An Open Letter to Presbyterian Clergy


From Two Jewish Social Justice Advocates
Dear Reverends and Church-goers,

Interfaith delegation including young Jews and rabbis with Jewish Voice for Peace who advocated for boycott and divestment at the Presbyterian General Assembly.

We are writing to you as two young American Jews who have just seen something extraordinary. Last week we were guests at the 220th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh where we witnessed the historic plenary vote to boycott Israeli settlement products. We congratulate you as people of faith for aligning your practice with your values and taking a principled stand. Mazel tov!
At the General Assembly we watched Christian clergy and laypeople engaging in dialogue on a very difficult topic – the Israeli occupation of the West Bank – with respect, grace, and open hearts. It is a true blessing to walk the path of peace with you in solidarity. Both of us have spent years educating ourselves on the issues, traveling to Israel and Palestine, and researching companies complicit in the Occupation.
We hope and expect that you will guide your parishioners to make conscious consumer decisions. All of us can send a message with our pocketbooks and we can refuse to buy products complicit in human rights violations. Here are three specific products to avoid:
> Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics: Ahava is an Israeli company that manufactures beauty products in an illegal Israeli settlement using mud pillaged from the Dead Sea’s shores in the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. The company’s practices violate international law. Ahava products are labeled of “Israeli origin,” but according to international law, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel. The Hebrew word “Ahava” means love, but there is nothing loving about what this company is doing. Over a dozen rabbis wrote a letter to Presbyterian Church clergy supporting the boycott of Ahava in advance of the General Assembly. Ahava is sold at small beauty stores and many chain stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, Macy’s, ULTA,, and
> Hadiklaim Dates: Hadiklaim is an Israel date growers cooperative that deals with several major supermarkets internationally and sells its products in the US primarily on the East Coast. Hadiklaim exports under the “King Solomon Dates” and “Jordan River” brand names by the Israeli company Almog Tradex Ltd, which claims to export 10,000 tons of Israeli fruits annually. Hadiklaim dates are packaged in settlement houses in Beit Ha’Arava and Tomer, close to the Palestinian village of Fasayil. 

Further, date picking in the Jordan Valley is a hazardous business. Workers are hoisted into the trees with a cherry picker and are often left to work on a platform high above the ground for the duration of the working day without meal or toilet breaks. The majority of workers are Palestinian or Thai migrants – who are uniformly paid below the minimum wage.
> SodaStream: SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally friendly home carbonation appliance to “Turn Water Into Fresh Sparkling Water And Soda” but there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land and water resources. SodaStream is an Israeli corporation that produces all of its carbonation devices in an illegal settlement in the West Bank. Like Ahava, this settlement company obscures its true illegal origin by marking its products “Made in Israel”. SodaStream is sold at stores such as Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Kohl’s, William-Sonoma, local hardware shops, and other home improvement retailers.
Here are a few other ways you can support the boycott of settlement goods:
1. Urge your members to inform clerks and managers at stores that sell these products about the wrongful nature of these companies, asking them to de-shelve these products. Make sure that if your congregation has a gift shop, you don’t carry any of these products.
2. Preach about this boycott in the great tradition of faith-based organizing, extending from Dr. King’s work and the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, to Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott in Delano, California. Distribute this flyer from the Presbyterian Israel Palestine Mission Network.
3. Have an open discussion in your church about the reality of the Israeli Occupation and how this boycott aligns church words with action.
4. Work in solidarity with your Jewish friends to highlight that settlement boycott is finding increasing support globally, including within the Jewish and Israeli communities. Many rabbis, including Tikkun founder Rabbi Lerner, signed onto a letter urging the Presbyterian Church to boycott Ahava. During the past few months, several prominent Israelis and Jews have endorsed settlement boycott, including former Speaker of the Israeli Parliament and World Zionist Organization leader Avraham Burg, former Israeli Foreign Ministry director Alon Liel, and Jewish-American political pundit Peter Beinart.And let’s remind ourselves that it is possible to acknowledge the suffering of both Palestinians and Jews while clearly focusing on the urgency of ending the human rights violations Palestinians face daily under Occupation.
American historian Howard Zinn was fond of saying, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” Indeed, by continuing to invest in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and HP, the church remains complicit in supporting the occupation. We hope and trust that in another two years, when the Presbyterian Church again convenes for the 221st GA, divestment from companies that do not meet the Mission Responsibility Through Investment standard for socially responsible investing will pass easily.
Young Jews made a strong statement in support of boycott and divestment at the GA. The Presbyterian Young Adult Advisory Delegates overwhelmingly spoke in support of divestment. If we are to engage and retain the membership of the next generation of Jews and Christians, we will need to become more open-minded, more attentive to equal rights for all people, and more willing to embrace diversity and human rights. Our young generation seeks to align words with actions in prophetic tradition.
Please contact us if you would like more support for the settlement boycott in your church. We’d be glad to speak at your church, connect you with speakers in your area, or discuss this with you by phone.
Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen
Two young Jewish social justice advocates
from New York City and San Francisco
Rae Abileah and Ariel Vegosen can be contacted at rae[at] and arielmintwood[at]
For more info on settlement boycotts please visit,, and

0 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Presbyterian Clergy

  1. I looks like I am going shopping for every or duct listed here. You have very littke sense of the geography of the region.
    You want to boycott Arav products because uses mud for the Dead Sea. It is obtained from an area around Ein Gedi, within 1967 lines. Company headquarters is located in Arad, a town in the Negev. That is juts one example of a product on your list.
    I suggest you go back to school and study your geography and history, otherwise I assuming that Presbyterian Church supports replacing Israel with a Palestinians state.
    Adopting the latest pop political cause hardly makes you promoters of justice.
    Thanks of showing me my shopping list.

  2. Rae,
    Thanks for this blog post and it was so wonderful and inspiring to have so many of your JVP colleagues there to help us make the case for divestment and boycott. We must not stop as long as the injustice continues.
    Shalom & Salaam,

  3. Dear Rae and Ariel,
    Thank you for your commitment to social justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. Oppression enslaves both the oppressed and the oppressors in a cycle of violence and hatred which is also involves and impacts the USA and has corrupted our government and society. Thank you also for your support and efforts at the PCUSA General Assembly.

  4. So I see we have one settlement just a bit over the Green Line, which btw is not an international border.
    It’s funny how much the magic line weighs on people. It was established in the aftermath of the 1948 war of independence, and never represented a border. A border is establish when 2 sides can agree where it is.
    As for the items, well they were not “pillaged” seeing they were not Palestinians creations or patents. SO that is a sad definition.
    I do have a few questions for Rea
    1. Should all Jews be removed from the West Bank like Abbas as expressed as his wishes
    2. If all Jews in the West Bank are forced to leave, can Israel expel its Arab population?. You might call it racist, but that also highlights Abbas’s racism as well.I cal it a population exchange much lile Pakistan and India in 1947
    3. Do you feel that there are concessions the Palestinians have to give as well, such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state? After all the Palestinians are demand to had a “Palestinian state”.
    4. What about Jerusalem? Not even in the 1947 Partition plan was here an “east Jerusalem”? Should Jews be expelled from the Jewish Quarter as part of a settlement. If so, that would be the 2nd time since 1948 that Jews were cleansed from the Jewish Quarter.
    5. What is to be done with Hamas and their goal of replacing Israel with an Islamic Palestinian state?
    6. Are there other boycotts you are enforcing? Seeing the degree if gender discrimination in the Arab world, it is safe to say the at least 50% of Arab subjects are oppressed in the Arab world.
    7. How does israel stack up to its neighbors when it comes to human rights?
    These are hard questions, especially for those who adopt pop culture causes. Sadly the Tibetan cause has been abandoned and you all have computers made in China. Woman’s rights in thew Arab world have never been addressed by any of you and the Qaffya is the popular item to wear around campus.
    Looking forward to how you answer my questions.

  5. What a stomach churning disgrace to see you haters trying to drag a church (#PCUSA) into your economic warfare over some freaking mud. You are doing your best to keep the Palestinians dependent welfare queens rather than allow local businesses to thrive.

  6. Your presence at the PCGA was profoundly impactful, and while divestment lost a close vote, this boycott initiative is partially your doing (with “your” including all Jewish activists, from JVP to CP, who countered those institutional powers who roamed the halls and threatened a severing of ties w/ the PC).

    • Don’t forget Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Teva Pharmaceuticals, etc.. Life has gotten complicated. Gone are the days when boycotting Israel was about not buying Jaffa oranges and yalmakas.

  7. Many thanks for your presence and good work at G.A. It was a learning experience for many commissioners to hear a different kind of Jewish voice concerned about peace and justice in Palestine. There were a number of commissioners from Committee 15 who mentioned that your presence and testimony had a powerful impact. It was great to be working side by side with you for such an important cause. Continue on! We will be working together again, I am sure.

  8. There were 200 slaughtered in a massacre today in Hama, Syria. I think the count is up to 16,000 dead. Was the discussed at your general assembly?

  9. 7 Israelis died today in Bulgaria as a result in a bomb in a tourist bus. All they were doing was trying to enjoy life

  10. So if you are successful, and these companies are shut down, that will put a lot of nonIsraeli workers out of jobs, will it not? No one is forcing anyone to work at these companies. You young ladies are idiots and what has the Presbyterian Church, which has a tradition of antiSemitism, to do with business going on in the ‘occupied’ territories? Why isn’t it crowing over the occupied territories here in the US, which were taken from the native Americans? Those territories would not have become ‘occupied’ had its inhabitants not waged and lost a war which they started with Israel. When you’re ready to give Texas and California back to Mexico, we can have a conversation.

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