Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb challenges JNF on Tu B’shvat Planting Trees in Israel

Words by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on the JNF "special deal" for Tu B'shvat (today, January 25th). 

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is offering a special deal for Tu B’Shevat on its website:  “Help celebrate TuBishvat by planting a tree in Israel…and you will be automatically entered to win a trip! Prizes include roundtrip airfare and two nights at the Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv for two.”

Meanwhile, since 1967, over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees have been destroyed by the state of Israel. In addition, tens of thousands of fruit trees, fields, wells and gardens have also been destroyed to make room for Jewish settlement. Having just received this year’s report from Palestinian farmer Daoud Nasser who’s family  suffered the Israeli Defense Force’s destruction of 1500 fruit bearing trees last year, I feel deeply disconnected to JNF’s rendering of its mission and its version of history. The narrative on the JNF website resembles the United States’ narrative related to the historic site known as Colonial Williamsburg: an example of national distortions and lies that hide brutal histories.  Williamsburg was literally segregated throughout much of its history.  And, neither the genocidal histories of the massacre of Indigenous peoples, nor enslavement of Africans or their contributions to Colonial societies were anywhere evident.  Just as African American and Indigenous presence and contributions are erased in white America’s Disneyland like portrayals of the past at so-called historic sites, so, too are Palestinians completely erased from Israel’s historic narrative, as are Bedouins, and Mizrachi and African Jews.

Nonviolence, BDS, and the Dream of Beloved Community in Palestine/Israel

As a lifelong feminist practitioner of the Torah of nonviolence, I am drawn to respond to the question of what’s next in Israel/Palestine through the hermeneutics of nonviolence, which I believe is a fruitful way out of the one-state/two-state conundrum. The practice of nonviolence is a path toward the future. We learn from people on the front lines of systemic violence that “don’t speak about us without us” is a core principle of nonviolence solidarity, and so I begin with words from a poem titled “Running Orders” that Lena Khalaf Tuffaha wrote after the massacre of Gaza last summer.  
They call us now. Before they drop the bombs.