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.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?- Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14
Our world is riddled with tragedies: the epidemic of killings by police in the U.S. of African Americans, boats capsizing with hundreds of people fleeing war-torn countries in search of security, safety and well-being, children dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition at alarming rates, women and girls being raped as victims of wars, and the list goes on. As spiritual seekers we desperately yearn for a day when peace and nonviolence, love and care, kindness and generosity as well as a deep connection with the sacred in one another and with the creative force of the universe reign.
Many of us, in our despair, turn to spiritual guidance and practices to soothe our pain and find solace. Feeling powerless to impact the enormity of the problem and recognizing that social change efforts often lack deep spiritual integration and wisdom, we instead decide to focus our energies on our inner work rather than align ourselves with larger social change movements. We find comfort in the belief that personal transformation alone can and will result in societal transformation.
by: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.
Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.
It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)
by: Ali Abunimah on May 7th, 2015 | No Comments »
You can also read this over at Tikkun.org.
A note from the Editor of Tikkun Magazine — A Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society (our online web archive contains many valuable articles, but they are different from what is in the print magazine which can be obtained in paper or read electronically only by those who subscribe to the magazine):
The new Israeli government is a total victory for the most extreme elements in the extreme Right in Israel. The overtly racist party HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the West Bank settlers, will control the Justice Dept. , the Education Dept., and almost all important government offices concerned with the Occupation of the West Bank. And they have secured a promise from Likud to bring forward a proposed law that would make it illegal for any nonprofit to receive funds from a foreign government without approval from the government. That is directed at the various Israeli peace, reconciliation, human rights, and dialogue organizations that get support from a variety of European countries who want to see peace between Israel and Palestinians.
To get a sense of who these people really are, please read the following, written last summer after the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped as he walked down a street in Arab East Jerusalem by Israelis, set on fire and burnt alive to death, supposedly in “retaliation” for the brutal and outrageous kidnapping of three Israeli teens who lived in a West Bank Israeli settlement. I felt anger and horror at the murder of those three teens, and then the same upset at the murder of this Palestinian teen. But listen below to the story of what the woman just appointed to be the Justice Minister in the 2015 newly elected government of Israel, Ayelet Shaked, said in trying to justify the burning alive of that Palestinian teen. I do not subscribe to the view that Israel is seeking genocide against the Palestinian people, but it appears that its government now has in key positions people who do appear to justify a kind of holy war against Palestinians, and while I doubt that such a war will be waged in the next few years, and pray that it won’t, please do not underestimate the evil of some of the people now being put into positions of power in the new Israeli government (to see what I mean by evil, please read my editorial “Human Evil” in the Spring, 2015 issue of Tikkun magazine –subscribe now at www.tikkun.org/subscribe and then write to Leila@tikkun.org, tell her you’ve just subscribed, but don’t want to wait for the Summer 2015 issue and she will send you the Sprint issue).
by: Larry Lerner on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We cannot change the results of the last Israeli elections. Netanyahu will serve another term as the prime minister, only this time of a more right-wing government. This is an unfortunate fact.
Though you can’t change the results of the election, you can still have a say over what happens in Israel.
Just as groups on the Israeli Left face increasing marginalization, so too do progressive Zionist organizations in America. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) is holding an election to determine the views of American Jews for the World Zionist Congress, which takes place in October 2015. Much like Israel’s Knesset, there is a progressive slate of delegates that represents liberal Zionist ideals in the face of hardliners. It is the combined slate of Ameinu, Partners for a Progressive Israel, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim Dror. We call this the HATIKVAH slate.
I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)
by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
"Don't Say We Did Not Know" is the defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.
When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.
“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”
Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.
“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”
Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.
“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”
by: Liza Behrendt and Jessie Lowell on April 9th, 2015 | 5 Comments »
By fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, J Street has allowed itself to be get distracted from its goal of opposing the Occupation. Above, a billboard of Benjamin Netanyahu leading into the 2015 Israeli elections. Credit: CreativeCommons / Dr. Avishai Teicher.
The American Jewish community is now at a crossroads. The recent Israeli elections, following the latest war on Gaza by just six months, highlighted the deep divisions between the liberal values held by a majority of American Jews, and an increasingly right-wing Israel that systematically suppresses the rights of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.
The two of us found our first political homes in opposing oppressive Israeli policies with J Street, after witnessing a piece of the everyday inhumanity of the Occupation while traveling in Israel/Palestine. The more we learned, and the more we experienced, the harder it was for us to reconcile Jewish social justice values of full equality and freedom with what we saw happening to Palestinians under Israeli control.
by: Gary Yarus on April 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
As Jews around world prepare to remember the Holocaust (Yom HaShoah) on April 16th, they too should pause a week earlier to remember the massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9th, exactly sixty-seven years ago. In both cases, Jews should shout, loud and clear: “Nie wieder!” Never again!
Deir Yassin was a tiny Palestinian village outside the area assigned by the UN for the future Jewish state. Being on the high ground between Jerusalem and Jaffa, it was of strategic military value. The villagers had sought to stay neutral in the fighting around it, when it was stormed early in the morning of April 9th, 1948, by 130 Jewish militiamen of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stem Gang, one of whose three commanders was Yitzhak Shamir. The assault by the two “Jewish Underground” militias received artillery support from Haganah, the future Israeli army. The resulting massacre, in which more that 200 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed, is considered a turning point in Palestinian history.
by: Elana Baurer on April 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Each year, we retell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt as if it were our own liberation. Jews and non-Jews alike gather around the seder table all over the world and go through the steps of the seder. Some choose to commemorate the enslavement of the Israelites under the Egyptians as though it really happened, while others approach the story as symbolic. Exodus is an empowering, joyful story of freedom, liberation, and journey from the small, narrow places to expansiveness.