Barriers, Borders, Boundaries, and Walls

Israel reflections, continued.

Israel is a Democratic Jewish state. It is a geographically tiny place, situated in an “undesirable” neighborhood, surrounded by those who wish to see her eradicated.

Israel has embraced within its borders, opened its arms and heart to so many who have had no other place to turn, refugees of all types: the earliest settlers from the late 1800’s, the second wave of settlers from WWII, Yemenite Jews, Moroccan Jews, Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Cambodian “boat people,” Vietnamese refugees, those from Darfur and the southern Sudan who fled from violent African regimes..and so many others. Borders and boundaries often meant nothing.

And now, Israel is once again trying to figure out how to offer safety and security to 60,000 Syrian refugees who are the victim of the civil war in Syria – a place that is now being referred to as “the country that used to be Syria.” Syria, a country that has no relations with Israel. And Israel is trying to find a way to be able to offer safe haven and refuge, despite borders and boundaries. They will do so in a way that addresses all security issues and in a way that addresses the humanitarian issues at stake.

To be a Jew is to recognize that we are all created “B’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God” and thus, the Democratic Jewish state often goes out of its way to treat others, no matter their nationality, background or religion with a sense of that humanity, justice, and fairness.

We saw this same attitude at our visit to Hadassah hospital Ein Kerem. Hadassah treats all patients equally, and often treats patients from countries who do not have diplomatic relationships with Israel. But they find a way to come to Hadassah because Hadassah is known for its exemplary medical care, its cutting-edge and innovative technology and the fact that it’s medical team see no boundaries vis-a-vis race, ethnicity, citizenship or religion. Everyone is treated as if they are created b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God.

And yet, despite this, people are people. And as the old joke goes, if two Jews were stranded on a desert Island, they would build three synagogues: one for each of them, and one that neither would attend. Israel is no different.

Everywhere we went, we were witness to emotional, physical and other types of barriers, boundaries, borders and walls that cause tension and stress among different groups of Jews, that exacerbate relationships between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis, and that fans the flame of anger that prevent dialogue toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It is in these areas that we see the concept of “b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God” falling to the wayside. Here, we witness the concept of fundamentalism: the notion of “only my way is correct, and your way is wrong, and therefore, you are evil.” No matter if the issue involves Jew vs Jew, or Jew vs Arab, when we treat someone like they are “other,” we forget that they too, are human.

In Israel, there is no such thing as religious pluralism. The Orthodox control all matters of personal status (marriage, divorce, conversion, burial). Orthodox synagogues are built by the government and Orthodox rabbis’ salaries are paid for by the government. Not so for any other Jewish denomination. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews need to fight for their land, fight to have their rabbis’ rights recognized, fight for everything they receive.

We spent time with three different Reform congregations (Congregation Yozma in Modi’in, Yedid Nefesh Congregation in Carmiel and Kol Haneshama Congregation in Jerusalem) praying together, eating together, studying together. We prayed at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and studied with Rabbi Michael Marmur, the Provost of HUC, and we spent time at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, learning about the Israel Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and some of the causes they address. We heard about the boundaries, borders and walls that the Reform Movement in Israel has to face daily.

Yet, they are constantly making progress and gaining strides. The Reform Movement has ordained over 100+ Israeli-born rabbis in its Israel rabbinical program. They celebrate the B’nai Mitzvah of over 800 students every year and hundreds of weddings. 1000’s of people attend Reform congregations for study and prayer during holiday times. The Legal Aid Center for New Immigrants has assisted hundreds of new immigrants gratis with legal aid. And Anat Hoffman, the director of the Israel Religious Action Center, is the leading voice of “Women of the Wall” pressing for egalitarian participation for all at one of Jerusalem’s holiest spots. Yes – there is more than one way to be “religious” – and the Israeli Reform Movement is living proof that liberal Judaism is a viable option.

While some of our group went to Masada and the Dead Sea, some of us visited Hebron, in the West Bank with the NGO “Breaking the Silence.”

Breaking the Silence was founded in 2004 by a group of former ID veterans, many of them coming from religious backgrounds. They felt that the Torah and Jewish values were diametrically opposed to what was taking place in Hebron. They felt the lack of people being treated “b’tzelem Elohim” called for action.

Hebron is the only Palestinian city in the West Bank with a Jewish settlement in its center. And this settlement happens to be comprised of ideological settlers who believe that all of the West Bank should be “Arab-free.” These settlers will forcibly remove Arabs from their places of business and homes and take illegal possession of them. They defy the laws of the army and the police. They all carry weapons.

For years, the army has implemented a policy of separation and discrimination between the Israeli settlers and the Palestinian majority. The army is charged with protecting the settlers (and at times, the Palestinians who are often attacked by the settlers). The army severely restricts the movement of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents, which has led to the destruction of the main commerce area and to the mass abandonment of the area by the residents who could afford to flee. Hundreds of shops have closed, thousands of people have been left without a livelihood and many people have been forced to leave their homes. The city center has become a ghost town, where only Jews are allowed to move about freely (Palestinians are not allowed to drive on the streets, or be on the streets at certain times). Hunger and poverty are rampant. The UN is providing children with soup and buckets for soup at lunch-time, often the only meal that is available that day.

Hebron – Ghost Town
The fanatic Baruch Goldstein, who massacred Muslims during Ramadan many years ago while they were praying in the mosque at the Cave of Machpelah, was part of this group of settlers.

They promote an ideology of hatred based on a fundamental belief that walls, barriers and boundaries that push out and separate will be beneficial to them. They teach that the “other” is not human and is not worthy of being treated as such.

At the same time, there exist many good Israelis who are trying to teach about what is happening in Hebron and change the conversation. The goal is to change the policies of what happens in Hebron, and hopefully one day to end the occupation. People cannot live autonomously if they are living under occupation.

We also spent one afternoon just north of the West Bank, in Israel, with Sikkuy: For Civic Equality for Arab Israelis. Sikkuy has two main goals: The first goal is how to close the economic gaps that exist in the Arab Israeli neighborhoods. The Arab Israeli neighborhoods receive much less government support than the Jewish Israeli neighborhoods. This affects the public education system, water access, garbage pickup, electricity and all public works, roadways, public transportation, etc. The second goal is how to build a shared society. Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have very little contact with each other, very little opportunity for dialogue and discussion.

There are 1.4 million Arab citizens in Israel (approximately 17% of Israeli citizens are Arab; less than 200,00 are Christians).

Due to the large economic gaps in the system, the Arab Israeli population is extremely disadvantaged. The only engine of growth over the next 20 years for the economy is the integration of the Arab Israeli citizens and the Haredim into society. The Haredim are ambivalent. The Arabs do want to participate but there are barriers.

Often, the Arabs are seen as a security threat, they often have a difficult time finding jobs – even with advanced university degrees.

We spent time with Asala Mahajna and her father, Kasam, originally from the largest Israeli Arab town of Um El Fahm. We heard and witnessed how the town’s growth was impeded by some of the economic issues. We heard about Asala’s hopes and dreams and concerns for the future.

We learned how Sikkuy, with it’s Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli co-directors work together with other organizations to break down barriers, tear down walls and build bridges that will lead to new avenues of openness and better living. Perhaps, one of the most exciting ventures we learned about was a set of seven schools called: “Hand in Hand.” Founded by Shuli Dichter (former Director of Sikkuy). Shuli is breaking down barriers and walls with these schools that provide education for both Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli school children. They bring together the parents for discussion and dialogue. “The old shall dream dreams, but the youth shall have visions.”

We spent time up on the Golan Heights at the Syrian border, getting a security briefing on what was happening with the “country formerly known as Syria” from (Retired) Col. Kobi Marom.

And we had a fascinating tour and lecture of the security wall around the West Bank with Prof. Paul Liptz.

We walked around the walls of the Old City, the walls that separated the Old City from the New, the walls that separated the Jewish Quarter from the Christian Quarter, from the Armenian Quarter from the Muslim Quarter.

We even saw a sign on a wall that said: “Americans go home. You’re not welcome here.”

Yes, Israel is a complex place.

We pray that one day, there will be no need for the walls, the barriers will come down and all people will remember to treat each other “b’tzelem Elohim” – in the Image of God.

Becoming a Family of Travelers – Guest post by Carole-Ann Gordon

Our trip began with expectations of sharing our lives as a community as we tour Israel for 10 days together. 

After traveling from JFK to Tel Aviv in two groups, we joyfully met up at Abdu Hadayag (a fish restaurant in Old Yoffo) for a delicious dinner that became a ‘family reunion.’ Over a multi-course feast, we each regaled the others with our flight adventures. 

Being all together for the first time generated the warmth of a traveling family, not a tour group. 

Sharon greeted us with joy and arranged a perfect get-together: we ate, laughed, met Ofer (our tour guide) and enjoyed ourselves. 
We ended our first outing with sighs of contentment, joy and excitement for the days to follow.
First grounding feeling about being a Jew in Israel: a sweet breath of wholeness upon seeing a mezuzah on the doorpost of each hotel room. 
Sharon’s comment: Bruchim Ha’ba’im! Welcome home!

Our Bags Are Packed – Our Chanukah Journey to Israel Begins! (Follow our Journey…)

It began more than a year ago. Congregants inquired “are we going to have a synagogue trip to Israel?”

We met and discussed, planned and studied, tried to determine the best program to meet the needs for those who wished to travel to our Jewish homeland.

It all comes together tonight as we leave to visit Israel for Chanukah. We are an intergenerational group of 27 participants, ranging in age from 13 to over 80. Some have never travelled to Israel, some have been many times.

We’ll celebrate two B’nai Mitzvah while we’re there: our 13-year will chant Torah at the egalitarian southern side of the Western Wall. This beautiful young man is sharing his Israel Bar Mitzvah experience with one of our 30-year olds: she, too, will celebrate becoming Bat Mitzvah at this time, as she never experienced Bat Mitzvah when she was growing up.

We’ll hike, explore, eat, laugh, bond as a group, learn, eat, listen, learn, explore more, taste chocolate and wine, spend time with the Israeli Reform Movement and eat some more. We’ll marvel at the wonder of modern Israel and all that has been accomplished in such a short time. We’ll learn about the struggles and challenges that exist in the Middle East. We’ll keep open minds and open hearts.

This is not merely a “trip,” or a “vacation,” it is a journey. We are going to connect spiritually, emotionally and physically with the land of our ancestors. We will reflect on our own Jewish identities and what our connection to Israel means to each of us.

And we’ll share our reflections and photos each day – in this space – with you.

I will be turning over my blog to a different person each day to share something from the previous day (a group “journal” of sorts).

So join us on our journey, travel with us as you follow us on this space (beginning around December 22nd).

A Traveler’s Prayer for Our Special Journey*

Let us remember that we travel not for the sake of travel alone, but to have our perspectives on the world transformed.

Let us take responsibility for our actions and words as we observe, learn, listen, struggle, grow and reflect,

Let us arrive safely at our destination – knowing that this is no ordinary trip, but a journey of the heart, mind, soul and spirit. A unique journey to “Eretz Yisrael, The Land of Israel.”

Let us feel the deep and abiding connection with our Jewish roots, that will inspire us to develop a long and lasting bond with the land and people of Israel.

May the sparks of the Chanukah candles ignite a spark of passion within us, which we will bring back home to share with others, so they too, may be strengthened by our learning and understanding.

May we be blessed in our going and blessed in our returning -in safety, peace and wholeness.

*(Prayer based on a similar prayer from AJWS)


Shimon Peres – Pursuer of Peace

We think about Shimon Peres as he recovers from his stroke. He is a model of being true to one’s convictions: “In spite of our differences, we can build peace, not just negotiate peace.”

Jewish tradition is full of contradictions.

On the one hand, we are instructed to “be like the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace.” (Pirke Avot – Ethics of the Fathers – 1:12).

Yet, at the same time, we see in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei (literally, “When you go out”) a call to violence and war. “When you go out against your enemies, and the Eternal your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive.” (Deuteronomy 21:10).

How can we, as a people, be both “seekers of peace” and called to “violence and war” simultaneously?

Our Jewish tradition understands that one must always strive for peace, one must always actively pursue peace, but at the same time, unfortunately, bloodshed and war are a human condition which must be mitigated against. Evil must be eradicated, and at times, war cannot be avoided.

In recent Jewish and Israeli history, one person who seems to understand this dichotomy best is Shimon Peres, life-long Israeli statesman and “pursuer of peace.” I think of Shimon Peres now, not just because of the message of this weeks Torah portion, but because our thoughts are with him and his family after he suffered from a major stroke a few days ago.

He was born in Belarus in 1923 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 11. Peres was raised within the Labor-Zionist youth movement, embodying the deep belief that a Jewish State was key for the existence of the Jewish people.

And so, following Israel’s Independence in 1948, Peres was willing to fight for its very existence. First he became head of the Israeli Naval services and when he was 29 years old, he became the Director General of the Ministry of Defense. For Peres, war was a necessary evil. All of his family members who remained in Europe perished in the Holocaust.

Peres was so committed to the State of Israel that his entire professional life was one of service: he was first elected to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in 1959 and served continuously until 2007 (except for a very short break at one point). He served as Prime Minister of Israel twice, Interim Prime Minister and was elected as President of Israel in 2007, eventually retiring in 2014 – at the age of 91.shimon-peres

While Peres was willing to fight for Israel’s safety, security and right to exist, he also felt the moral imperative to actively pursue peace to the fullest extent possible.

He taught us by his word and deeds what it means to reach out to one’s enemies and make them your friends: he initiated dialogue and contact with Jordan’s King Hussein long before Israel and Jordan ever had diplomatic relations; he knew that it was crucial to work towards a peaceful relationship with the Palestinians – even when times seemed difficult.

Thus, he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 with Yitzchak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the work they did together, even though tensions still exist. His work for peace earned him many international awards and prizes.

I met President Peres a few times, during times of quiet and calm in Israel, during the days of strife and terror attacks. What impressed me most, was that this former military hero, never gave up hope that peace was possible. That two people’s living on one land in harmony could be a reality.

To that end, in 1996, he created the Peres Center of Peace. It is one of Israel’s leading organizations to promote peace building between Israel and its neighbors as well as between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The Peres Center of Peace focuses on three core areas:

  • Medicine and Healthcare
  • Peace Education (through sports, the arts and technology)
  • Business and the Environment.

Peres said: “In spite of our differences, we can build peace, not just negotiate peace. We can create the proper environment , and not just become victims of the existing environment.”

You can read more about the good and important work they do here: The Peres Center for Peace.

Shimon Peres is a man who lived his life true to his convictions: willing to fight and engage in warfare when absolutely necessary, and even more willing to engage in the difficult pursuit of making peace, because this is more important than anything else.

We keep him and his family in our thoughts as he continues on his journey for healing and wholeness. His courage, conviction, strength and fortitude are models for us all.



Israel Day Parade (June 2016)

Every year, Jews of all denominations and political backgrounds gather together to express our support for Israel by marching in NYC at our Israel Day Parade. We stand stronger together!

Temple Isaiah joined with hundreds of other congregations and Jewish organizations to express our support for the State of Israel in New York City with the Israel Day Parade on June 5, 2016. Even though the weather was wet and rainy, it didn’t dampen our spirits or pride!

Words Matter. Actions Matter. Speak Out Against BDS.

BDS has become a ruse for anti-Semitism in disguise. It has been used to vilify Jews, delegitimize the State of Israel and as an attempt to undermine all efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

I was living in Toronto when the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) slowly began to percolate on university campuses around the globe. The Canadian Jewish community quickly coalesced to formulate a response to address this issue. Never the less, the BDS Movement continued to grow.

Briefly, the BDS campaign was organized in July of 2005 by a group of over 150+ Palestinian NGO’s in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel.

In short time, it has become a ruse for anti-Semitism in disguise. It has been used to vilify Jews, delegitimize the State of Israel and as an attempt to undermine all efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Many of those who support BDS, including thousands of university students, lack an understanding of what “BDS” really stands for. They also lack an understanding of the myriad of complex issues which make up the “wild Middle East” – in which the Israelis and Palestinians are embroiled, but are not the sole players.

And now, it appears that the voices of BDS are becoming even louder. The rhetoric, vitriol, propaganda and lies these voices spew are cause for great concern. They threaten the emotional and physical well-being of our young people on campus. They threaten our emotional and physical well-being, and that of the entire Jewish people. They threaten the emotional and physical well-being of our beloved State of Israel.

FlagJust this past week, the students at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, voted to support the BDS Movement on Campus. McGill has an overwhelming large number of Jewish students enrolled – so this was an astonishing turn of events. It was seen as an act of betrayal, an act of anti-Semitism, an act of anti-Zionism.

This is just one example of what is happening in so many places all over the world. We need to speak up. We need to educate others about the issues. It doesn’t matter if one is politically conservative or liberal, there is no place for BDS in our world view.

If Israel is at risk, it affects all of the world: Israel protects that region of the world from nuclear disaster, Israel is a key provider of hi-tech and medical innovations, Israel provides expertise in the areas of agricultural and environmental development and so much more.

What You Can Do:

  • Write to your Senators and Representatives and urge them to speak out against the BDS Movement. (The Canadian Government just issued a strong statement against BDS this past week. The city of Paris did as well. The US government should do the same. Click here to find your Senators and Representatives).
  • Educate yourself about the issues. Read widely. I highly recommend Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land”, and Yossi Klein Halevi’s book “Like Dreamers.”  They both also write and blog frequently in the media, so you can follow them online. There are many other great resources: Times of Israel, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Report. Listen to a plurality of voices. The Reform Rabbis are currently having their annual conference in Israel. They’re meeting with the government, religious leaders and many other people of influence. You can follow them online by searching for “CCAR Convention 2016 in Israel.” Please read their recent statement against BDS by the Central Conference of American Rabbis which they just issued earlier this week.
  • If you have children on Campus, encourage them to connect with other Jews on campus via Hillel, or Jews for Judaism. Jews for Judaism is an organization that is non-denominational and has as its mission “to strengthen and preserve the Jewish identity through education and counseling” of Jewish young people. Originally, Jews for Judaism was meant to help give young people the tools and education to counteract cults and missionaries. However, these same tools can be extremely helpful in counteracting those in the BDS Movement as well.
  • Support Israel! Buy Israeli products: drink Israeli wine on Shabbat, look for Israeli food in the kosher aisle in the grocery store, shop online specifically for products made and manufactured in Israel.
  • Visit Israel. Nothing says “we love Israel – ahavat Zion” – more than going to visit. Developing a personal relationship with the land and people of Israel is much deeper than tzedakah. We are offering the gifts of our hearts, minds and souls.

I will be leading a trip to Israel with my Congregation, Temple Isaiah, this coming December 2016. You can find the information about the trip by clicking on the Facebook link of the blog and scrolling down. (Or you can send me a private message to inquire about more information by inputting your info at the end of this blog). Our itinerary is meant to appeal to both those who have never been to Israel before AND to those who have been many times. We’ll be meeting with key leaders and teachers who will help us to understand the complexities of life in Israel and learn about the nuances of the situation.

It is not enough to shake our heads, wring our hands and say, “this BDS Movement is terrible.” We can take action. We can do something. Please join me!

May the Force Be With You: A Jewish View

This is a very special Shabbat – ‘Shabbat Star Wars.’ I’m sure that everyone is aware that the new Star Wars movie opened last night. So I  thought that this evening would be a good time to spend a few moments sharing some thoughts on the many things the movies can teach us and the themes they share with our ancient Jewish texts.

r2d2This sermon — which takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — can be found here. (And you can find all my sermons by clicking “On the Bima” in the menu.)

We Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem… And All Who Dwell There

On Shabbat, we typically light two candles.

Why? Because in the Torah the Ten Commandments are repeated twice, the first time in Exodus 20 and the second time in Deuteronomy 5.

In each of these, the commandment about Shabbat is slightly different, in Exodus 20:8 we are told to “remember” (zachor) the Sabbath day to keep it holy. In Deuteronomy 5:12, we are told to “observe” (shamor) the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Thus the rabbis of old say we light two candles on Shabbat, one to represent “remember” and one to represent “observe”. The act of “remembering” is passive, while the act of “observing” is active. Shabbat requires that we do both: we remember our history, while we do something physical do make Shabbat our own unique experience.

Candles for Shabbat
Candles for Shabbat

We light candles because the flame is a symbol of God’s divine presence. It is symbolic of the spark of goodness in each of us. Light one candle in a dark room and the entire room is illuminated by the warmth and glow of that single flame.

Shabbat is a taste of that time to come when the world will be filled with the divine sparks within each of us and when each of us can see the divine sparks in the other. No more war, no more violence, no more bloodshed.

This week, we observe Shabbat during a time of terrible violence and unrest in Israel. Let the light of our Shabbat candles be a beacon of light and hope for all. Let us pray for an end to that violence, an end to the acts of terrorism, an end to the bloodshed.

We know that the light of the Shabbat candles reminds us that fire can either spark acts of goodness in others, or can ignite the flames of hatred or enmity. We pray that the flames will ignite passion for righteous deeds, acts of love, the pursuit of peace.

(What follows below is from Amichai Lau-Lavie, The Founding Director of Storahtelling, Inc.)

I share with you a beautiful ritual created by two religious leaders who are mothers and lovers of peace. They came came together during a previous time of violence in the Middle East to compose a new prayer for peace: The Prayer of the Mothers.

Sheikha Ibtisam Mahameed and Rabba Tamar Elad-Appelbaum invite us to take their prayer into our hearts and into the world.

Read it below – in Arabic and Hebrew.

They also created a new ritual at that time: Inviting us all to light a candle on Fridays – for peace. Another candle for the Sabbath Keeping Jews, a candle for Muslims on their sacred day.

See the invocation for this ritual below. They ask that we help spread this precious new prayer and ritual.

May we not light this extra candle for the rest of our lives. But let’s start lighting it tonight.

Shalom. Salaam. Peace.

Candle for Peace
Let us Light Candles for Peace
Two mothers, one plea:
Now, more than ever, during these days of so much crying, on the day that is sacred to both our religions, Friday, Sabbath Eve
Let us light a candle in every home – for peace:
A candle to illuminate our future, face to face,
A candle across borders, beyond fear.
From our family homes and houses of worship
Let us light each other up,
Let these candles be a lighthouse to our spirit
Until we all arrive at the sanctuary of peace.
Ibtisam Mahameed Tamar Elad-Appelbaum

!تعالوﻭاﺍ نضﯾﻳئ شمعاتﺕ اﺍلسلامﻡ

وﻭاﺍلدﺩتانﻥ وﻭطﻁلبﺏ وﻭاﺍحدﺩ: خصﯾﻳصا اﺍلانﻥ, في ھﮪﮬﻫذﺫهﻩ اﺍلاﯾﻳامﻡ, اﺍﯾﻳامﻡ اﺍلبكاء اﺍلكبﯾﻳرﺭ, في اﺍلﯾﻳوﻭمﻡ اﺍلمقدﺩسﺱ لدﺩﯾﻳاناتنا, في ﯾﻳوﻭمﻡ اﺍلجمعة وﻭمساء اﺍلسبتﺕ, نضﯾﻳئ في كلﻝ بﯾﻳتﺕ شمعة للسلامﻡ: شمعة تطﻁالبﺏ بوﻭجﮫﻪ اﺍلمستقبلﻝ, وﻭجﮫﻪ اﺍلانسانﻥ. شمعﮫﻪ تنتصرﺭ على اﺍلحدﺩوﻭدﺩ وﻭاﺍلرﺭعبﺏ. منﻥ بﯾﻳوﻭتﺕ عائلاتنا وﻭبﯾﻳوﻭتﺕ صلوﻭاﺍتنا نضﯾﻳئ اﺍحدﺩنا للاخرﺭ وﻭاﺍلشموﻭعﻉ تكوﻭنﻥ اﺍلبرﺭوﻭجﺝ وﻭاﺍلفنارﺭ لارﺭوﻭاﺍحنا

!حتى نصلﻝ لمعبدﺩ اﺍلسلامﻡ. اﺍبتسامﻡ محامﯾﻳدﺩ

!تمارﺭ اﺍلعادﺩ-اﺍفالبوﻭمﻡ !!!

!בואו נאיר נרות שלום

שתי אמהות ובקשה אחת: שדווקא עכשיו, בימי הבכייה הגדולה האלה, בימים המקודשים לדתות שלנו, בשישי ובערב שבת, נדליק בכל בית נר לשלום: נר שמבקש פני עתיד, פני אדם. נר שצולח גבולות ואימה. מבתי המשפחות ומבתי התפילה שלנו נאיר זה לזה והנרות יהיו מגדלור לרוחנו

עד שנבוא אל היכל השלום

איבתיסאם מחמיד

תמר אלעד-אפלבום

The Mother’s Prayer
God of Life:

You who heals the broken hearted, binding up our wounds.

Please hear this prayer of mothers.
You did not create us to kill each other
Nor to live in fear or rage or hatred in your world. You created us so that we allow each other to sustain Your Name in this world:

Your name is Life, your name is Peace.

For these I weep, my eye sheds water:
For our children crying in the night,
For parents holding infants, despair and darkness in their hearts.
For a gate that is closing – who will rise to open it before the day is gone?

With my tears and with my constant prayers, With the tears of all women deeply pained at these harsh times

I raise my hands to you in supplication: Please God have mercy on us.

Hear our voice that we not despair That we will witness life with each other, That we have mercy one for another, That we share sorrow one with the other, That we hope, together, one for another.

Inscribe our lives in the book of Life

For Your sake, our God of Life Let us choose Life.

For You are Peace, Your world is Peace and all that is Yours is Peace,
May this be your will
And let us say Amen.

Sheikha Ibtisam Mahameed and Rabba Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, English translation Amichai Lau-Lavie

أغنية الحياة والسلام

صلاة مشتركة

اله الحياة
الذي ُيشفي القلوب الحزينة والمتألمة استمع لو سمحت الى صلاة الأمهات

لأنك لم تخلقنا لكي نقتل بعضنا بعضا
وليس لكي نعيش بحالة من الخوف, الغضب والكراهية في عالمك هذا
بل لكي نسمح لبعضنا البعض أن نذكر أسمك
اسم الحياة, اسم السلام في العالم.

على جميع هؤلاء أنا أبكي دوما
أبكي خوفا على الأطفال في الليالي
يحمل الآباء أطفالهم الصغار واليأس والظلام في قلوبهم على البوابة التي أغلقت والتي لا نعرف من سوف يقوم بفتحها

وبالدموع والصلوات التي أصليها طيلة الوقت
وبدموع النساء اللواتي يشعرن بهذا الألم القوي في هذه الأوقات العصيبة
أنا أرفع يدي اليك يا ربي أن ترحمنا
لنعيش مع بعضنا البعض
ونشفق على بعضنا البعض
ونواسي بعضنا البعض

ونأمل الخير لبعضنا البعض

ولكي نكتب قصة حياتنا في كتاب الحياة من أجلك يا اله الحياة
امنحنا أن نختار الحياة

لأنك السلام ومنزلتك السلام وكل ما لديك سلام بإذن الله لنقل آمين

ابتسام محاميد وتمار العاد- أفلڨوم

מלך חפץ בחיים הרופא לשבורי לב ומחבש לעצבותם

שמע נא תפילת אמהות

שאתה לא בראתנו על מנת שנהרוג זה בזה ולא על מנת שנחיה בפחד, כעס ושנאה בעולמך אלא על מנת שנדע לתת רשות זה לזה לקיים את שמך שם חיים, שם שלום בעולם

על אלה אני בוכיה עיני עיני יורדה מים על ילדים בוכים מפחד בלילות
על הורים אוחזים עולליהם וייאוש ואפלה בלבם על שער אשר נסגר ומי יקום ויפתחהו טרם פנה יום

ובדמעות ובתפלות שאני מתפללת כל הזמן ובדמעות כל הנשים שכואבות את הכאב החזק בזמן הקשה הזה
הריני מרימה את ידיי למעלה
אנא ממך אדוני רחם עלינו
שמע קולנו ה׳ אלהינו בימי הרעה האלה שלא נתייאש ונראה חיים זה בזה
ונרחם זה על זה
ונצטער זה על זה
ונקווה לזה לזה

ונכתוב את חיינו בספר החיים למענך אלהים חיים. תן שנבחר בחיים

כי אתה שלום וביתך שלום וכל אשר לך שלום וכן יהי רצון ונאמר אמן

Iran is the Wild Middle East – Can it Be Trusted?

I was born at the end of 1960.

I grew up at the time when young Americans were drafted into the US war in Viet Nam.

I vividly remember the Six-Day War in Israel and how that solidified Jewish pride and identity for so many Jews around the world. I was six years old at that time.

Just before I became Bat Mitzvah in September of 1973, Israel was attacked by her neighbors on Yom Kippur and yet another war – the “Yom Kippur War” – began, taking its toll on so many in our beloved homeland.

I spent my childhood and youth protesting wars, marching in rallies to support Israel, and trying to make sense of the world around me.

“War is Not Healthy” Necklace

I wanted to make my protest visible. So I wore a necklace around my neck that was popular with so many of my friends at that time: “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” I also wore a bracelet on my arm with the name of an American soldier who was taken Prisoner of War in Viet Nam: Sgt James Ravencraft (I wore that bracelet for decades – until I visited the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC and found his name on the wall, saw that he died and made a paper engraving of it).

We shook our heads in disbelief every time a plane was hijacked by terrorists, every time the PLO made radical statements and demands. This was in the era before suicide bombers, before car bombs and plane bombs and the World Trade Center was destroyed.

We cried out at poverty and hunger, the plight of the Soviet Jews and at other injustices taking place in our world.

Sadly, the world has not changed. Violence and war rage on. The fundamentalists appear to become more extreme. The internet and social media have enabled messages to be disseminated around the globe in a nano-second. Terror tactics have become more sophisticated. And our enemies have become more wily, more conniving.

In trying to understand the dynamics that exist between enemies and in the hopes that peace would be less elusive, Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobvici made a wonderful, stark and fascinating documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Deadly Currents” on the tails of the First Intifada. One professor interviewed in the film made a comment that still rings true today (I am paraphrasing): We are Westerners. We approach this conflict from our Western perspective with our Western sensibilities. The Israelis are, for the most part, Westerners as well. But they are Westerners living in the Middle East. This is not the “Wild West.” This is the Wild, Wild EAST. With a different sensibility, a different culture and a different mindset. It is difficult – if not almost impossible – for Westerners to understand the mindset of Easterners.

As Westerners, we might think we have an agreement, an arrangement with set protocols, set standards, set directives. Yet, that is only because that is how we work from our Western perspective. However, that is not necessarily how things work from an Eastern perspective.

So what does that tell us about the P5+1 Agreement that was signed on Tuesday with Iran? Iran is an Eastern country signing an agreement with Western allies. Is Iran to be trusted?

Israel and her Arab neighbors do not want a nuclear Iran. There are murmurings that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States have been meeting clandestinely to figure out how to deal with a nuclear Iran because they all feel that Iran is not to be trusted.

If Iran attacks Israel, all the countries surrounding Israel will be affected, so it’s in all of their best interests to come up with a cohesive plan – even if those countries do not have relations with Israel.

Why was Obama so adamant on signing this agreement? I’m sure he’s aware that Iran’s actions will speak louder than any document they sign.

Our children, our future, our Jewish homeland deserve to live in a nuclear-free world. We deserve to live in a world at peace.

However, we need to be sure that our agreements will not be exploited for other nefarious purposes.

As David J. Cape, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said in his opening paragraph in the press release issued yesterday:

“While we share the goal of a diplomatic solution to this crisis, the Iranian regime has a long record of exploiting diplomacy as a cover to advance its nuclear program. The success of today’s agreement depends on Iran’s actions, not its words.”

(For CIJA’s full statement, click here: CIJA Statement on the P5 +1 Agreement )

Reform Movement and AIPAC Statements:

Reform Movement Statement on the P5 + 1 Agreement

AIPAC Statement of the P5 + 1 Agreement

It is my hope that one day, the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah will be fulfilled, when peace will reign:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
The leopard lie down with the kid…
Nothing evil or vile shall be done;
For the land shall be filled with devotion to the Eternal.

Isaiah 11: 6 & 9

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares 
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not take up sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.

Micah 4:3

Israel Pride

Sunday was a gorgeous summer day: sunny, hot, not a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day for a parade.

Thousands of Jews from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut gathered in New York City to celebrate Israel.

We were young, we were old. We were religiously observant. We were secular. We were Jews of every age, shape, size, political and religious persuasion.

But we all shared one thing in common: Ahavat Yisrael – Love of Israel.

Teen draped in Israeli flag during the 2015 NYC Israel Day Parade
Teen draped in Israeli flag during the 2015 NYC Israel Day Parade
Each group gathered on the side streets along the Upper East Side, to feed into 5th Avenue for the start of the parade, shortly around noon. Each group wore their own colorful t-shirt, marching under their own banner. It was so joyous to see so many of us from all over the Tri-State area.

And who better to begin the Parade than the “YOWies?” – “Yids on Wheels” – a group of Jews who ride motorcycles, raise awareness and “community goodwill” as part of their mandate. Israel and their Jewish identity, along with a love of biking, brings these folk together. Having the “Yowies” begin the Parade was a demonstration that this parade was going to be FUN, it was meant to make us smile and bring joy.

There was no political agenda to the parade: no speeches, no rally “talks”, no fundraising. This was true “klal Yisrael – the community of Israel, the Jewish people, joining together as one united people. It was a beautiful site to see. It was a spectacular event in which to participate.

The only “small political element” that didn’t  dampen our spirits in the least, was a tiny group of Jewish protesters, who were limited to standing in a small cordoned-off area. But their voices were barely heard, their protests seemed…anachronistic, archaic, irrelevant. And they didn’t even cause a stir.

5th Avenue was closed to cars as we marched. All along the way, the NYC police were lined up on the side, not simply providing security, but smiling and cheering us on. It was a display of “NYPD Blue” at their finest! Behind the police stood our supporters, friends and everyone who loves watching a parade!

Israel Parade NYC 2015
Scenes from the Israel Day Parade, 2015
There was music and bands. Radio and TV stations broadcast the Parade so others could share our joy and celebrate Israel with us.

We want others to know that Israel is more than violence and struggle with her neighbors. Israel is more than the headlines we read about in the news.

Israel is a modern, hi-tech, country. The people who live there affirm life each and every day. Like those of us who marched in the parade, the people of Israel are young and old, they are Jews, Muslims and Christians. They are Arab, Druze and Bedouin. They are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular. They are of every religious and political persuasion. And they have much to celebrate.

At the same time, Israel needs our support. We need to visit. Each of us – no matter if we are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, has roots in this special place. We need to discover our heritage. We need to discover with our own eyes the Israel of today and only then, can we truly make educated opinions and work to make peace a living, breathing reality for all who live there.

As Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism once said:

Im tirtzu, ayn zo agada, l’h’yot am chofshi, b’artzaynu, b’Eretz Zion, b’Y’ru’shalayim. – If you will it, it is no dream, to live as a free people, in the land of Zion, the land of Jerusalem.”