Tag Archives: Jewish

The gift of quiet self-reflection

I grew up in a mixed family (Christian and Jewish). As a child, I loved opening a gift each evening of Hanukkah, and then on Christmas morning, opening a whole bunch more. As a spoiled, middle-class brat, both holidays for me were all about the gifts, with a smattering of religious ceremony and reflection thrown in for good measure.

Nearly half a century later, when I was living in Gaza for a few months (2012-2013), many new friends asked me “What are you? A Christian? A Jew? Something else?” Labels help us make sense of each other, but my standard response to my inquisitors was not so simple.

After explaining my family traditions, I told my new friends that I don’t consider myself a member of any organized religion today, followed by their expressions of  astonishment or disgust. Then I would explain that I try to live my life by one simple (yet not so simple) rule — to treat others as I would want them to treat me. The Golden Rule in the Christian faith is also a bedrock principle in Judaism and Islam.

Last night I wished my Jewish family, friends and colleagues a quiet time of reflection on this first night of Hanukkah 2018. Here’s what I wrote on social media:

I believe tonight is the beginning of Chanukah. I was going to wish my Jewish family and friends a “Happy Chanukah” but instead will wish each of you a time of self-reflection about what it means to be a Jew after 50 years of Israel’s military occupation. How is that working for you? How does it make you feel? I hope you have quiet time to reflect.

The responses ranged from disappointment tinged with anger, to support and agreement. (I’ve copied several below without author identification.

Wow, I have reflected on your post and am saddened. We always celebrated this holiday in the spirit of hope for humanity and kindness. None of us free from association with a country that has committed acts of brutality and sometimes barbarism. As Americans, we can point to any number of atrocities. To use the actions of a government to issue such a wish to a people, such as the Jews, is inappropriate.

And then this —

I absolutely agree [with the previous comment]. This is like asking those who observe Christmas how they feel about celebrating a holiday associated with a religon that committed the worst brutality and atrocities ever in the name of furthering its creed.

Writer #1 offered further —

We do not succeed in changing people’s hearts and minds through insulting them. I have worked on many campaigns, invested time, money, and effort to influence policies toward justice. I feel it is dangerous to say that Jews who are citizens of other countries are responsible for the Israeli government’s atrocities. The occupation needs to end, but we will not build a coalition by this approach.

And then a third writer chimed in —

I was going to wish my white American family and friends a “Merry Christmas” but instead will wish each of you a time of self-reflection about what it means to be white American, with access to all of America’s privileges, after a century of U.S. imperialism from death squads in Latin America to Vietnam to drones, the NSA, and support for Saudi Arabia. How is that working for you? How does it make you feel? I hope you have quiet time to reflect.

How does that sound to you Lora? It sounds very condescending and patronizing to me. To say that, I would be setting myself above the people I’m talking to, saying “*I* have reflected on these issues and obviously you haven’t so I’m asking you to do so”.

What you said is worse because, while Americans do have some responsibility for America (to the extent that our democracy works, which is not very well), you are assigning to all Jews responsibility for Israel. I do think it’s especially important for us as American Jews to oppose what Israel is doing, because the position of American Jews plays at least some role in American policy toward Israel (though again, in practice, there is not much democratic power). But that doesn’t mean we are responsible for Israel’s actions simply because we are Jews.

hanuka1Others felt I was conflating Jews with Zionists, which I’m clearly not.  Surprisingly, no one has called me an anti-Semite, usually the default position for many who disagree with my words.

A time of reflection is what I wish — and I hope the reflection is focused on Israel’s half-century brutal and dehumanizing military occupation of the Palestinians.

Why should American Jews reflect on Israel’s actions?

  • Because Israel’s government officials have declared ad nauseum that they represent Jews worldwide, and have even invited Jews living anywhere on Planet Earth to come make their home in Israel. (That will certainly help with the “demographic threat.”)
  • Because the U.S. government has aided and abetted this 50 year occupation with the largest financial aid appropriations made to any country (most recently $38 Billion over the next 10 years). The U.S. consistently shields the State of Israel from being held accountable at the United Nations. The U.S. Congress gives Israel’s leader standing ovations when he speaks at the U.S. Capitol, and it is certainly clear that the vast majority of Congressmembers are at the beck and call of AIPAC, Israel’s lobbying organization in the U.S.
  • Because Israel’s three military campaigns against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, its 12+ years of economic, political and cultural siege on Gaza, and its deliberate killing of men, women, children, paramedics, and journalists at the #GreatReturnMarch at the fence between Israel and Gaza since March 2018, has occurred without any reprecussions, and no Israeli leaders have been held accountable. The killings will surely continue.
  • Because American Jews can and are playing a very important role in educating Congress that “Israel doesn’t speak for us” and younger American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel by greater numbers every year. Some personal reflection must have helped move these particular Jews to speak up and against the occupation.
  • Because when an American Jewish constitutent has an opinion to share about Israel with their member of Congress, I believe it carries much greater weight than my opinion (no matter how informed or eloquent I may sound.)

My Hanukkah wish casts no blame on Jews as a group or as individuals, despite what some writers above might have felt. That’s perhaps the biggest reason why my Jewish family, friends and colleagues should spend some time this Hanukkah in self-reflection on the issue I’ve raised. They may be carrying the weight of Israel’s horrific human rights abuses but they shouldn’t.  Quiet reflection may do the soul some good.

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Filed under Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy

Day #27 – August 2, 2014 – Thoughts

A child burns – a Palestinian child.

A rock throwing teenage boy is shot and killed – a Palestinian teenager.

An old woman in a wheelchair sits helplessly as soldiers invade her home and is shot point blank in the head – a Palestinian old woman.

A young man searches in the rubble for his family and is target practice for a sharp shooter – a Palestinian young man.

The images go on and on and on.  I can’t get them out of my head.  I don’t want to get them out of my head.

We know the victims — all Palestinians. Who are the killers?

Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists in the first case.  Well-trained, well-supplied Israeli soldiers in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cases.

Netanyahu condemns the first and praises the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. He has the power to label the terrorists.  He knows who is terrorizing whom.

Israeli citizens feel remorse in the first case, but national pride in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cases.

Religious leaders in Israel are split on whether to condemn or praise the murder in the first case, but none speak up against the killings in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cases.

What hope for a future is there when terrorists act with impunity?  When the State of Israel is not held accountable?  When Palestinian lives are cheaper than the olive trees that the Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists destroy?

There was a time when I could distinguish between Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists.  Today, now, in this moment, I can’t.

And that worries me more than words can say.


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Young Palestinian men enjoying a BBQ at the beach in Gaza.

2013-05-05 21.01.54

أنا سعيد

أنا سعيد

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Palestinian children playing at the park.

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Friends in Gaza

Friends in Gaza

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Gaza 2014 - credit D. Cormier

Shujaya 9

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces

We are ONE! (an amazing performance)

I originally saw this performance on Upworthy, check it out here.

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Filed under Peaceful, People

No secrets

Israeli citizenship is a complicated topic.   I think it requires a special type of PhD to understand it.

In very simple terms — as I understand it — all Jews anywhere and everywhere in the world automatically qualify for Israeli citizenship regardless of whether their ancestors are from Israel.  A Jew born and raised in Mongolia could arrive at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and become a citizen of Israel.

On the other hand, a Palestinian whose grandparents and great-grandparents farmed the land and owned homes in villages located in the area on which Ben Gurion airport now sits, cannot return to see or visit or live on the land that once belonged to their families.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the other Israeli hawks, and most Israelis don’t appreciate the anger and sadness this double-standard creates.

Israeli authorities also issue 10-year travel bans to people they don’t want in Israel, usually activists who are supporting and working with Palestinians.

The latest news is about Adam Shapiro, an American who was detained at Ben Gurion airport.   He has been told that a secret 10-year ban was issued against him in 2009 and he will likely be deported.  Shapiro is the co-founder, along with his wife, of the International Solidarity Movement.

I wonder if a secret 10-year travel ban has been issued against me.  I’m not a high-profile activist by any means, but if Israeli authorities check my passport, they will see the stamp from the Palestinian Authority.  I am posting it here because I have no secrets.

Lora's passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

Lora’s passport stamp from Palestinian Authority.

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Filed under Israel, People

Sacrifice!

My first Eid — the religious holiday for Muslims worldwide — was celebrated in Gaza.

As it was explained to me, Eid al-Adha is a special occasion because Muslims are remembering Abraham’s devotion to Allah and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as God commanded.  Once Allah saw that both Abraham and Ishmael were going to submit and make the ultimate sacrifice, he sent a sheep to be sacrificed instead.

The tradition continues today with the slaughter of sheep and dividing the meat to share portions with relatives and family and some with the less fortunate.

These goats are oblivious to the Eid slaughter.

I’ve been thinking alot about what sacrifice means.  As a mother, I think the ultimate sacrifice must be to give the life of a child.   I know I wouldn’t be able to do that.  Imagine the faith Abraham must have had in Allah!

What does sacrifice mean in today’s world?

For me, I think it might mean giving up, letting go, tossing aside some cherished beliefs about the world.  As a Westerner from America, it might mean letting go of my sense of entitlement to consume the lion’s share of the Earth’s resources and a lifestyle that is both lavish and dangerous by global standards.

In the Middle East, sacrifice might require giving up cherished beliefs about the future — by both Israelis and Palestinians — based on their faith that the Almighty has a better future planned for both.  That may be a sacrifice that is too big for either side to make, unfortunately.

So I’ll focus on the sacrifices that I need to make and hope that Allah, God, the Almighty is taking care of things in the Middle East.

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Filed under Islam, Spiritual - Religion