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Archive for the ‘Healing Israel/Palestine’ Category



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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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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Netanyahu’s Repulsive Call for “Revenge”

Jul1

by: on July 1st, 2014 | 9 Comments »

I’m totally dispirited by the killing of the three teenagers and by the Israeli government’s (and the Jewish organizations here) ugly reaction to it. Ugly and political, designed to justify the war against Hamas that Netanyahu lusts for.

Credit: Creative Commons

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response was perhaps the most repulsive response to an event like this that I have ever seen by any national leader of a civilized country. He vows “revenge.” Revenge? Not Even George W. Bush used that term after 9/11, pledging instead to bring the people who committed the crime to justice. FDR after Pearl Harbor? The parents after Newtown?

Meanwhile other Israeli politicians and Jewish organizations here are in their “we are one” mode which means standing together as Netanyahu blasts innocent Palestinians, and pretending that the settlement enterprise is not responsible for almost all of this.

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Tragedy and Humanity in Hebron

Jul1

by: Michael N. Nagler on July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »

Hills of Hebron. Credit: Creative Commons

A little over a week ago I stood in the South Hebron Hills not far from the spot where, we now know, three Israeli teens had been put to death, assumedly by operatives of the Palestinian organization Hamas (though that is far from proven at this time). I was visiting a prominent nonviolent Palestinian activist from the village of At-Tuwani, where successful actions have been carried out against various provocative measures of the Israeli police and soldiers, just as I had visited their counterpart some days earlier, Rabbis for Human Rights, in Jerusalem.

Not only my host, Hafez, but many of the Palestinians I met and many whom I knew from one connection or another before are of like mind with their Israeli counterparts: strong, peace-loving, generous. Why can they not prevail against the madness that inflames the region now? Why, on the Israeli side, does the “tail” of settler fanaticism wag the “dog” of Israeli society, as one of my rabbi friends put it? Why does the fanatical group Hamas so easily drag Palestinian society as a whole into the maelstrom of violence?

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Dead Young Men in Mississippi, Israel, and Palestine: Spirals of Violence and Nonviolence

Jul1

by: Rabbi Arthur Waskow on July 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Freedom Summer Anniversary

Activists take part in the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Credit: Freedom50.org.

I spent several days last week in Mississippi:

  • Mourning the murders of three young men fifty years ago;
  • Celebrating a Mississippi that today is very different;
  • Facing the truth that Earth and human communities – especially, still, those of color and of poverty – are being deeply wounded by the Carbon Pharaohs’ exploitation and oppression;
  • Talking/working toward a future of joyful community in which Mother Earth and her human children can live in peace with each other in the embrace of One Breath.

And then, a few days later, came the news of the murders of three young men just weeks ago – three Israeli youngsters, their bodies, like those of Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Earl Chaney, hidden while the search went forward for them.

But not only them. The violent deaths of young Palestinian boys and men as well, during the Israeli Army crackdown on the West Bank. Their mothers also mourning. As the New York Times reported the day before the three Israeli bodies were discovered:

Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians captured on their way home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having provoked soldiers. Palestinians, though, see the very act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under illegal occupation.

Is there a danger of “moral relativism” in mentioning these deaths together? Is the cold-blooded murder of three hitchhiking youngsters morally equivalent to killings carried out by angry, frightened soldiers faced with a protesting mob? At the individual level, No.

But at the level of public policy, there is also no moral equivalence between a cold-blooded military occupation and the impotent rage of the occupied.

Above all, there is no “relativism” in the tears of mothers.

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Mourning for the Three Murdered Israeli Teens

Jun30

by: on June 30th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

We at Tikkun are in mourning for the three teens murdered in the West Bank. We find this act painful and outrageous. There can be no excuse for this kind of act.

And we know that the revenge/retaliation acts of Israel will only bring about more acts of violence. The cycle will continue until Israel ends the Occupation and accepts a peace arrangement generous enough both in its particulars and in the spirit in which it is offered as to undermine the support for Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and to empower the voices of Palestinian peacemakers.

Those terms are presented in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/EIP)and in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun magazine, and they require a deep change in approach from both Israel and Palestine (there are no pure victims or pure oppressors – but there are many people locked into fear and anger and hatred, and until that is healed and the cycle of violence actively opposed by people in both communities, the leaders and the haters will shape the realities people on all sides will continue to face).

We plead with the leadership of Israel to take the first steps because Israel is the more powerful force, not because we believe that Israel deserves all the blame for the current mess. Those first steps would be to embrace the strategy of generosity and caring for the other explicitly called for in the Torah over and over again.

Until that happens, we urge all Israelis and people from around the world to not endanger their children by bringing, sending or funding them to be in the West Bank, which is de facto a war zone. We fear that the hatred generated by Israel’s acts of retaliation will eventually blow back onto Israelis and world Jewry.

The choice is simple: endless war, violence, and suffering, or a new spirit of generosity, caring, and empathy for “the Other” – and with that an explicit willingness to admit and atone for the sins that each side has committed against the other. Both sides need to stop all their self-righteousness, break the cycle of violence, and reach out to the other side with unequivocal acts of atonement.

Below, we present two responses, one from regular Tikkun columnist Ury Avnery, chair of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, the other from a Palestinian human rights activist whose perspective differs radically from ours but must also be considered because there will be no peace till both sides have their stories told.

Meanwhile, we remain in deep grief for the loss of lives on all sides, for the children and teens (and yes, their parents and grandparents and families and communities) on both sides who have been murdered, victims of terror, imprisoned unjustly, or otherwise fallen victim to this conflict which could have been ended many years ago. All the violence, all the hatred, so terribly and tragically unnecessary!

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Personal Reflections from Jerusalem

Jun28

by: Cherie Brown on June 28th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

I traveled to Jerusalem this summer to spend a month living in Israel and to learn as much as I could about the on-the-ground realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I wanted to offer my support and resources to the co-counseling community in Israel.

Co-counseling is a process whereby people are trained to exchange counseling help with one another to free themselves from the negative effects of unhealed grief, rage, and fear. One of the goals of co-counseling work is to identify and heal from past experiences of trauma and group oppression to be able to think freshly about all current situations.

There are communities of people in all different parts of the world that do co-counseling with one another. Co-counselors in Israel are using the tools of co-counseling to heal from any feelings of powerlessness, discouragement, or isolation that can make it difficult to sustain leadership over time and with others on Israeli-Palestinian peace work and all social justice work.Upon arriving in Jerusalem, my husband and I settled into an apartment right next to the Machaneh Yehuda – an incredible open-air market with streets of stalls and all kinds of produce. Our apartment was on the 14th floor, giving us a panoramic view of the Old City from our window. Each morning we woke to a spectacular view of the Old City before us. After having been in Jerusalem for a week, I settled into the daily rhythms of life and led a gathering for the co-counseling community in Jerusalem.

I kept finding how eager people were for contact, for connection, and for breaking the isolation of being Israeli – with the current separation of Israel from so much of the rest of the world. For example, the husband of one of the co-counseling leaders who came to my gathering had just had a life-threatening stroke, soI gave her counseling time, including giving her the space to heal about her incredible grief at the very real possibility that he might not make it. A Mizrachi woman initially was furious with me, saying how dare I ask this woman to look for even one minute at giving up hope about her husband. The Mizrachi woman went on to say, “We here in Israel are the walking dead, and we can’t afford to allow one another one second even in a co-counseling session to feel any feelings of hopelessness.” After screaming at me, she fell into my arms sobbing, and afterwards everyone present said how helpful it is for allies to offer a place for Israelis to be able to express the deep feelings of hopelessness that sit right under the recordings of forced hopefulness.

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Readers’ Feedback: “Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens”

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

To understand these responses it is best to read or re-read my article “Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens” from earlier this week.

The responses mostly fall into one of 3 categories:

a. They liked the article very much (so I’m not going to print a lot of those).

b. They were annoyed that I even mentioned the suffering of other kidnap victims around the world, and especially annoyed at my referencing tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been kidnapped (albeit supposedly “legally”) and incarcerated for weeks or months without trial or formal charges, some even tortured, and many of these were Palestinian teens arrested near their own homes.

c. They were annoyed that I didn’t emphasize the suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people.

I’m still curious about your reactions. If you haven’t sent me your response to my article, now it would be best to respond in part by responding to the letters we received below in this small but representative sample. I also invite you to read my recent book Embracing Israel/Palestine (order it for Kindle through Amazon, or hard copy at www.tikkun.org/EIP). Send your responses to me: RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com

Warm regards and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Michael Lerner


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Free the Kidnapped Israeli Teens

Jun24

by: on June 24th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

Kidnapping anyone, anytime is always a violation of a basic human right. But is even more outrageous when done to children or teens who are particularly vulnerable.

So it is with shock and outrage that we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives respond to the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens who were returning from their study at a yeshiva in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

We demand the immediate release and safe return of those teens to their families!

We were shocked and outraged at the kidnapping of hundreds of Christian girls by Muslim fundamentalists in Africa, with the implied story that these girls would be raped (the functional equivalent of “forced marriages” along with forced conversions to Islam).

We are shocked and outraged when girls are kidnapped (or sold or persuaded by starving parents who see no other way to get money for their remaining starving children) into sexual slavery or forced marriages.

We are shocked and outraged when children or teenagers are forced into armies (whether through a supposedly “legitimate” draft process or through outright kidnapping) where they are forced to kill or be killed.

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