Embracing Israel/Palestine

Embracing Israel/Palestine by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Rabbi Michael Lerner, best-selling author of The Left Hand of God and editor of Tikkun magazine, makes the case for why peace activists must be BOTH pro-Israel and pro-Palestine.

Rabbi Lerner first tells the story of this struggle from 1880 to 2011, but in a way that shows how both sides have a legitimate narrative and have been unnecessarily cruel and insensitive to the other side.

He goes on to challenge the current notion that the key to peace is to get the parties to once again sit and negotiate (as they did in the Oslo Accords).

Instead, he argues that a fundamental transformation in consciousness is needed for any political compromise to work. He shows how we in the West can help shape a global transformation in consciousness (and changes in foreign and domestic policies) that are needed to provide the security, justice, and mutual compassion necessary for a lasting peace.   

Who Recommends Embracing Israel/Palestine?

Embracing Israel/Palestine is a terrific book by a pioneer of global transformation. Out of love for both Israelis and Palestinians as equal creations of God, Rabbi Lerner offers us the deepest way out of the bloody conflict. Not just a political agreement, not a simple “real estate” and power sharing transaction, Embracing Israel/Palestine draws from a deep psychological and political understanding of the dynamics of the Middle East. Lerner’s book is coming out of a loving heart and a powerful analytic mind. He offers us a strategy of trust that could heal and repair the mentalities of fear that limit the current perspectives that dominate our politics.

Avrum Burg, former chair of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, speaker of the Knesset, and interim president of Israel

Rabbi Michael Lerner is one of America’s most significant progressive intellectuals and political leaders, and Embracing Israel/Palestine is not only a great conceptual breakthrough in dealing with the Middle East but also demonstrates a methodology for how best to think about global and domestic U.S. politics. For many decades Muslims, around the world have been cheered by Rabbi Lerner’s challenge to the media’s demeaning of our religion and dismissal of the rights of Palestinians, just as they have been challenged by his insistence that they recognize the importance of truly and deeply accepting Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. I hope my colleagues on Capitol Hill, the cynical media, and leaders in Israel, Palestine, and throughout the world are pushed by ordinary readers to grapple with the brilliant path to peace and reconciliation put forward in this book. Rabbi Lerner’s commitment to nonviolence and a path of love and generosity should not be dismissed as utopian. My experience in the Congress leads me to believe, on the contrary, that it is precisely his way of thinking that is the only path that will give Israel, Palestine, and the United States the peace, security, and well-being all three deserve!

Rep. Keith Ellison ( D-Minn.), the first elected Muslim to the U.S. Congress and chair of the seventy-member Progressive Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives

Rabbi Michael Lerner provides us with a brilliant and hopeful vision of how to transform the Middle East from a cauldron of violence to a vanguard of peace. I hope every American will read this book and apply its lessons to change how we deal with the Middle East. For several decades Lerner has been a remarkably courageous rabbi, defying the orthodoxies of some in his own community to insist that Biblical teachings require recognizing the equal value to God of both Israelis and Palestinians. Challenging the extremists on all sides, Lerner insists on the practical and ethical necessity to embrace both Israel and Palestine with compassion and love. Lerner presents us with a path to peace that will require our replacing the strategy of domination and war with what Lerner appropriately describes as the far more effective path to homeland security: the strategy of generosity and genuine caring for the well-being of everyone involved. This is practical and effective advice for the world. I hope every American will read this book and apply its lessons in change how we deal with the Middle East.

Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States of America

Embracing Israel/Palestine is a must-read for those who care about peace in the Middle East. It is provocative, radical, persuasive, and, if given the attention it deserves, could make a major contribution to reconciliation. Please read this book!

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Rabbi Michael Lerner is one of the great prophetic figures of our time. He inherited this mantle from his teacher and my hero, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. This book should be the indispensable work on the delicate and difficult effort to keep track of the precious humanity of Jews and Palestinians in the epic struggles for security and justice.

Cornel West, author of Race Matter and professor of African American studies and religion at Princeton University

Our sages tell us: words that come from the heart enter the heart. Michael Lerner’s Embracing Israel/Palestine is not only a passionate book that comes from the heart, it also demands of us to use our hearts. Lerner suggests that a politics of generosity, a politics that begins with careful and compassionate listening to the stories of both Israelis and Palestinians is the only way forward. The politics of greed and power that is once again on the rise in the United States can only be defeated by a politics that takes as its starting point the worth of all human beings. Lerner has sketched a path from here to there. Read the book. Take up the conversation. Change the world.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, associate professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University and author of Rereading Talmud

Rabbi Michael Lerner is one of the very few Jewish leaders in the Diaspora who has consistently challenged slavish Jewish pandering to right-wing Israeli chauvinism and messianism, opposed the Occupation of the West Bank and the crimes of many Israeli settlers, supported Palestinian rights and justice for the Palestinian people, called for an end to religious coercion and separation of state and synagogue in Israel,  yet has simultaneously retained a strong commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. He has been a fierce critic of those who move from legitimate criticism of Israeli policies to illegitimate anti-Semitism or attempts to destroy Israel. His voice needs to be heard by Israelis, Palestinians, and all those who seek peace for the Middle East.

Uri Avnery, former member of the Knesset and current chair of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom

Michael Lerner has been a national leader of the social change movements in the United States for the past forty-five years. The practical wisdom derived from that experience plus his analytic skills honed as a psychotherapist, philosopher, and theologian combine in this book to give Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians a brilliant path to heal the Middle East. This book is at once a major intellectual achievement, a practical guide for peacemakers, and a perspective on politics and social change that everyone needs to read. Share it with your most partisan friends on every side of this issue and on every side of America’s political divisions, and watch how they begin to broaden and mellow their understanding of the world.

Michael Nagler, founder of Peace Studies at U.C. Berkeley and chair of the Metta Center for Nonviolence

I’ve read dozens of books on the subject, but none has the potential this book has to inform wisely and fairly, mobilize good will effectively, and motivate action intelligently toward needed change. Rabbi Lerner’s generous Jewish vision warms my Christian heart, and his deep integration of spirituality, theology, political philosophy, and human kindness serves as a model I hope many will join me in following.

Brian McLaren, Christian Evangelical Pastor and author of A New Kind of Christianity

Michael Lerner’s passionate call to the Jewish community to heal the wounds of Jewish historical trauma is an indispensable element of peacemaking.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Embracing Israel/Palestine is the nuanced, historically-balanced, psychologically astute, and spiritually resonant accounting of Israel/Palestine that we have been waiting for. A must read for all who seek to deepen our understanding of, and our action around, Israel/Palestine.

Holly Taya Shere, co-founder of Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute

Rabbi Lerner writes from a deep and passionate framework of social justice within the Jewish tradition. Yet he is deeply sensitive to the humanity and moral imperative to find a solution that speaks to the needs of both Israel and Palestine—indeed, they are inextricably linked.

Aaron Back, director of Israel Social Justice Fund

Embracing Israel/Palestine is a masterpiece among the myriads of studies dedicated to the numerous human catastrophes of our times. No matter how many books you’ve read on this subject, Rabbi Lerner will give you a new and powerfully insightful perspective that could empower you to play a significant and hopefully effective role in healing this conflict—and in doing so beginning to heal the world.

­­Zygmunt Bauman, author of Modernity and the Holocaust and Postmodernity and Its Discontents

Rabbi Lerner’s penetrating analysis both grasps the complexities that polarize Israel and Palestine and lays out a stunningly clear potential for peace. Lerner’s breathtaking insights challenge all of the assumptions of despair and cynicism and bring light and hope to one of the most difficult political conundrums of our time.

Rabbi Dan Goldblatt

Michael Lerner takes a courageous, enlightening position in Embracing Israel/Palestine, not only in speaking as an American Jewish rabbi who cares about both countries, but in his conviction that only real attention to the suffering and historical traumas of both sides can bring about peace. The intellectual clarity and psychological sophistication of his presentation is matched by his passionate plea for the transformation of religion from a tool for political partisanship to a basis for genuine renewal of commitment to justice and recognition of all peoples. His argument breaks the conventional splitting between the pragmatic and the idealistic, making a convincing case that only respect for the needs of all peoples will bring about the will and the possibility of resolution.

Jessica Benjamin, psychoanalyst and author of The Bonds of Love

Rabbi Lerner has been passionately advocating a new era of peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land utilizing the interfaith resources. We are confident that this spirit of mutual respect and cooperation can work in the Holy Land as well. There are enough resources in our scriptures, traditions, and history to make such solidarity legitimate. I hope that Muslims, Jews, and Christians will use Embracing Israel/Palestine as a jumping off point for discussing how our three faiths can work together to bring peace and justice to the Middle East.

Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director at the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances

This book would change the world if there were enough people who would open their eyes and read it. Lerner uses Israel/Palestine as a prism to look at the world as a whole—rife with conflicts of many kinds, a number of which involve the United States. He comes to the wildly “utopian” conclusion that the solution to these conflicts can only come by following the Biblical injunctions to love the stranger. Far from being utopian or unrealistic, Lerner shows that this will be the only practical way to keep the alliance of nationalism and capitalism that rules the world today from destroying the fabric of natural and social life. I hope this book will be used widely in courses in political science and sociology in our universities, not only in courses about the Middle East.

Rober Bellah, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, author of Religion in Human Evolution, and co-author of Habits of the Heart

This important book will be difficult for many people to read, and those who will find it off-putting are the ones who most need to read it. Some will want to reject it because Rabbi Lerner works so hard to compassionately present the narratives and fears of both “sides.” How can he not take a “side”? Still others will seek to argue with one interpretation of a fact or another, or the omission that they deem critical, and will then be relieved that they can dismiss the entire book. These defensive strategies must be put aside, and this book must be read from cover to cover with an open mind, heart, and soul. If you dare to do so you may have a transformative experience.

Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman, former director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel for fifteen years

There are good books and there are needed books. This book is both. It is good because Michael Lerner gives an insightful account of the history and politics of struggles between Israelis and Palestinians. It is needed because he grasps the religious underpinnings of this conflict and his spiritually progressive perspectives offer hope for peace. What Rabbi Lerner has to say will be especially helpful for my fellow Evangelicals who must balance their justifiable love for Israel with a cry for justice for the Palestinian people.

Tony Campolo, Evangelical pastor and professor of sociology at Eastern University