Tag Archives: jews

Putting Faith into Action

 

The Catholics and Jews came together in my world on Sunday, August 11, 2019 in Baltimore.  I attended the 10:30 am service at St. Ignatius Church with a friend, and then attended the Tisha B’Av #ICEOutHoCo protest in Howard County with other friends in the afternoon.  The messages from both events resonated deeply.

Jesus ChristThe priest said, “Today, young people are the principal protagonists of an anthropological transformation that is coming to be through the digital culture of our time, opening humanity to a new historical epoch. We are living through a period of change from which will emerge a new humanity and a new way of structuring human life in its personal and social dimensions. To accompany young people demands of us authenticity of life, spiritual depth, and openness to sharing the life-mission that gives meaning to who we are and what we do. Accompanying young people puts us on the path of personal, communitarian, and institutional conversion.”

When it was time for the petition, where We pray to the Lord ….. Lord, hear our prayer, my ears couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

St. Ignatius ChurchWe pray to the Lord, defeat the gun lobby and the public officials in their pay. Strengthen us to demand legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons, to require background checks, and to prosecute with rigor domestic terrorism. Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray to the Lord, shield innocent children cruelly harmed by politicians who stoke bigotry to stay in power. Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray to the Lord, end the affliction of all who suffer from violence and rescue them from bitterness. Lord hear our prayer.

Later that day, Jews United for Justice led a protest in front of the Howard County Detention Center against ICE and the detention of immigrants. The goal is to convince the county to end its contract with ICE to use the facilities.

Tisha B'Av Action

Several hundred people gathered peacefully at this Tisha B’Av Action to #CloseTheCamps

Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (Aug. 10-11, 2019), is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, on which we fast, deprive ourselves and pray. It is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a period of time during which we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

 

We heard speakers talk about the 9th day of Av, a Jewish fast day “commemorating the destruction of the Temples which has become an emotional lightening rod for all Jewish national tragedies. The Jewish community is not the only community that is suffering in our contemporary world. The day prompts us to be human beings in community with others.” We also heard from immigrants and others about their experiences with ICE, and about the call to action — demanding Howard County to cease its intergovernmental agreement with ICE. http://jufj.org/hoco-ice/

Tisha B'Av Action mother and child

This particular demonstration moved me in a way that many others haven’t because of the unity in spirit that I felt permeated almost everyone there.  Old, young, religious or secular, the energy was peaceful yet determined. Everyone was focused on the mistreatment of immigrants, on ICE, and on our responsibility to end this immoral path our nation is on.  [The organizer at the beginning of the action told us the ground rules, and I noted that he said our signs were welcomed but no Israeli flags because they wanted this to be an inclusive event.]

The Catholics and Jews today each reinforced similar messages from different angles.  They spoke from a place of peace, not anger or violence. They focused on injustices and harm occurring in the real world, not abstract concepts of good and bad. And children were highlighted in each. The time has come for leaders of the past to follow the leaders of the future.

Tisha B'Av Action vote

The youth in Gaza are demanding justice too. Our silence to Israel’s occupation and blockade is as deadly as the White Supremacists killing children in mass shootings, and ICE killing children in detention cages at the border.

Our hearts and heads must connect these dots so that our empathy and actions end injustices everywhere for everyone.  The time has come to end our tunnel vision.

 

 

 

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Filed under nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Easter & Passover Travel

 

Ghetto Jewish store

Store window in the Venice Ghetto

Movement is on my mind.  Or the lack thereof.

A middle-aged American woman, married to a Palestinian from Bethlehem, was stopped at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport last week, interrogated for hours, and then put on a plane back to the United States. (The news is here.) The Israeli authorities denied her permission to enter Israel to reunite with her family in Bethlehem where she has lived and raised a family for over 30 years. Why this treatment?  She was told “because she married a Palestinian.”

A young Palestinian-American woman, originally from Gaza but now living in the United States with her husband and baby, was stopped at Istanbul’s new airport from boarding her connecting flight to Cairo where she planned to travel by bus to the Rafah crossing into Gaza. She and her young son were looking forward to spending Ramadan with her family but the airline authorities told her the Rafah border was closed, and she would not be allowed into Egypt to wait for the border to open.

Notre Dame interior 5

Notre Dame Cathedral

The news reports that Israel has imposed a week-long closure of the West Bank and Gaza ahead of Passover, and is preventing hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Gaza from traveling to Jerusalem or Bethlehem to partake in their Easter celebrations.

The irony certainly does not escape me.

Jews worldwide celebrate Passover to mark their exodus from slavery in Egypt. Their freedom of movement is called Passover because, as explained by the Chabad Jews:

They were also instructed to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on their doorposts, a sign to G‑d that this was an Israelite home, to be passed over, while death was visited upon the firstborns in all other homes. This is what gave the Passover sacrifice (and holiday) its name.

Their exodus so long ago saved them from suffering and bondage, but what lessons were learned? What are Jews celebrating in the Twenty-First century as the State of Israel keeps millions of Palestinians oppressed and under occupation, preventing them from moving freely?

For those who are awake, I suspect their discomfort is growing.

As Cohen writes in Patheos:

But for a growing number of Jews around the world our relationship to the Palestinian people has become the greatest challenge to our Jewish identity and values. How can we celebrate our ‘feast of freedom’ and tell the story of our Exodus from the ‘narrow place’ of ‘Mitzryim’ while we deny, or stay silent, about the oppression of Palestine? It’s a profound challenge to our faith and the understanding of our own history.

Attempting to uphold a Jewish ideal of justice and freedom is not easy when you’ve just read that Israel has detained, kidnapped or jailed 1,000,000 Palestinians since 1948.

For those Jews who are not awake or prefer not to see, I think their journey must also be difficult because it takes a good bit of energy and struggle within to ignore the suffering of others.

I remember the wise words of a young Palestinian exchange student from Gaza who I met in Albuquerque, New Mexico over a Passover Seder many years ago. Reading from the Haggadah, a Jewish woman said “I don’t believe Jews are the Chosen People,” obviously to ease the discomfort she thought this young Palestinian Muslim might be experiencing. His response was genuine and thoughtful: “I believe Jews are the Chosen People. I believe God chose the Jews to be the people to show mankind how to treat one’s neighbors.”  (I wrote about Sami from Gaza here.)

If Sami is correct, then clearly the Chosen People have a steep learning curve. Israel’s occupation and subjugation of millions of Palestinians for the past 70+ years is merely a tick in humanity’s clock but it’s unbearable for those waiting for their moment of liberation, for their exodus.

Cohen concludes by saying:

“Tonight, we’ll conclude our family meal with this passage written by Aurora Levins Morales, a poet and activist. I discovered her writing in the 2018 Jewish Voice for Peace Haggadah.

“This time we cannot cross until we carry each other. All of us refugees, all of us prophets. No more taking turns on history’s wheel, trying to collect old debts no one can pay. The sea will not open that way. This time that country is what we promise each other, our rage pressed cheek to cheek until tears flood the space between, until there are no enemies left, because this time no one will be left to drown and all of us must be chosen. This time it’s all of us or none.”

May minds and hearts be moved this Passover and Easter, so that next year everyone has freedom of movement, a life of dignity with compassion, and we treat our neighbors as we wish they would treat us.

 

 

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Filed under Israel, Occupation, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

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

I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family

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[“Photo of israeli illegal settler taking pictures of palestinian young woman on the ground after she was shot by the israeli occupation forces in bethlehem city today.”  palestine 8/11/2015]

 

 

 

 

 

I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family.

Not about my Jewish colleagues who chose to politely ignore me years ago.

Not about the angry Jewish leaders in the community who denounced me publicly.

And not about the Jews who criticize my advocacy about Palestine and Israel.

Each has found his or her own method of denial to ignore what they don’t wish to see. It’s easier for them to live within their bubble, than to face the cold hard facts.

No, I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family who have been opening their hearts and minds — little by little — to the cruelties of the Israeli occupation, maybe because they know me and love me, or maybe because there is overwhelming evidence coming out of the Middle East now that is impossible to ignore.

I recently posted this photo on Facebook and shared my concern. “I fear for the future when young people take photos like this. Have they lost their empathy?”

What do you see in this picture? I see a young Jew wearing a kippah taking a photo of a Muslim woman covered head to toe, either dead or wounded, on the ground.

Someone else saw something entirely different.  He told me “I think you need to put the picture into context of what just happen. There can be many reasons why he’s taking the picture. For starters maybe he’s trying to show the world, that this is why Israel needs to put road blocks and check palestinian women walking around Israel because they can be about to stab an innocent person.”

I see a victim. He sees a terrorist. I see the Jew showing a callous disregard for human life. He sees the Jew gathering evidence to prove to the world that the security measures and the military occupation of Palestine are justified.

Israeli Professor Eva Illouz, a sociologist and the author of nine books, has written a very important piece in Haaretz entitled Israel is in National Denial Regarding Its Oppression of Palestinians. I encourage everyone to read it because I think it explains a lot. It also explains the reason for my worry.

Denial as a mechanism for self-protection is understandable, but denial as a moral choice and deliberate strategy to avoid the truth and to perpetuate harming and abusing others signals that the moral fabric of the nation (Israel in this case) and the individual is fraying. What happens to the collective (the state of Israel) or to the individual when the bubble bursts?

I’m not a psychologist and can’t begin to answer the question I’ve posed, but I’ll admit that the question keeps me up at night.

Professor Illouz writes about three forms of denial and says one form is “seeing but failing to register or actively ignoring the truth in front of our eyes.”

Some nations practice denial as a systematic policy, but we usually do not think of them as open societies. Yet I do not believe there is another way to characterize Israeli policy vis-à-vis the occupied territories. The mind-boggling, jaw-dropping claim that the State of Israel can quietly annex these territories, control the lives of 2.6 million Palestinians and still remain Jewish and democratic is denial on an uncanny scale – denial turned into grand political strategy (Palestinians and Israeli Arabs together would make up 4.3 million of the total population of Israel, a fact that would compel Jewish Israel to exercise an inhumane and unsustainable control over other human beings). In other words, what is unique about the Israeli case is that it not only denies the violence of the initial colonization of the land, but views the natives – those who inhabited the land – as the aggressors. This inversion of victim and perpetrator is a clear, classic example of denial, which at once erases one’s wrongdoing and projects it onto the other side.

I’m worried about my Jewish friends and family. They might be able to live their lives in a carefully constructed bubble, especially if they don’t live in Israel/Palestine. But I can’t – won’t live in their bubble with them.  I won’t be able to ignore their bubble and pretend their world and the real world can coexist.

Someday the truth might invade, and what will happen to their carefully constructed world of lies?

My Jewish friends and family are good and decent people. They have dreams for the future. They don’t wish anyone harm. I know they would give the shirts off their backs to anyone in need, including a Palestinian. But the walls of denial, just like Israel’s “security fence” cannot keep the truth out forever . . . and THAT worries me.

Denial is not simply a flaw of our consciousness, as psychoanalysis sometimes naively suggests. Denial is a pact of ignorance we make with ourselves, a choice to know and not to know, and is thus a particularly disturbing moral deficiency. 

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Filed under Israel, Occupation, People, Uncategorized