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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category

Reclaiming the Language of Jewish Identity


by: Robert Cohen on June 5th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

Sunrise over Mount Sinai.

Radical change in our attitude toward Palestinians isn't a boycott of Judaism. It is part of an eternal and universal Jewish heritage. Above, the sun rises over Mount Sinai. Credit: CreativeCommons / Richard White.

The following post was commissioned by Jews for Justice for Palestinians and published on its site on Sunday, May 24th as part of the JfJfP Signatories Blog series.

As time goes on I’m attracting more and more hostility. This is not entirely unwelcome.

Nothing tells you better that you have arrived on the scene than someone taking the trouble to insult you.

It’s taken me a few years of writing about Israel-Palestine to move beyond a welcoming and supportive readership of like-minded folk to something rather different.

But now it’s happened.

Recently I have been described as a “traitor”, a “Marxist”, “narcissistic”, and “shameful” because I have advocated for boycotts in support of Palestinian human rights.

One Twitter correspondent said my writing was attempting to “groom” a false conclusion, a verb we now use when describing the act of entrapping children with the intention of sexually abusing them. I’m quite sure this was the intended association.

But what is it my critics want me to be loyal to?


What Kids4Peace Can Teach Us About Peace


by: Susan Bloch on June 4th, 2015 | 18 Comments »

An Israeli and Palestinian girl embracing each other.

At Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, the next generation of peacemakers is learning how nonviolent communication facilitates listening and understanding rather than judgement. Credit: Mandy Price.

“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.

It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.


Birthwrong: Meet the Pranksters Celebrating the Jewish Diaspora


by: Hannah Gold on June 3rd, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A swastika with the "No" symbol across it.This piece was originally published on Transformation at openDemocracy.net.

Every summer, young Jewish people from around the world go on a free holiday to Israel. Run by a company called ‘Taglit-Birthright,’ the tours aim to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel”.

The ten day trips are funded by the Israeli government and international donors, and have been criticized for promoting a biased view of Israel, ignoring the state’s complex history and ongoing human rights abuses. Several alternative tours now exist, offering trips to the West Bank and meetings with Palestinian activists.

In early 2015 another contender emerged: ‘Birthwrong‘. Organised by Jewdas, a bunch of radical left-wing pranksters, political commentators and party planners, Birthwrong is “a trip for anyone who’s sick of Israel’s stranglehold on Jewish culture… [a] fiesta of the oppressed, marginalized and ridiculously, obscenely hopeful.”


Zero-tolerance for BDS in Canada


by: Donald Mcgrath on May 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On May 11 of this year, CBC News published an article in which its senior Washington correspondent, Neil Macdonald, wrote that Canada’s Harper government “is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.” Macdonald drew this conclusion after an e-mail exchange with Josée Sirois, an aide to federal Public Security Minister Steven Blaney. Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify a comment that Minister Blaney made in a speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly Session on Anti-Semitism on January 22 of this year. In this speech, Blaney stated that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify what “zero tolerance” meant in this context. He also referred to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Canada and Israel that was signed by Canada’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, in January of this year prior to Blaney’s UN address. The MOU commits Canada to the fight against anti-Semitism and describes the BDS movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.” Macdonald wanted to know if this agreement has any force in Canadian law and if the authorities who answer to Blaney are doing anything about the BDS movement here.


Flying Home from Home (Part 2)


by: on May 21st, 2015 | 7 Comments »

My previous piece about Israel was posted here and included some of my personal experiences of present day Israel and my life as an exile and immigrant. In this part, I take a look at the complexities emerging from the particular national identity that has been forged before, during, and after the establishment of the state of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948

Hebrew has two words for nationalism. They are close to each other linguistically, and far from each other in connotation. One translates more accurately into chauvinism, in that it has distinctly negative connotations. The other, the “good” nationalism, is exalted. This time was the first since I left in 1983 that my visit coincided with the few days of the year where the national identity of a Jewish people fighting for its life against all odds becomes center stage in three separate holidays. Israel was created, after all, to be a Jewish state that serves as the sanctuary for all Jews in the world, a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that defined Jewish life, at least in Europe, for millennia.


“Israel” Is the Name of a People Also


by: Rabbi Arthur Waskow on May 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

We are living between two festivals that make two very different assertions of Jewish identity. One is “Yom Ha’Atzma’ut” (April 22-23); the other is Shavuot (May 23-25).

Yom Ha’Atzma’ut is usually translated as “Israeli Independence Day,” but it would be more accurate to call it “Day for Standing on One’s Own Feet, Day of Affirming One’s Own Essence” because etzem means “bone, skeleton, internal essential structure.”

angel and jacob

What does it mean for the people of Israel to be named "Yisrael" or "godwrestlers"? "Jacob Wrestling with the Angel" by Alexander Louis Leloir. Credit: Creative Commons.

Shavuot has been observed for about 2,000 years as the anniversary of the Revelation of Torah on Mount Sinai.

During these weeks, the most recent Israeli elections culminated in final agreement on a hair-thin governing coalition of 61 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. The resulting government is by far the most right-wing – politically, economically, and religiously – in Israel’s history.

Since the State of Israel claims to be “the Jewish State,” and since its actions certainly affect the world’s understanding of the Jewish people (and for many Jews, our understanding of our selves), it is hard for Jews anywhere to ignore the meaning of these recent changes. Since I have invested my life in drawing upon the past wisdom of the Jewish people, shaping its present, and transforming its future, I certainly cannot ignore these events.

In this I am hardly alone. There have been myriad analyses and essays about the elections and the new government. Almost all have focused on the political implications – for Israelis, for Palestine, for the Middle East, for the United States.

I feel drawn to think and feel in a different dimension. So what I have written below looks into the moral and spiritual meaning of the election in the light of Torah. From the standpoint of the Shavuot we are approaching, what is the meaning of the Yom ha’Atzma’ut we have recently passed? What is our own essence, what are the feet of our own on which we hope to stand?

So I raise these questions:

  • “What does it mean, deeply and fully, for the People, as well as the State, to be named “Yisrael,” “Godwrestlers”?
  • What have been the different effects of post-Holocaust-traumatic-stress on Israeli and American Jewry?
  • Why does the Torah repeat so many times the command, “Treat strangers with justice and love, for you were strangers in the Narrow Land”?
  • What are the relationships among love, admiration, and idolatry directed toward the State?

What actually happened in the recent elections and negotiations toward choosing a new government? The Israeli electorate – especially the majority of its Jewish majority – voted for a racist government. This government is racist toward the Palestinians whom Prime Minister Netanyahu (truthfully, at last) said he will never permit to govern themselves. And it is racist toward the Israeli citizens of Palestinian culture — whose desire to vote to change their lives — VOTE, not riot — he used as a justification for rousing a right-wing racist outpouring of voters for himself.


Israeli Soldiers Reveal the Horrors of Gaza in ‘Breaking the Silence’ Report


by: on May 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A major in Israel’s infantry, who fought in the Northern Gaza Strip during Israel’s assault in the summer of 2014, talks of devastation. He talks of endless barrages, buildings collapsing, city streets being razed by bulldozers, entire neighborhoods erased.

Then he says, You want to hear a joke? You’re reading his words in a report, so you have no choice but to nod as he explains, This is a joke that was popular in the army during the war:

Why do Palestinians only sing the chorus? Because they have no verses left.

The punchline only makes sense if you know that in Hebrew, the word for houses (בתים) is the same word for verses.

The solider tells you this anonymously because he must. You don’t know his name – only that he is “01″ – nor do you know the names of the over 100 Israeli soldiers who recently gave testimony to Breaking the Silence, an organization which normally works with soldiers who wish to reveal the ugly truths of Israel’s occupation.

Now, in a report released this month entitled, “This is How We Fought in Gaza,” Israeli soldiers, their identities hidden, have given the world a window into what life fighting in Gaza often looked like.

The overriding theme is destruction. Pure, unrelenting destruction motivated by fear, by the justifiable desire to minimize military casualties at almost any cost.


Yom HaBilbul: A Meditation on Conviction and Confusion in the Holy Land


by: Rabbi Michael Rothbaum on May 15th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

If you’re not in a rush
take a train
Israel’s trains
take their time through
the countryside


the country has a
rapid transit
of holidays
in the Spring
rushing by like a bullet



Media Alert: Jews Congratulate Pope Francis


by: on May 13th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

Jewish liberals and progressives reacted with enthusiasm to the announcement today that the Vatican will recognize the Palestinian State.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine: a Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, the most prominent voice of liberal and progressive Jews and our non-Jewish spiritual progressive allies, released the following statement on May 13:

“Many liberal and progressive Jews congratulate the Vatican on the important step toward peace it took yesterday in announcing that it will recognize the State of Palestine.

“We have rejoiced in the many steps that Pope Francis has taken to take seriously the biblical injunction to pursue justice and to protect our global environment. Now he has entered a highly contested arena with the courage he has shown on other issues.


Flying Home from Home (Part 1)


by: on May 13th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Banksy eddiedangerous flickr

At a site of one massacre in Bethlehem during the First Intifada, reclusive artist-activist Banksy painted a dove. Credit: CreativeCommons / eddiedangerous.

Like many people who live in voluntary or involuntary exile, I have no real home. Many years ago, while still living in Israel, I heard someone on TV offer a tip: if you feel like a stranger in your own country, he said, move to another one. Because then the feeling and the reality will be congruent. I have thought of this many times in the thirty two years of living in the US, where I have never felt at home despite my ability to write and teach in English; despite my deep connection to so many people and communities; and despite my continued preference and choice for living there. I also think of this tip when I visit Israel, where things are different. Being from Israel is part of me, though I never felt part of it. I feel utterly familiar and even continuous with so much there. I speak and love the language. I have friendships there that go all the way back to my childhood, where mutual understanding is still easier than with my U.S.-based friends even though I have more in common with many of my U.S. friends philosophically and in terms of life choices and experiences. At the same time, when in Israel I also feel alien, distant, and at odds with the culture. The years of living in the U.S. have only intensified this feeling.

Flying home this time, I am awash in the anguish of leaving my sister Arnina behind, my one and only remaining sister after our loss of Inbal last September. For the entire month I was in Israel, we were clinging to each other. I rarely left her company to go be with my friends. Most of the time we were together, at home, working in parallel, eating food together, taking care of business as needed, and simply enjoying the illusion of having a home together. That this was in Israel was almost incidental, while at the same time I was acutely aware of being in this country of so much paradox and contradiction.