrieta

Jul9

by: Alan Bean on July 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

(Cross-posted from Friends of Justice)

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NRSV)

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.

Everybody can define “hottie” these days; but the old-school word “haughty” doesn’t come up much in casual conversation.  If you’re not familiar with the term, the Merriam-Webster dictionary provides a simple definition:

Having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people.

If you would like to see haughty eyes, look no further than the faces of the men and women protesting the arrival of migrants from Central America.  The woman who screamed, “we don’t want you; nobody wants you!” may have believed she was speaking for the entire nation.

She wasn’t.

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Religion: The Gatekeeper and Denier of Human Rights?

Jul9

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on July 9th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The past few weeks have left me nonplussed regarding basic human rights and those decrying “infringement of their religious liberties.” It is difficult for me not to see organized religion as the common denominator of discord in the form of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and even further marginalizing those living in poverty.

Currently, President Obama is working on an executive order with the goal to be diverse and inclusive: federal contractors must not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Am I the only one who feels that this seems like basic common sense and good leadership? I thought our world leaders were charged with the task of expanding human rights and advocating for targeted populations. Sadly, “religious leaders” such as Rick Warren and Catholic Charities insist that this effort of equity infringes on their religious liberties. Need we remind Catholics of what religious infringement might look like, a la The Crusades and The Inquisition? You remember The Inquisition – those madcap Catholics just providing “tough love for heretics,” Jews, Muslims, and anyone not willing to convert to Catholicism.

In the wake of the foul Supreme Court decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which seemed like a decision made on behalf of the Catholic Pope, I am in a state of worry about how thoroughly religion dictates human rights and which religion(s) shares disproportionate power.

My understanding is that the executive order (which is not in a final draft) will not force heterosexuals to have sex with or marry people of the same sex. It will instead allow LGBTQ people a source of income – to be granted employment. Denying people employment and a way to sustain themselves and their families seems to run contrary to how I understand the purpose of religion. It leaves me asking: “who does your God hate.” Is God about hate? If we continue to travel down a road of “religious infringement” based on people who are different, how does this help to create a peaceful community of people? How does this help humans share a planet and create space for differences?

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Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: The Holy Cobbler with a Secret

Jul8

by: Shaul Magid on July 8th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

 

Credit: Creative Commons

The day Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi left this world I happened to be mostly in transit. I took two books with me for the day; David Macey’s biography of Frantz Fanon, and R. Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezritch’s Hasidic work Maggid Devarav le-Ya’akov. When I heard the sad news on the train, feeling quite alone, I did what any hasid would do when he heard of the death of his rebbe. I took out a Hasidic work and began learning. I found myself somewhere in the middle of Maggid Devarav le-Ya’akov. It did not really matter where. The simple act of learning Hasidut on that lonely day enabled me to believe that somehow I was participating in the separation of body and soul that the tradition teaches occurs during those first hours after someone’s death. Naïve, perhaps maybe even a little delusional, but it gave me solace nonetheless. At some point I came across a teaching that jumped off the page in the way it seemed to capture what Reb Zalman gave to the world. Below I offer a translation of that lesson and a few observations as my parting words to him and, more importantly, as words to those of us who now have the responsibility to carry his message to the post-Zalman era of Jewish Renewal, may it live a long and healthy life. I dedicate this to Eden Pearlstein, Chani Trugman, Shir Yaakov Feit, Adam Segulah Sher, and Basya Schechter, Paradigm Shifters, each and every one.

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Final report from Jerusalem

Jul8

by: Cherie Brown on July 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Dear all,

Credit: Creative Commons

It is Tuesday morning in Jerusalem and I fly home to DC early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. It is hard to believe a month has passed.  I am sad to be leaving Israel, to be leaving all the people here I love, the views of the Old City from our apartment window, the sights and smells of the Shuk (the Marketplace), and all the beauty and the complexity of this wonderful, ancient place. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to coming home.

This last week has once again been a week of amazing contrasts. This past Tuesday night, we were on Jaffa road (where our apartment is).  We were just walking to dinner, when we got caught in an ugly, racist mob scene with hundreds of young, mostly Orthodox Jewish men, throwing rocks, pulling Arabs out of stores, shouting,  ”We want revenge” and “Kill Arabs,”  and waving banners proclaiming,  ”We are all Kahane”.  I have never been more pained– or more terrified.  What has happened to our people?

The horrible events of the past week, the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers and the horrific revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager only added to the information I had been receiving all month from the tours to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, and the Negev.  All together, each event and each tour has given me a stark, realistic picture, not only of the horrors of life for Palestinians under the Occupation, but also, the depth of collusion, rigidities, and racism of the settler movement, the Israeli army, and the Israeli government — and it’s leadership.  The events of this past week only confirmed what I was already learning and witnessing on the ground all month.  

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Why Choosing to Believe in God can be a Rational Decision

Jul6

by: Catherine Lasser on July 6th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Evolutionary psychology provides evidence that choosing to believe in God can be a rational decision. Rationality can be defined as reasoning based on empirical evidence. The empirical evidence of evolutionary psychology demonstrates that there are three kinds of relationship: power, accountability and mutuality.

They are summarized in the chart below:

Relationship

Evolutionary

Value

Situation

Involves

Moral Implications

Power

(us-them)

(i.e. Richard Dawkins)

Survival of the fittest

Competitive

Self-Interest

and

Dominance

Human Rights

Empowerment

Accountability

(me-us)

(i.e. Joshua Greene, Robert Wright,

E.O. Wilson)

Individuals who cooperate with each other are more likely to survive

Cooperative

Rewards and Punishments

Greatest good for the greatest number of people

Mutuality

(I-Thou)

(i.e. John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth)

Parents and infants who bond with each other are more likely to have infants who survive

Love

Care for another

Equals

Care for self

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you


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A New Litmus Test on Israel

Jul4

by: Ron Skolnik on July 4th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Just as a litmus test determines where a chemical is on the spectrum from acidic to alkaline, many American Jews seek to label perspectives on a scale from ‘pro’ to ‘anti’ Israel. Jewish reactions to the divestment resolution passed at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) show that it’s time for the Jewish community to recalibrate its litmus test on Israel.

The 2014 Presbyterian General Assembly (US)

Credit: Creative Commons.

The feature resolution at the General Assembly, approved after hours of consideration by a narrow 50.6% majority, was number 04-04, “On Supporting Middle East Peacemaking”. The resolution’s key operative paragraph called for the PCUSA’s divestment from three corporations – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola – on the grounds that they provide products and services that reinforce Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories beyond the 1967 Green Line.

As expected, the resolution’s passage was met by angry reaction from many in the American Jewish mainstream, who claim that the decision had now aligned the Church with the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a loose network of groups around the world that, by and large, can arguably be labeled ‘anti-Israel’: Global BDS groups, as a rule, assign blame exclusively to Israel, imply that Israel was ‘born in sin’, and remain suspiciously reticent to specify if the end-goal they seek allows for Israel’s continued existence.

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What It Would Take to Make America a Democracy—Reflections for July Fourth

Jul3

by: Elliot Sperber on July 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »

As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the United States – and as economic reports, our ballooning prison system, and a barrage of climatological studies, among other pieces of evidence, lead ever more people to consider whether our collective way of life is in need of a fundamental transformation – an examination of the ostensible objects of our celebration (independence and democracy) seems in order.

People watching fireworks from behind a fence

Credit: Creative Commons/buildscharacter.

Aside from the concept of independence (and the question it implies: independence from what?), democracy, it should be remarked, is an especially vague and ambiguous concept.

Because democracy can refer to egalitarian, emancipatory politics, as well as to the political-economic systems of slavery-based societies like that of the southern U.S. or ancient Athens-an initial distinction should be drawn between egalitarian forms of democracy (which tend to be organized more or less horizontally, with social resources distributed more or less evenly) and what, in practical terms, are really plutocratic societies – or what, perhaps, can be termed market-based democracies (which tend to be more or less hierarchical and representational). And it’s the market-based or plutocratic society that,with only minor egalitarian democratic interruptions and adjustments,exists today and characterizes what democracy has meant since the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the late eighteenth century.

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Feeling Our Pain Is the Way to Peace

Jul2

by: Nitsan Joy Gordon on July 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

On Monday night we found out that the search ended, the three young men who were kidnapped eighteen days ago have been discovered dead, buried in some wadi near Hebron. Apparently they were killed almost immediately after being kidnapped. The smell of revenge is in the air…

In the news some politicians are arguing that the best response is to build more settlements in order to show the Hamas that we are creating the possibility of life where lives were destroyed. Others are talking about increasing public transportation to the settlements so that young people do not have to hitchhike. The Israeli military is destroying homes without any consideration for the law and imprisoning relatives of the murderers, and hundreds of others. Netanyahu is saying, “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.” And Hamas is saying: “All Hell will break loose if you attack.” Planes are flying over us, Gaza is being bombed, and there is a sense that war is just around the corner….

I want to scream ENOUGH to acting out our pain. Can we just take some time to feel it?

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Reflections from Jerusalem: The Murdered Teens, Hebron, and the Future of Israel/Palestine

Jul1

by: Cherie Brown on July 1st, 2014 | 2 Comments »

At four in the morning on Tuesday, I find myself wide awake. The devastating news that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found just came in last night. I had been attending a Teachers’ and Leaders’ class in co-counseling taught by the leader of the Israeli co-counseling community, so we didn’t hear the news until we were in a car on our way back to Jerusalem.

A candle light vigil for the three murdered Israeli teens

Credit: Creative Commons.

Soon after hearing the awful news, a screaming fight broke out in the back seat of the car I was in between two co-counselors. One is a long time peace activist. The other is an ultra Orthodox woman who knew many people in the Yeshiva where the three murdered boys had studied. Each was screaming at the top of their lungs at the other, “You don’t understand anything.” One claimed the other had no sympathy for the murdered Israeli teenagers but only cared about Palestinians. The other screamed back, “You don’t see the outrageous things being done to Palestinians under the Occupation. You have no ability to listen to the other side.” And here I was in the front seat; it’s almost midnight and they are non-stop screaming at each other. The news that the bodies had been found brought up such painful, raw emotion that even these two seasoned co-counseling leaders temporarily could not use their own co-counseling listening skills. I kept thinking how much harder it must be in crisis moments like this for those who don’t even have these listening tools.

There are three events of the last few days I want to write about. All three are deeply etched in my heart as I continue to be confronted by the realities here and search to think through new ways to view what I am learning.

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