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.
Credit: Raw Story.
Hate disguised as free speech is a particularly ugly thing. Google Maps labeling the White House as N****r House is no less disgusting than a French magazine drawing the Prophet Muhammad in a stereotypical or untrue sketch. As I see the intolerance among us grow and ultimately divide us, I fear for the world we will leave our children and grandchildren in. Instead of learning to live in peace and love, we still think of ourselves as Muslims, Jews, Christians, white, black, brown, Israeli, Palestinian.
The basic underlying force of the universe is a psychic energy field of universal love. Gravitational and electromagnetic fields, all other forces of nature, time and space, are merely conditions of state. Credit: Cameron Gray.
You can also read this from Rabbi Lerner on Tikkun.org.
As Teilhard de Chardin once correctly wrote: we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience — for right now the innate evolutionary forces of love and light are manifesting on the planet and they are demanding that we all participate and find our role in this rapidly evolving loving plan in action.
I am observing a strange and wonderful phenomenon in my ongoing work as a heart centered consultant, advisor and mentor –people are no longer resisting the pull of their soul and want to be part of a growing worldwide spiritual resurrection.
by: Rachel Kutcher on May 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Programs like Yahel Social Change are eradicating individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the Ethiopian Israeli community. Above, protestors react to police brutality in Israel earlier this month. Credit: CreativeCommons / Lilach Daniel.
There seems to be a broad consensus that the protests over the last few weeks are not only about police violence, but rather that police violence against an Ethiopian Israeli soldier was simply the catalyst for protests against broader discrimination against and disparities experienced by the Ethiopian community. Indeed, during my time in Israel and the Yahel Social Change program, I have often become angry when learning about these disparities. While volunteering at Tebeka, a legal aid organization serving the Ethiopian community, I’ve been appalled by both individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the community. I’ve been frustrated by the ways in which Israel’s absorption of the Ethiopian community failed to respect a strong Ethiopian Jewish culture, with strong leaders and community social systems. I’ve wanted to shake some sense in to the people who have claimed the primarily Ethiopian neighborhood in which I live and have been warmly embraced is “dangerous.” I believe the anger and frustration that is fueling the protests is well justified. Both the news media and a few of my Yahel peers have written about these social disparities and discrimination, and about the challenges in the Ethiopian aliyah to Israel, so I’d like to offer a complementary perspective.
by: Huma Munir on May 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
"Astronomy teaches us humility and compassion," writes Huma Munir. "Of all human virtues, humility is probably the most beautiful and important."
In 1990, spacecraft Voyager 1 took one last photo of the Earth from 6 billion kilometers away before drifting further into outer space. The Earth stood out no more than a tiny dot against the vast expanse of darkness in the space.
Inspired by the photo, famous astrophysicist and atheist, Carl Sagan, wrote a book titled Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. In it, he said studying astronomy can be a humbling and a character-building experience. Though Sagan did not believe in a higher power, his work has greatly inspired me to connect with God, and has led me on a journey of self-reformation.
In many senses, and contrary to popular belief, astronomy is helpful to religious believers.
Firstly, it teaches us that the world is limitless.
by: Robyn Purchia on May 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
Helping the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized is a central tenet in the Christian gospel. The command to care for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) has inspired organizations like Christian Aid to help the poor, Habitat for Humanity to provide shelter for the vulnerable, and World Vision to support children in need. And, in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, the gospel has fueled a novel, new energy program that cares for the least of these while caring for Creation.
by: Ri J. Turner on May 14th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
The quintessential question of how to reconcile communal identity with a society based on universal equality and individual rights, is still the primary tension underlying Jewish communal politics, indeed is at the heart of much international and intranational conflict today. Credit: CreativeCommons / Micah Walter.
In the context of modern, secular nation-states in which citizenship is based on human equality and individual rights, what happens to collective cultural, religious, and ethnic history and identity?
Contemporary global “answers” to this question are far from satisfying. They include global capitalism (in which consumer identity replaces ethnic identity); militarized state nationalism (in which citizenship is synonymous with association with a certain army; national identity (which theoretically trumps or replaces ethnic identity); and global white supremacy (the development and dominance of a valorized white “ethnic” identity that is ahistorical and defined primarily in terms of control of global power and resources).
These “answers” rest uneasily on the underground rumblings of the very same question: in a world in which privilege, opportunity, and resources are accorded to the few who are able to escape labels of “otherness” (racial, ethnic, gendered, sexual, ability, age, class) to become the “universal human being who is deserving of rights” (as that is defined in terms of Western white supremacy) what, indeed, happens to communal ethnic, religious, and cultural history and identity?
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.
by: Aisha Abdelhamid on May 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
With the official launch of its “Islam is Green” climate action campaign, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also inaugurated its official website to help Muslims learn more about climate change. The iERA activities were timed to coincide with London’s “Time to Act Climate Change” march, as well, and resulted in huge support from the general public in London, England.
Events on the day of the climate action march included a lecture at a local community center provided by iERA volunteers on the Islamic perspective of caring for the environment. Afterwards, iERA members joined a group of over 5,000 assembled in central London expressing concern about mitigating global warming and requesting global climate action.
Handing out flyers to the public during the “Time to Act Climate Change” march, iERA members reported “overwhelmingly positive” response. The flyers presented information expressing the seriousness with which Muslims regard caring for the Earth, and preserving natural resources. This supportive stance on climate action surprised many demonstrators, initiating discussions and eliciting interest in learning more.
The “Islam is Green” Climate Action Campaign
The “Islam is Green” climate action campaign is centered around the Muslim understanding that humans have been given the role of caretaker of the Earth. We must protect it and maintain it, just as we would our own garden with blossoming fruit trees and vegetable plants. As Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, taught:
“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”
[the Prophet Muhammad]
Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.
This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.
In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”
In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.