Thursday, October 22, 2015


(Intended for all of us as we watch and worry and wish there was something we could do to end the violence in Israel and Palestine.)

I recently heard an NPR host quote a friend who told him, “Israel is a country, not a conflict.” How often we forget!

Whether we are talking about Israeli victims of knife attacks or we are talking about Israeli government policy toward Palestinians, we often limit our understanding and confine our conversation to the conflict. As a synagogue, part of our mission is to educate about all of Israel (and Palestine too). I don’t want to whitewash the disturbing truths and I don’t think we ought to avoid controversy.

The material below is a haphazard listing of some of what I’ve been reading this week. Some of it is hopeful, some of it provocative. 

Did you hear about the owner of the hummus cafĂ© giving discounts to Jews and Arabs who eat together? Here’s an account from Al Jazeera America:

This Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg has me thinking about the many roots of the current violence in Israel. I believe that most Palestinians want to live in peace and support Israelis living in peace. I believe that most Israelis do as well. This article does not engage in blame, but thoughtful analysis. Some violence arises from incitement, lies and ignorance. Note the quote from Shlomo Avineri that highlights the many contributing factors to the current situation. It’s about settlements, weak leaders, mutual distrust—and so much more.

MORE PROVOCATION (and a condemnation)
And in the same vein, I feel obligated to condemn the recent anti-semitic attempt by UNESCO to deny the Jewish cultural/religious/historical heritage at holy sites (starting with the Western Wall and Temple Mount). I rarely jump to accusations of anti-semitism, particularly regarding Israel. In this case, it seems apt. This resolution seeks to identify these places as sacred Muslim sites, without any recognition of the sites’ sacredness in Jewish tradition as well. Furthermore, these claims are based on repeated false assertions of Israeli aggression in the Muslim holy sites.

You may remember when the Chaverim School featured the “Hand in Hand” (Yad b’Yad) schools for our group tsedakah (giving) recipient. Hasan, the school principal, argues that life in the Arab-Jewish bilingual school is not a “bubble.” Rather, the Jews “outside” live in their bubble, while the Arabs live in another bubble. He asks, who is really in a bubble, us or them?
Watch the video of a report on Israeli television (with English subtitles for the Hebrew and Arabic).

When we feel hopeless, renew our faith. I end with a prayer by Rabbi Noa Kushner

For Zion in the wake of the recent violence

Adonai sfatai tiftach ufi yagid tehilatecha / Open my lips and my mouth will declare your glory / Ps. 51:17

Please God:

Help our prayers leave their convenient parking spaces where they idle in our hearts. Release them from where they are stuck in our throats.

Help us to pray a real prayer. The unfinished kind. The kind that probably doesn’t rhyme. The kind that we worry someone will hear. The kind that does not construct a good argument or a reasonable plan for the future, but knows what it wants, that kind.

Remind us that prayer can begin in the beit knesset (synagogue) but is prohibited from staying locked up inside it. (Because prayer that is not allowed out is like a prayer that stays in bed. It lies prettily on its side, as if posing for a picture, but does not get up to help.)

Remind us that our prayers, as unfinished as they are, must be released into the winding streets of right here, right now where they are needed
Like fire trucks rushing to the scene of a fire.

And remind us that where our prayers go, we must follow.

So please: Adonai sfatai tiftach / God, open our mouths and open our doors.
Let us go toward the future with our wanting and your glory. Let our prayers find the prayers of others – others’ faiths, others’ furies, others’ fears – and let the prayers flow, like water flows to the lowest place, gathering

Making rivers where there has been nothing, no life, not a single drop, no hope, not a single fish, for so long. Making a rushing stream.