Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”
To what lengths will patriarchal power and arrogance go to retain its hegemony? We are finding out as the struggle for women’s prayer plays out at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, at Judaism’s most holy site and national monument.
Since 1988, Women of the Wall (WOW), a prayer group of women from all streams of Judaism (including Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Reconstructionist, and unaffiliated women), has met at the Kotel to welcome each new month in prayer. It’s very simple. They wish to pray with prayer shawls, read from the Torah and pray aloud, as men are able to do freely on the other side of the partition (mechitza), which separates men and women according to Orthodox customs. This bothers the ultra-Orthodox power that reigns, which has made the Kotel its private synagogue, upsetting them to apoplectic proportion.
The nation is still reeling from shock after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. Gun violence notwithstanding, this is perhaps the first real terrorist attack on US soil after 9/11. Understandably emotions have been running high; no surprise then, that as the events unfolded many people, including the media, jumped on the “Blame the Muslims” bandwagon. The New York Post famously inflated casualty numbers and reported that a Saudi man was apprehended as a suspect by the police. Social media was inundated by predictions of guilt and accusations of violent jihad, at the same time as the Muslim community mobilized to condemn the attacks.
The poet who wrote the lyric for that hymn, Rev. Thomas Troeger, teaches at Yale Divinity School, my alma mater. When I attend a conference there, Tom Troeger is often addressing the assembly, so I have developed a feeling for his sharp mind and great heart. For that reason, when I see how long ago Troeger penned these words – almost thirty years – I can’t help but imagine that he would be the first to say that his verse has suffered a reverse at the hands of climate change. God did not mark a line and tell the sea anything, or else the sea wasn’t listening. Ask Sandy. Ask Irene. Ask Katrina. Surf’s up, people, in the worst way. Either God never had a word with the sea . . . or God’s order is out of order.
Today, we are going to think hard about what Christian faith has to do with caring for the earth. We are going to return to the question next week, and the week after, April 28th, when Bill McKibben, the world’s foremost earth care activist, will bring our morning sermon. Now, our preaching, including Mr. McKibben’s, will certainly be preaching. Proclaiming the good news of the gospel is the heart of our message. But we are not going to change the subject.
David Azerrad in a recent post at the Heritage Foundation’s site, “What the Left Misunderstands about Poverty and Dependency” offers a long list of right wing assumptions: that housing, food, and medical assistance prevent people from marrying and working, that government assistance “erodes the virtues that allow people to flourish,” and most astonishingly, that “all Americans – conservative and liberal alike – believe in a strong safety net.” I sent him an email with several questions (if he answers, I’ll provide that in an update). Here is the first:
When you mention, “the virtues that allow people to flourish,” which virtues do you mean and what would be “flourishing”?
by: Tony Klug on April 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
In a much anticipated speech, the charismatic president, on a fleeting visit to Jerusalem, charmed and enthralled the audience and the wider Israeli public throughout the land.
His strategy soon became apparent. First, establish your credentials with assurances about the future safety of the state, underlining its right “to live … in peace and security”. Lest there be any doubt, stress that “… the United States, your first ally which is absolutely committed to safeguard Israel’s security and existence … offers Israel every moral, material and military support”.
Then press the more sensitive buttons: “… peace cannot be worth its name unless it is based on justice, and not on the occupation of the land of others”. Full peace was contingent on the “achievement of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian People and their right to self-determination, including their right to establish their own state”.
In preparation for Yom Ha’atzmaut, the Israeli Independence day, I had several thoughts:
In general, I don’t celebrate the making of any State. To millions of people, nationalism is essentially terrorism made “legitimate” by the boot of white power jamming its heel onto the necks of the marginalized and oppressed.
As the daughter of an Israeli and an American Jew, I have benefitted from this power dynamic. It has taken me years to unlearn the feeling of entitlement associated with being the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. But I can remember the tragedies that my family faced back in Europe without also feeling a sense of pride for what I see as one of the deepest collective disappointments of the modern period, also known as the creation of the Israeli nation-state.
However, as a pragmatist, I have come to understand that the hierarchy of the nation-state is extremely effective in many of its goals. We, as a society, might not be ready to see the demise of this system (this point is one I am not fully prepared to support and willing to abandon frequently). As such, I don’t think that it’s useful to work toward the abolition of the nation-state, but instead to work to make it obsolete.
I am envisioning a world where Independence Days are forgotten. Instead we’ll remember communal achievements like the day that that someone decided to put za’atar in schnitzel, or the day that Habiluim‘s first album was released, or the day by which we hope to see water distributed more equally.
“Remember those who are in prison as if you are in prison with them.”Hebrews 13:3
Every Thursday afternoon, for years now, a group of Women in Black and their male allies gather at the freeway overpass in my home town, Nevada City, California. Women in Black is a “world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.”
On Thursday, April 11, we joined these friends with our “Torture is a Moral Issue” banner and our signs to “Close Guantanamo.” This local action was one of many taking place around the country on the National Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention, sponsored by Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Today, April 11, is the National Day of Action to support the Guantanamo hunger strikers and to call for Guantanamo to be closed. This effort is sponsored by Witness Against Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Find an action near you and/or call President Obama urging him to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo. There are phone numbers below, along with a script for callers to use. Support the hunger strikers and end indefinite imprisonment without trial. Close Guantanamo now.
What you can do:
For years and years I’ve been mystified by the idea of acceptance. I could point to it as a need on the list that people who study Nonviolent Communication consult for their learning and growth. I could understand, in some general sense, what people mean when they say that they want to be accepted. I even included a commitment called “Accepting What Is” in the 17 Core Commitments. Still, all the same, there was something that simply didn’t make sense. So much so, that I didn’t even know exactly how to talk about it.
The core question that was so unsettling for me is remarkably simple: What does it mean to accept something we don’t like?
One loop I would go into in trying to understand this was the experience of the person who hears, from another, “I want you to accept me the way I am.” What’s the person hearing this to do if they don’t like the behaviors that the other person does? This would come up again and again with couples, in friendships, in groups I was leading. I couldn’t shake off the idea that, essentially, there was some subtle way that the person asking to be accepted is really, deep down, asking to be liked. What is the difference?