Israel Independence Day–3 different approaches plus our Tikkunish thoughts

 

Below are three different takes, from 3 organizations each of which we at Tikkun support for their important work (Hazon in developing Jewish environmental consciousness, Torat Tzedeck for Rabbi Ascherman’s courageous work in defense of refugees, Palestinians, and Bedouin in Israel/Palestine, and T’ruah for its voice for progressive rabbis guided by Jill Jacobs). We present their statements on how to think about Israel on its 70th anniversary. I’m proud to be a member and supporter of each of these.

 

In the statements below each  of them makes important points. Yet, none of them adequately capture the legitimate outrage of those Israelis who as Jews feel that Israel is desecrating that which is most sacred in the Jewish tradition, nor the pain of Arab Israelis who continue to experience the daily humiliations and pain of being a second-class citizen in a society that publicizes itself as an enlightened democracy, nor the pain of those millions of Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

I particularly like Jill Jacobs, statement on behalf of T’ruah.  She makes a very persuasive case for a balanced approach that in tone is very different from some on the Left who can see nothing of value in Israel. Her statement is very close to what many of us in the Tikkun world embrace. Yet we at Tikkun also allow space for the voices of outrage at what Israel is doing to Palestinians and refugees. These voices must be included, especially on Israel Independence Day–without those voices each of the statements below do not quite reach our vision of a world of love and Justice.

 

At the same time, Tikkun has taken the position for several decades of celebrating July 4th in the U.S. despite the obvious fact that the U.S. role in the world has been far more destructive and oppressive than anything being done by Israel. We celebrate the U.S. in two ways on July 4th: First, by celebrating the struggles of working people, whites and people of color, who have struggled against ruling elites in the U.S. and have slowly made significant progress in overcoming racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and class oppression, even though we still have far more to do to win these battles. And second, by insisting that July 4th become a celebration of Interdependence Day–emphasizing our connection to all people on this earth and our deep dependence on the well-being of the planet itself.

 

This same approach needs to be the way that people in Israel and Jews around the world celebrate Israel Independence Day–both celebrating the advances and mourning the ongoing abuses. The existence of Israel helped some Jews  repair the trauma of 2 thousand years of physical and psychological brutality at the hand of Christians, Muslims and others. But now it needs to repair the hurts and pain of the Nakba and the ongoing trauma that displacement, refugee camps, and continuing occupation have caused the Palestinian people and many who identify with them. The Yom Ha’atz’ma’ut (Israeli Independence Day) we want to see is one that both affirms the particular histories of the people who live in Israel, and simultanteously affirms a universalism, making this an Israeli Interdependence Day with the well-being of everyone on the planet and the wellbeing of the planet itself.This is the kind of celebration I can embrace for Israel and for all its diverse peoples, Jews, Muslims, Christians, passionate atheists  Palestinian,

 

When I read the Hazon statement  I hear faint echoes of the stance adopted by Americans in the days of slavery in the South when southerners and their northern allies (or even people today who wear or fly the flag of the Confederate States) talked about how complex their own southern  society was, how many sweet elements it contained, and managed to never mention the suffering of the enslaved. Nigel, the leader of Hazon,  seems unable to even give one unequivocal sentence about the suffering caused by the way Israel came into being and the way it continues to oppress millions of people who are either unequal citizens or people living under occupation or in Gaza living under a blockade (which is denying the people adequate food, medical supplies, electricity for their refrigerators or heating from the times when it is cold, and much else).

If we want to be real, all these many dimensions must be included in looking at the State of Israel in the multiple perspectives that Hazon suggests, not just a romanticized version. I want to celebrate all the Hazon celebrates but that doesn’t keep me from also acknowledging all that is screwed up and even anti-Jewish in the way the State of Israel acts today.  Hazon too is part of what I celebrate on this Yom Ha’atzma’ut, even as I ask us to embrace the central Jewish call for a world of love, justice, environmental sanity, and compassion for all and never call Israel “a Jewish state” till it actively embraces and lives by those values that have been core to Jewish identity for the past several thousand years.

 

–Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun    rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com
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A LOVING “MISHEBERAKH” PRAYER FOR THE HEALING OF THE STATE AND PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

Rabbi Arik Ascherman-Torat Tzedek <em@a.divur.co>

5:47 AM (55 minutes ago)

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אם אינך רואה אימייל זה כראוי לחץ/י כאן
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תורת צדק

Torah of Justice توراة الحق

Dear Friends and Supporters,Please find donation information and information about my U.S. tour April 30th-May  10th after my Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) Thoughts and a prayer for healing.
I seem to be making a habit of speaking at U.S. Congressional briefings, and then rushing home to be in Israel with my family to celebrate holidays. I am grateful to J Street, J Street U and the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet for their campaign opposing the demolition of threatened Palestinian villages, and the opportunity to speak at a congressional briefing about the crucial role the U.S. has historically played, and must again play, in preventing home demolitions, dispossession and displacement. I was joined by Susya spokesperson Nasser Nawajeh, whom I have known since he was 15. I wish we hadn’t had to do this, but it was important to have this opportunity to speak, along with Betty Herschman from “Ir Amim” and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Congressperson Schakowsky has co-authored a dear colleagues sign on letter on behalf of endangered Palestinian villages-Please ask your congressperson to sign.

Throughout the briefing (and the preceding J Street conference), the word “crisis” was frequently heard. “Crisis” is a word easily overused. However, although most know me as the eternal optimist, I believe that we are truly in a dangerous crisis. I don’t like images of “sides” and zero sum games, but the image in my mind is that of “tug of war.” For years, the “sides” have pulled in one direction, and then the other. However, “our side” has now lost its balance, and is being rapidly pulled over the line. The game is often over at that point. It takes an extraordinary effort to recover.It took me a while myself to realize this. Running from event to event, and task to task, the full import of several recent setbacks I will explain below hadn’t hit me. However, the challenge and the blessing both of Shabbat and 11 hours on a plane was that I had time to think. This past Shabbat, as much as I tried to find some Shabbat peace of mind, the unease that had begun on the plane only grew. In the morning, when we were invited to speak the names of those who were in need of a prayer for healing, I did something that I have occasionally thought about in the past, but I don’t recall ever having actually done, I whispered, “Medinat Yisrael,” (The State of Israel). On the plane home to be with my family for the last hours of Memorial day, and to celebrate Independence Day with my family, I completed the Prayer for Healing for the State and People of Israel that appears below. I included it in my prayers this morning, along with Hallel-The joyous recitation of psalms we recite on holidays.There will be those who will say that I have crossed a line by writing a prayer like this, just as there are those who are incapable of hearing the love in David Grossman’s words at this year’s joint Israeli Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony. The love is there in every line of Grossman’s words, and one generally prays for the healing of those one cares about. As I wrote on my Times of Israel blog last Friday for the double Torah portion of Tazria-Metzorah (Israel is temporarily a week ahead of the Diaspora, which read Tazria-Metzorah this week, and we read Akharei Mot-Kedoshim), what the Torah teaches us about rot in the walls of one’s home can teach us what must be done when there is rot in the walls of our national home. The goal is not to condemn the house and tear it down, but rather to heal it. If one ignores the rot, or is unwilling to acknowledge the rot for what it is because of what either the anti-Semites or the “Israel right or wrongers” will say, or refrains from doing everything possible to take care of the infected stones, there will truly be a danger that the house will get to the point that it is can’t be healed. Those who reject the house from the outset will say that it cannot be repaired. If we wish to save the house, we heal it. As painful as it may be, we need to say that we have gone beyond what is simply a matter of legitimate political disagreement. The State of Israel is ill. Because, like it or not, the People of Israel are so intimately connected to the State of Israel, we are all affected.It was also driven home to me on this past trip that the gap between Israeli and non-Israeli Jews is greater than it has ever been in my lifetime. For the first time I could imagine us becoming two separate peoples. We are thankfully still far from that, but that means that we are all still affected.The illness can be summarized in the fact that our current leadership believes that they have the right to do anything they have the ability to do. They are carrying out the agenda they claim they were elected to implement. Neither the Israeli public nor the international community will be allowed to stand in their way. Dissent is opposing the will of the voters, traitorous and to be silenced. Those with very different views than ours have control of the educational system and most other key institutions. They are lessening press scrutiny and are closing in on the judicial system.There are many symptoms of our illness, including the heightened attempts pass laws changing our courts, hampering the work of human rights organizations, the increasing general intolerance of dissent, the recent flip flop when we had the opportunity for a win-win solution regarding African asylum seekers, etc. In my “Passover Thoughts” I addressed the difference between how a military court addressed the killing of civilians in Kfar Kassemin 1956, and how the current government is reacting to criticism of the open fire orders leading to the deaths of Palestinians on the Gaza border who for the most part posed no threat to Israeli lives. (To the best of our ability to know. The army says it is investigating, but there is no independent and transparent investigation.)However, I have been mostly thinking about two devastating setbacks that Torat Tzedek was directly involved with. In each case the setbacks reflect a significant institutional change. In both cases those we were trying to defend caved in because they realized we were not able to help them.In neither case are we giving up.

The first was the main topic in my commentary on Tazria-Metzorah. Last week the Jewish State brutally twisted the arms of her non-Jewish Bedouin citizens residing in Umm Al Hiran to force them to “agree” to give up their way of life, and move into a Bedouin township. After years of struggle, they did so because the State was now threatening the use of crushing force, the fact that the High Court had declined to intervene because of a technicality and was not processing a new appeal in time to prevent forced eviction, the fact that the State had reneged on a previous decent agreement allocating them land for a new agricultural community, the trauma from the previous use of force in January 2017, the unwillingness of the international community to apply any meaningful pressure, the ineffectiveness of the concern of some MKs, and the feeling that they were alone. I would like to believe that if the residents of Umm Al Hiran had been able to hang on, one of several avenues we were pursuing would have succeeded, but they did not feel they could rely on that. Not only was there nothing that could stand in the way of those in power today, but they no longer observe any of the self imposed restrictions that in the past would have provided some protection. 

Police in show of force planning the demolition of Umm Al Hiran
Credit: Amon Lotan

The second setback is that we have not yet come up with an answer to heightened collusion between settlers and Israeli security forces keeping shepherds out of lands necessary for their livelihood. Ultimately this could lead to massive additional tracts of land coming under full settler control and becoming Palestinian free. Some of this was explained in my Passover Thoughts, but the situation has become worse. In the Jordan Valley and elsewhere, the army simply imposes repeated 24 hour closure orders on areas that it doesn’t want shepherds to graze in.

The second setback is that we have not yet come up with an answer to heightened collusion between settlers and Israeli security forces keeping shepherds out of lands necessary for their livelihood. Ultimately this could lead to massive additional tracts of land coming under full settler control and becoming Palestinian free. Some of this was explained in my Passover Thoughts, but the situation has become worse. In the Jordan Valley and elsewhere, the army simply imposes repeated 24 hour closure orders on areas that it doesn’t want shepherds to graze in.
In the case of the Jordan Valley, this is a retreat from understandings that had been achieved, and had led to quiet for a number of months. One officer openly acknowledged that the regression was due to settler pressure. The last time we were in one location the officer intimidated the shepherds by almost arresting one of them. They haven’t gone back.

Next to the Mevuot Yerikho settlement and in the South Hebron Hills the settlers go even further. Where the army doesn’t do the job for them by issuing closure orders, they simply scare the sheep away. In the South Hebron Hills, a settler even set his pit bull on sheep. Near Mevuot Yerikho, where we are most involved, the army at first made a grudging effort to restrain the settlers where the army allowed the shepherds to graze. However, they began to look the other way. One day, after settlers had tried to drive their vehicles up close to the sheep while honking, an officer said that the only thing he saw wrong was me blocking the freedom of movement of the vehicle. A police officer not present said he would have to come and see, because it could be that even a vehicle driving through a flock of sheep was just trying to get to the other side. Other settlers bang pans or “jog” in the midst of the sheep while shouting.We have tried making human circles around settlers, standing in front of vehicles, etc. However, ultimately we were not able to prevent the flocks from being scared away. Again, the shepherds simply aren’t coming back. When the security forces so totally collude with the settlers who are already emboldened by a supportive and protective government, we must ask who will be left, even if there will be an eventual change at the political or international levels.

We have faced challenges before, and It is true that in any one of a number of factors could alter the balance almost overnight. However, it is also true that we are simply not playing a game of tug of war. The stakes are much higher, and “lo somkhim al ha-nes.,” we don’t count on miracles. We pray for God’s assistance, but God expects us to do our part. We can’t wait for some dramatic change. We must be the change. We must make that extraordinary effort needed to recover when you have lost your balance and are being pulled across the line.Every day we explore new options. And, we need your partnership now more than ever. Let us pray that we are all up to the tasks at hand. Our efforts can determine how close the real Israel and Yerushalayim shel mata will be to the Israel we believe in, united with the Yerushalayim shel ma’alah. Here in Israel, our Torah portion, often read on the week of Independence Day, includes “You shall Be holy, “You shall love the one essentially like you as yourself, You shall love the non-Jew living among you, and any additional ethical commands.And as I told those assembled for the briefing in Congress, they will determine whether or not Nasser has a home.Khag HaAtzmaut Sameakh – Happy Independence Day
Arik
Rabbi Arik Ascherman
A “MISHEBERAKH” PRAYER OF HEALING FOR THE STATE AND PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel, bless and heal the ill: the State and People of Israel. May the Holy One of Blessing be full of mercy and us to heal us from every illness that keeps us from fulfilling the good and the aspiration for justice that is within us – Among them: Blindness to Your Presence in every human being and blindness to reality; deafness to the Still Small Voice within the thundering fear and fearmongering, the sounds of war and singing in the camp, and orders; hatred of those who think differently than us, disproportional love for the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the People of Israel and every holy thing that blinds us to Your Holiness and Your Will. Please strengthen within us our good inclination and revive our faith in the possibility of a repaired world under Your Sovereignty and our ability to bring that world closer to reality. Send us complete and speedy healing of body and soul, along with all who are ill, speedily and in our day. And let us say, Amen.
Transliteration follows the Hebrew. A translation follows the transliteration

מי שברך קדמונינו אברהם ושרה, יצחק ורבקה, יעקב לאה ורחל, הוא יברך וירפא את החולים, מדינת ישראל ועם ישראל.הקדוש ברוך הוא ימלא רחמים עלינו להחלימנו ולרפואתנו מכל מחלה המקשה עלינו להגשים את הטוב ואת השאיפות לצדק שבליבנו – ביניהן: העיוורון לנוכחותך בכל אדם והעיוורון למציאות; החירשות לקול הדממה הדקה בתוך רעש הפחד וההפחדה, קולות הענות והמלחמה במחנה; והפקודות; האטימות לסבל של האחר/ת; הרשימו שנשאר מכל מה שסבלנו אנו, השיכרון מכוח ומשלטון; השנאה לחושב/ת אחרת מאתנו; והאהבה היתרה לארץ ישראל ולמדינת ישראל ולעם ישראל ולכל דבר קדוש המסנוור אותנו לקדושתך ולרצונך. אנא, החזק בנו את היצר הטוב והחיות את אמונתנו בעולם מתוקן במלכותך וביכולתנו לקרבו. שלח לנו במהרה רפואה שלמה, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף, בתוך שאר החולים/ות, השתא בעגלא ובזמן קרים, ונאמר אמן.

Mi sh’beirakh kadmoneinu Avraham v’Sarah, Yitzhak v’Rivkah, Ya’akov, Leah v’Rakhek, hu yivarekh v’yirapeih et ha’kholim, Medinat Yisrael v’Am Yisrael. HaKadosh Borukh Hu yimaleh rakhamim aleinu l’hakhlamatanu v’l'rfuatanu mi’kol makhalah ha’makshah aleinu l’hagshim et ha’tov v’et ha’sheifah la’tzedek sh’b'libeinu-beiniehen: ha’ivaraon l’nokhakhutkha b’kholadam v’ha’ivaron l’mitziut; ha’khershut l’kol ha’demamah ha’dakah b’tokh ra’ash ha’pakhad v’ha’hafkhadah, kolot ha’onot v’kolot ha’milkhamah b’makhaneh v’hapekudot; ha’atimut l’sevel shelha’akher/et; ha’rashimu sh’nishar mi’kol mah sh’avalnu anu; ha’shikaron mi’koakh u’mi’shilton; ha’sinah l’khoshev’et akheret m’itanu; v’ha’ahavah ha’yiterah l’Eretz Yisrael v’l'Medinat Yisrael, v’l'Am Yisrael, v’lkhol d’var kadosh ha’misanveir otanu l’kedushatkhah v’l'ratzonkhah. Anah, he’khezeik banu et ha’yetzer ha’tov v’ha’khayot et emunateinu b’olam mitukan b’malkhutkha u’v'yekholteinu l’karvo. Shlakh lanu b’meheirah refuah shleimah, refuat ha’nefesh v’refuat ha’guf, b’tokh sh’ar he’kholim, hashta b’agalah’ u’v'zman Kariv, v’nomar amein.
NORTH AMERICAN SPEAKING/FUNDRAISING SCHEDULE APRIL 30TH-MAY 10TH

Please contact me at ravarik@gmail.com for more information, or to set up an additional venue. My following North American tour will be November 4th-21st.

April 29th. Chicago7:30 Parlor MeetingMay 1st Troy, MI
7:00 Shir TikvaMay 2nd Ann Arbor, MI
12:00 Beth Emet. Lunch and Learn.
6:00 JCC Fundraising Dinner
7:30 JCC Public TalkMay 3rd Lansing, MI
12:00 Kehillat IsraelAnn Arbor
4:30 Open House at a location to be announced.
For more information about all May 1st-May 3rd events, please contact Martha Kransdorf: mkransdo@umich.edu.May 4th-6th- PrivateMay 7th Philadelphia 
7:00 Mishkan ShalomMay 8th Buffalo, NY.
7:00. Daily Planet Café, 1862 Hertel Ave. .
“Can There Be Any Meaningful Resistance to the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank?
A Conversation With Rabbi Arik Ascherman”
For More Information: Dr. Irus Braverman ibraverman4@gmail.com

May 9th Lexington, MA.
7:30 Temple Isaiah.

May 10th Daytime Open in the Boston Area
.

DONATIONS TO TORAT TZEDEK

UNITED STATES

The New Israel Fund (Tax Deductible)

Checks can be made out to “The New Israel Fund.” (minimum $100 for NIF donations in the U.S.) and marked as “donor-advised to TORAT TZEDEK,” or “TORAH OF JUSTICE” in the memo line. Please add “Account # 51139.”

Please mail checks to:

The New Israel Fund
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American Support For Israel (Tax Deductible)
Contributions of any amount can be made either on-line, or by check, via American Support For Israel. They do take a small handling fee. Checks can be made out to, “American Support for Israel.” In the memo line write “Torat Tzedek” or “Torah of Justice,” and add Account # 580651404.

Please mail checks to:

American Support for Israel
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CANADA

Canada Charity Partners (Tax Deductible) 
We can now receive tax deductible donations in Canada for our work to inform and educate the Israeli public about Bedouin Israeli citizens in the Negev. Contributions can be made on-line

Please make out checks to “Canada Charity Partners” Please note the memo line that your gift is donor advised To
Torat Tzedek, Act. # 580651404
Please mail checks to:

Canada Charity Partners
5785 Smart ave.
Cote St Luc, Quebec
H4W2M8

 

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New Israel Fund (Tax Deductible)

Tax-deductible donations of any amount can be made onlinethrough the New Israel Fund UK. In the comment box, please note that your gift is “donor advised to TORAT TZEDEK-TORAH OF JUSTICE Account # 51139”

Please mail checks to:

The New Israel Fund
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UK Gives (Tax Deductible)

Tax Deductible donations can be made on-line.Please make out checks to “UK Gives.” Please note in the memo line that the donation is for Torat Tzedek, Act. # 580651404″mail checks to:483 Green Lanes
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N134BSBank Transfer (Not Tax Deductible) If you do not require or are not able to obtain a tax deductions, bank transfers are the quickest way for donations to get to us, and the percentage of the donation we receive is the hightest
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Swift code: POALILIT, IBAN IL63-0125-7400-0000-0305-386Checks sent directly to Torat Tzedek (Not tax deductible) can be made out to “Torat Tzedek” or “TORAH OF JUSTICE.”
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TORAT TZEDEK-TORAH OF JUSTICE
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Israel
The Hazon Statement by its founder and executive director Nigel Savage:
Yom Ha’atsma’ut 5778 | Hod she’b’Tiferet | 19th day of the Omer | 19th April 2018Dear All,Something I read somewhere, recently:

Every book begins with a thought.
Every company begins with a thought.
Every building begins with a thought. Every political party. Every new conscious thing in the world – it begins with an idea.

This is a really amazing observation. Maybe it had occurred to you, but it had never occurred before to me.

Hamlet and Hamilton and Hagia Sophia and the Hudson Yards. Apple and Google and Facebook.  Everything starts with an idea, a thought. With someone, somewhere, having an idea or a thought. Words have meaning and thoughts have consequences and the world is changed by our speech and by our imagination.

And so to the 70th birthday of the state of Israel (today) and the 49th Earth Day (this Sunday). Each of them is an idea brought to life, seizing (in very different ways) people’s imagination, and summoning us to life and engagement. They are not analogous, and the State of Israel is far more consequential (thus far at least) in its impact. But they are important and they are now and thinking about their significance is itself one part of our work.

When we think of Israel, I think we should bear in mind the phrase I love in the Talmud: “shivim panim l’Torah.” Seventy faces of the Torah.

I sometimes understand this by imagining 70 people each taking a photograph of the Empire State Building. And each one is of the Empire State Building – but each one is different. It’s a good analogy for shivim panim, because you can play with it and learn more from it.

If the photo you took is of the Eiffel Tower, for instance, then it’s actually not a photo of the Empire State. So shivim panim includes multiple perspectives, but there are boundaries.

And if you only take the Empire State at night, that’s a true picture, but it misses out entirely the Empire State in sunshine. Or in the snow. Or struck by lightning.

If you’re a toilet-cleaner you have a different sense of what it is and is like than if you’re a window-cleaner. If you work on the 6th floor or the 76th floor. If you’re a real estate lawyer or a marriage therapist.

So “shivim panim” is an appropriate and useful frame for Israel on its 70th birthday. When we think of the Empire State Building, it is relatively easy to have a sense of how this single reality can be depicted in different ways, and how each perspective will in some sense be true, and each will be incomplete.

And somehow with Israel – which is so much more than a single building – we struggle to maintain the same sense of perspective.

Clichés are based in truth – we too easily forget that. So Israel really is, first of all, a hope and a dream and a return and a miracle.

Because of my Dad’s death I’m davening every day, and I feel in a new way the power of facing towards Jerusalem, and saying so frequently, in Hebrew that I understand, words about Zion, the temple, the sacrifices, the land of the psalms. What was it like for my Zaydie, saying those words in the 1900s and the 1910s and 1920s? What was it like for his Zaydie and his Zaydie, going back for centuries?

(According to 23andme my ancestry composition is “99.8% European” and “96.4% Ashkenazi Jewish.” I don’t have a genetic or essentialist understanding of being Jewish: on the contrary, I think that anyone can be Jewish, regardless of your ancestry. My point is different: simply that my ancestors, certainly my male ones, really said these words, day after day, century after century. Those words shaped them, they influenced them, they persisted across centuries and countries, and – here and now in our day – the third Jewish commonwealth did indeed come into being.)

Those words influenced Israel in other ways. That Israel was the only country in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than it began is testament to the JNF, but even more than that it is testament to the power of “etz chayim,” “the tree of life,” as a central motif in Jewish tradition. We said the words, and we meant them – in their contradictoriness the words of the tradition have a repetitive thread which leans us in certain directions.

This is true not just of “etz chayim.” The commitments, for instance, to life and peace and right-relationship with land, and the link between these things and relationships amongst people – and the word “shalom,” repeated over and over and over in the davening, just rubbing away at oneself, sinking in, a mantra and a kavannah and a critique and a hope and a redemption.

So Israel is all this.

And – shivim panim – it is also the Eritrean refugee wondering if their kid will be safe or not.
The techie getting started, working flat-out but loving it and excited.
The guy who did the IPO, who’s now collecting wine – and worrying about his daughter, who decided to go into a combat unit.
The Israel of Herzl – Jewish policemen and Jewish hookers.
The hippies in the desert. The Druze in the Golan, worried about their family members over the border.  Tova Hartman and Tanya Zion and Sarit Hadad and Idan Amedi.
The Iraqis and the Persians and the Ethiopians and the Brits. The Jew with the Muslim lover, trying to figure that out. The French who are scared of attacks on Jews in France. The artists and the cafes and the activists, the worlds of Ashdod and Ra’anana, Bnai Brak and Tivon, the restaurants, the real estate folk, the queer activists. Intentional communities. The people on the trams. Baka and the moshava and café lalo and tmol shilshom. Sarona Market and the train stations.
I wish more people in this country had a sense of shivim panim in relation to Israel.

I was at an AIPAC dinner in southern California a few years ago, chatting with the woman who sat next to me. She “supported” Israel but I felt queasy at some of the things she was saying. And I was interested to know where her particular perspective on Israel came from and (perhaps naively) I said, “When were you last in Israel?” And her answer was, “Oh, I’ve never been there.”

So I don’t think it works to have the single frame of “defending embattled Israel.” That’s a perspective on Israel. It’s one of seventy maybe. It’s important. But it’s not the only one. So too “ending the occupation.” It’s a perspective and a view – and it might be ideal, though it’s unclear how it will be possible. But if you’re in favor of “ending the occupation” – I think that’s a legitimate view, and many Israelis will agree with you, and many will disagree with you. But those Israelis also go to work and school and pay taxes and speak Hebrew and Arabic and Russian and ride the buses and see a doctor. It’s not their only take on Israel.

I’m proud that in this, Israel’s 70th year, Hazon is taking a record number of people to Israel, on at least three (possibly four) separate trips. The week after next Rabbi David Ingber and I are co-leading a first-ever Hazon Romemu Sustainable Israel Tour. Then we have more than 200 people on this year’s Israel Ride (sold-out and registration closed and our largest by far; we had to close registration because we ran out of appropriate beds in the south of Israel). And then at least one, and possibly two, Hakhel Israel Tours.

All of those trips – our participants go with curiosity. They go to learn. They go in the expectation of being challenged and provoked. We’re meeting some of the most astounding changemakers in the world, never mind in Israel alone. Israelis and Palestinians. Jews and Arabs, capitalists, activists, environmentalists, teachers. It is overwhelming and inspiring and humbling.

I want to say a last word about Earth Day, in relation to the State of Israel.

The State of Israel is an experiment, as life itself is. How do we live together, cope with human emotions, feed ourselves and our families, provide a social safety net, find meaningful work? Not a one of these things should be taken for granted, though almost all my life, till very recently, I did.

But we shouldn’t take them for granted. The State of Israel is the Jewish people’s attempt to live in right relationship with each other, with our neighbors, with those who agree and don’t agree with those, with those who share our values and language and background and those who don’t. It is an imperfect miracle, and it is upon each of us to help it be our best self.

But it is also our people’s attempt to sanctify the whole world through one piece of land – eretz yisrael, the land of Israel. These (different) particularities are true of so many of those who are most serious about sanctifying the world as a whole – you start somewhere. It is true of native peoples and indigenous peoples. It was true of John Muir in northern California. It was true of Alfred Wainwright in relationship to the Lake District. It is true of Wendell Berry and the land in Kentucky his family has farmed for five generations.

This is why – with 7 billion people on this planet, and counting – we need to sanctify both the land of Israel, and wherever we are right now. We need to foster our love for a sense of place, and its people, and do so with eyes open wide with curiosity and questions and love. It’s why we need to mourn, to celebrate and to stand up; to learn, to act and to advocate.

I celebrate the land and people of Israel, I celebrate this beautiful world that sustains us all; and I pray that we all, each one of us, learn to love and protect, so that generations to come may yet get to live in peace and amidst bounty.

Chag sameach, Shabbat shalom,   Nigel

Statement by  Jill Jacobs of T’ruah

Three reasons to stay

Jewish tradition describes seventy as the age of wisdom. And yet, today, as we celebrate the seventieth birthday of the State of Israel, we may feel bereft of wisdom.

As I talk with both rabbis and other Jews across the U.S. and Canada, I hear much lamenting of the current attacks on democracy by the Netanyahu government, of the entrenched occupation which continues to destroy both Israeli and Palestinian lives, and of the state of discourse around Israel both there and in North America.

Too many members of our Jewish communities have told me that these realities make them want to walk away altogether.

On this Yom Ha’atzmaut, I’m asking you not to walk away.

Here are three reasons to stick around, drawn from God’s instructions to the Jewish people as we were about to enter the land of Israel for the first time:

1. Seventy years may be a long time in the scope of a human lifetime, but it’s a blink of an eye from the perspective of 3000 years of Jewish history.

“It was you who saw with your own eyes all the marvelous deeds that God performed” (Deuteronomy 11:7). That was God’s reminder to the Jews about to enter the land. But the generation that directly experienced the wonders of the Exodus died in the desert! It’s the next generation who are to keep this memory alive, as if it were their own.

We too remember millennia of dramatic ups and downs in our people’s history as part of our own collective memory. We recognize that the last seventy years need not determine the next seventy, and we keep faith in the promise that all of our efforts will lead toward a redeemed and perfected world.

2. Those of us committed to justice and human rights for both Israelis and Palestinians must not cede the space to those who are not.

“A land that Adonai your God looks after (doresh) always; the eyes of Adonai your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year until the end” (Deuteronomy 11:12). That’s how the Torah describes the Land of Israel. The verb doresh implies that God not only looks after the land, but also demands something from it. The 16th-century commentator Moshe Alshich elaborates that each of God’s two (metaphorical) eyes gaze differently at the Land of Israel—one through the lens of mercy, the other through the lens of justice. To be doresh the Land of Israel means simultaneously loving and having mercy on its residents, and insisting that the government live up to its human rights obligations.

Those who wish to push Israel farther into right-wing nationalism and authoritarianism aren’t going anywhere. Neither are those who seek the destruction of the state. We’re still here too, and we intend to outlast the extremists.

3. Israeli and Palestinian human rights leaders need our support and solidarity more than ever.

“Take care not to be seduced to turn away to serve other gods and bow to them” (Deuteronomy 11:16). Alshich notices that idol worship differs from other prohibitions in that even the desire to worship idols leads one to feel free to abandon other obligations. Today, the moral idolatry that places land and power over human life and dignity seduces some into violating other, fundamental laws regarding the protection of human beings.

Israeli and Palestinian human rights leaders act as our conscience, daring to speak truth to power even when threatened with violence and subject to incitement from the highest levels of power. These activists are crucial partners in ensuring that Israel live up to its stated ideals. We can’t abandon them.

Seventy years is a long time, but it’s not forever. Thank you for continuing to be partners in taking the long view and working toward a future in which Israel lives up to our hopes and dreams, and in which both Israelis and Palestinians live in security and dignity.

 

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Executive Director
T’ruah

 
tags: Israel/Palestine   
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