“Wrestling in the Daylight” Launch Party!

Please join me in celebrating the publication of my new book, “Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity” on Thursday, September 6, 7:00 pm at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago.

From a recent review by Rabbi Rachel “Velveteen Rabbi” Barenblat:

Gwen Macsai

“Wrestling in the Daylight”… is Rabbi Brant’s self-curated compilation of his blog posts from Shalom Rav, so if you’ve been reading Shalom Rav, this material won’t be new to you. But I’m finding, as I read, that reading the posts in this new setting and context — curated by their author into a narrative which clearly shows the progression of his thinking over time — is a different experience from reading the blog. And Rabbi Brant has chosen to reprint some of the comments from readers as well as responses he’s offered to those comments, which gives the book a bit of the internet’s Talmudic multivocality (and offers an example of how one can host difficult conversations in a thoughtful and generous way — which can be hard to come by on the internet, especially on questions of Israel/Palestine.)

Andrew White

The choice to include commentary makes the book particularly interesting, I think. Some of Rabbi Brant’s most frequent commentors disagree with him deeply. Over the course of the book, one can see conversations unfolding. Sometimes they are quite heated. And his responses are always thoughtful and respectful, even as he resists attempts at derailing the conversation. Having hosted some conversations about Israel at this blog over the years, I have a sense for how difficult that can be.

Kevin Coval

… Rabbi Brant Rosen is one of my role models in the difficult but important work of coming to terms with the clash between the classic Zionist narrative (a story which many of us want to continue believing — I know I still yearn for it to be true) and some of the realities on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He models for me not how one would do this internal work despite his ardent Jewishness, but precisely of it; not despite being a rabbi, but precisely because his rabbinate calls him to take seriously the Jewish call to stand with those who are oppressed. And he has also taught me a great deal about how to disagree without falling into the trap of looking down on (or dehumanizing) those with whom one disagrees.

If you’re interested in progressive Jewish takes on Israel and Palestine, this book is worth reading, and worth having on your bookshelf to return to again.

I’m thrilled to be joined at our September launch party by local Chicago celebs Kevin Coval, (Poet, Co-Founder, “Louder Than a Bomb“), Gwen Macsai, (Host, WBEZ’s Re:Sound) and Andrew White (Artistic Director, Lookingglass Theatre Company), who will join me in reading excerpts from the book. We’ll also make plenty of time for Q&A, book signing and quality bookstore shmoozing.

It promises to be a wonderful evening – RSVP at our Facebook event page here.


12 Comments on ““Wrestling in the Daylight” Launch Party!”

  1. i_like_ike52 says:

    I note a major conflict slipping under the radar in Rabbi Rachel’s comment here. Rachel “wants to continue to yearn for the classical Zionist ‘narrative’” (whatever that may mean to her), but Rabbi Brant has stated clearly, on more than one occasion that the very creation of the state of Israel is illegal and immoral because the Arabs oppose it. I presume this includes the Balfour Declaration, also opposed by the Arabs, and the mass aliyah of Jews to the country that came in its wake. Many “progressives” rail against “the occupation” and, by this, meaning that Israel should get out of the territories conquered in 1967. On the other hand, many “progressives”, and the Arab world in general, view the “occupation” as having started in 1948. Thus, ending the 1967 occupation would not solve the problem of the 1948 occupation. And ending that problem, by way of adopting the so-called “one-state solution”, does not solve the problem of the creation of a large Jewish population which was created by the equally illegal and illegitimate Balfour Declaration, as the Arabs see it. Brant has stated in the past that he would accept a “2-state solution” but this leaves all the supposed immorality of the Zionist movement in place. After all, the whole concept of “Zionism” is abhorrent to the Arabs. So are Rabbis Rachel and Brant really talking to each other? Can the disagreements be swept under the carpet for the immediate goal of ending the 1967 occupation? This illustrates the serious split that the so-called “peace camp” suffers from……a complete lack of agreement on the goals of the “peace movement”. Is it creation of an independent Palestinian state? Is it the complete eradication of the Zionist state? Is it the reversal of the Balfour Declaration? Boycott the settlements or boycott everything Israeli? These are not minor details, these create the very definition of the struggle of the peace camp.

    • Vicky says:

      Currently I’m reading ‘A Prophetic Peace: Judaism, Politics, and Religion’ by Alick Isaacs. He argues that the belief that compromise is the crucial ingredient for peace is false, and that a stronger model would allow for differences – even radical differences. (His words.) I would agree that uniformity of political belief is not essential to peace. I’m a lot more interested in why people think as they do than in what they think. If someone supports two states because he doesn’t want to live around Palestinians, I wouldn’t consider that a peaceful view – too rooted in selfishness and hate. If someone supports two states because he believes that this would allow the two communities to become genuine equal neighbours, then I would agree with his principles even though I disagreed with their political expression.

      Rachel’s blog is a brilliant example of this. In the past when she has written about Israel and Palestine, she has always written about people, not about borders and ideologies and government documents. Stripped down to its most basic level, peace is not about nation states. Never has been. It means respect for all human life, honest loving interest in the people involved, and sensitivity to the needs of the most vulnerable. Rachel has all that. Where sincerity and kindness and willingness to listen are present, there’s room for disagreement on the best way to achieve justice politically (and political disagreement doesn’t have to be hostile either).

      Finally, I get the impression from her book review that she is simply trying to review the book and how it affected her, not trying to get into a debate with the author about political Zionism. I won’t go into the other problematic things you’ve written here (e.g. the idea that Brant rejects political Zionism because ‘Arabs oppose it’, as though ethnic nationalism follows the same rules as a popularity contest) as I don’t want to deflect attention from the book.

      Mabrook on the publication, Brant.

      • Thank you, Vicky. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the brilliant compassion and empathy of our mutual blogging friend, Reb Rachel.

      • i_like_ike52 says:

        Vicky:

        You made this comment:

        Stripped down to its most basic level, peace is not about nation states. Never has been. It means respect for all human life, honest loving interest in the people involved, and sensitivity to the needs of the most vulnerable

        I think you are completely wrong about this.

        First of all, Europe was two major, bloody wars in the 20th century. The fact that the peace has held in the second half of that century in (western ) Europe was NOT because everyone started taking a “loving interest in each other”, but because Germany was smashed, militarily, once and for all. After all, they lost the first World War quite decisively, yet the German people were ready, perhaps reluctantly, but ready for another round 20 years later.

        Russia also took a very hostile attitude towards the West for much of the 20th century. The Soviet regime finally collapsed, not because of loving interest in the rest of humanity, but because its leadership finally came to realize that they could not compete with the military forces of the NATO countries, lead by the United States. Even today, Russia has a leader who takes a fairly hostile attitude towards the US and the West and he is quite popular with large parts of the Russian populace, if not all of it.

        India was a united country under British rule for 200 years, yet when the time came for the British to leave , the Muslims and Hindus, who had been living more or less in peace AS NEIGHBORS, turned on each other and started slaughtering each other, and even today, the two successor countries live in a state of nuclear-armed tension. Yugoslavia was also held, from 1950 to the late 1980′s as an example of a muti-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional country where groups that had been hostile before that learned to live in peace and harmony. .The 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo in order to showcase their success in building this sort of society. Yet, within five years, the whole country blew itself apart and Sarajevo became an example, not of sporting brotherhood, but interethnic violence.

        Here in Israel, we have the example of the Jewish communities in Hevron and Tzfat in the 1920′s, both of which were non-Zionist Haredi and had lived in peace with their Arab neighbors, yet a few radical Muslim preachers managed to incite the Arabs of those towns to slaughter their Jewish neighbors in 1929 (yes, I know there were some who refused to participate and who also sheltered Jews, but they were not strong enough or numerous enough to prevent the violent outburst).

        Personal feelings of loving concern for neighbors of a different religion or ethnic group are certainly praiseworthy and something to aspire to, but as I have shown, they are not enough to prevent violence, even if they existed for many generations. Before there can be loving concern for neighbors, we first have to hope for respect when one side feels it can not attack the other side because of deterrence and the fear that they themselves will lose out if they start trouble…..something like “these guys are tough, we had better not start up with them” and then possibly leading to an attitude “gee, what do they have that makes them so tough, maybe we can learn from them” and finally, we hope, to a situation of genuine loving concern, but this can take a very long time. It is natural for humans to form societies and relationships based on common languages, religions, cultures and values.Saying “we are all the same because we are all humans” is simply too abstract for most people. For the vast majority of humanity, their first sense of loyalty, after the immediate family, is to groups like these. In the West, it is usually the “nation-state” which is viewed as the entity that looks after the interests of those inside. Here in the Middle East, it is defined more along clan and confessional lines, and not the “nation-state” as we see in Iraq and Syria as groups within each country went from the situation of being held under the iron grip of a totalitarian dictator to a anarchic war between sub-groups within the collapsing nation-state. Thus, one way or another peace has to be between groups or nation-states or what have you . Kindly individual feelings between people are NOT ENOUGH to ensure the peace, as history has shown.

  2. Vicky says:

    “The fact that the peace has held in the second half of that century in (western ) Europe was NOT because everyone started taking a ‘loving interest in each other’, but because Germany was smashed, militarily, once and for all…”

    After the First World War, Germany was subjected to a punitive reparations scheme. The crippling effects of that were compounded by the Great Depression. If people had gone into the Weimar Republic armed with breadbaskets, there might not have been any need to send in people with guns to ‘smash’ anything. Certainly Hitler played on people’s desperation in his rise to power. A little more interest and compassion at an earlier stage could have prevented a lot of bloodshed.

    Unfortunately a lot of people tend to define peace as ‘me getting on with my life and nobody troubling me’, which means that millions of Israelis have spent decades completely oblivious to Palestinian suffering – simply because they didn’t have to see it and it didn’t affect them. Outbursts of Palestinian violence are therefore presented as inexplicable (or explicable only as acts of hatred). These things need to be answered with military might, for the sake of ‘peace’ and ‘security’; it might ‘teach the Arabs a lesson’, as though they are misbehaving children in need of corporal punishment from their betters. (Traces of this last attitude are present in your own comment about learning from toughness.) This isn’t realism. It’s the result of being isolated from your neighbours’ reality – and many people would like to stay isolated because it’s easier that way. Less painful, intimidating, demanding.

    Interest on a human level does break that down and significantly reduce the risk of violence. I don’t know why you dismiss the rescues that took place in the Hebron massacre when over four hundred Jews in the town were safely hidden by their neighbours. It wasn’t that ‘some refused to participate’; most refused, otherwise the death toll would have been far higher than sixty-seven people. Significantly, that massacre also came in the wake of dramatically increased separation between Arab and Jewish communities in the country as a whole. Racial and religious segregation has never had pretty results. Segregation isn’t the only cause of violence (and I never said it was) but it has never in a single instance been a cause of lasting peace.

    “Saying ‘we are all the same because we are all humans’ is simply too abstract for most people.”

    I never did say that we were all the same, but the principle of shared humanity isn’t half as abstract as discussing politics without ever having to look the subjects of your discussion in the face. This is what most Israelis do when they talk about the occupation. Blog comment discussions of the sort that we’re having now let people talk about the conflict while insulating themselves from it, but personal contact doesn’t give anyone this luxury. This is what I respect about both Rachel and Brant; they don’t shy away from that, even though their political response to it might differ.

    • Steve says:

      Vicky said,

      After the First World War, Germany was subjected to a punitive reparations scheme. The crippling effects of that were compounded by the Great Depression. If people had gone into the Weimar Republic armed with breadbaskets, there might not have been any need to send in people with guns to ‘smash’ anything. Certainly Hitler played on people’s desperation in his rise to power. A little more interest and compassion at an earlier stage could have prevented a lot of bloodshed.

      Great 20-20 hindsight Vicky! People were not exactly thrilled with Germany after the first World War since there were over 16 million deaths attributed to the war. The goal of the allies was to prevent Germany and the Central Powers from arming themselves again. The great depression had nothing to do with this. The depression was world wide and in most places facism didn’t arise. Antisemitism arose because it had occured in Europe throughout the centuries. Antisemitism existed all over Europe at that time. The only difference was the magnitude of the antisemitism. No one had breadbaskets to offer because everyone needed breadbaskets.

      Vicky said:

      Unfortunately a lot of people tend to define peace as ‘me getting on with my life and nobody troubling me’, which means that millions of Israelis have spent decades completely oblivious to Palestinian suffering – simply because they didn’t have to see it and it didn’t affect them. Outbursts of Palestinian violence are therefore presented as inexplicable (or explicable only as acts of hatred). These things need to be answered with military might, for the sake of ‘peace’ and ‘security’; it might ‘teach the Arabs a lesson’, as though they are misbehaving children in need of corporal punishment from their betters. (Traces of this last attitude are present in your own comment about learning from toughness.) This isn’t realism. It’s the result of being isolated from your neighbours’ reality – and many people would like to stay isolated because it’s easier that way. Less painful, intimidating, demanding.

      Israel has dealt with Arab countries and those Arabs who live in areas gained after the 6 Day war for a very long time. Israel has the upper hand in the conflict and there is no incentive for Israel to anything except in her own interest. Israelis just get on with their lives and are not interested in the Palestinian’s day to day lives. The best way for a lasting peace to occur is to act peacable towards each other and revolt against those internally who promote the hostility. A good first step would be to tone down the rhetoric officially, in the media and in schools.

      The reality is that the economy in Israel is good and life is good in Israel but by no means perfect. Maybe, there should be a reach out to the Israeli Joe 6 pack by Hamas and PA, showing them how and why, peace with them is in a good idea for Joe 6 pack Israeli.

      • Steve,

        We could argue about this all day, but I don’t think it’s quite fair for you to derisively accuse Vicky of “20-20 hindsight”. Studying history means drawing lessons from the past. Indeed, you engaged in precisely the same kind of “hindsight” with your response to her.

        Suffice to say I take exception to your characterization of the Versailles Treaty, which I (and a good many reputable historians) believe sowed the seeds of the future conflict that eventually erupted in WW II.

        I’m also somewhat flabbergasted by your claim that “life is good in Israel” (and I believe that the majority of Israelis would disagree with you as well.) Israel, the most militarized nation in the world, maintains a brutal occupation over millions of indigenous inhabitants all while the extreme religious and ultra-nationalist aspects of its culture are decidedly on the rise. I believe Israel is going down an increasingly dark and unsustainable road – and has long since passed the point in which its defenders can say things like “life is good in Israel” as blithely as you do here.

      • i_like_ike52 says:

        Regarding your comment that “Israel is the most militarized country in the world”, all I can add is THANK HEAVEN FOR THAT. The big lesson the Jews of Israel and other countries learned from the events of the 20th century is what Jabotinsky stated: the most important thing that Jews have to do is LEARN TO SHOOT. If we didn’t, Israel would have ceased to exist long ago. If you think this is bad, I can only ask “what kind of a world do you think we live in?” Do you see what is going on in the other countries of the Middle East? Look at Syria, Look at Lebanon, Look at Iraq. Look at what happened in Algeria Frantricidal slaughter and violence against ethnic and religious minorities. Even Turkey, America’s “democratic NATO ally” has represssed and used violence against their Kurdish minority for years and the invaded Cyprus and drove out the Greek Cypriots from their part of the island. Israel’s neighbors make no bones about their hostility to Israel and their desire to nullify the results of 1948, the creation of the state of Israel.
        Having lived in both the US and Israel I can tell you that even if Israeli is “militarized” it is NOT “militaristic”. The fact that Israel has close to universal conscription does not mean that the military is blindly idolized. Recall that both the US and Britain had long periods of large-scale conscription starting before World War II but their societies have a long history of being anti-militaristic. It is true that after the SIx-Day War Israel went through a period of unhealthy blind adulation of Generals and the army, but the Yom Kippur War and later, the recruiting of Generals by the post-Zionist Oslo forces to be front men in trying to persuade Israelis to agree to dangerous concessions to Arab terror (Rabin, Barak, Sharon and others) and the failure of these policies has largely discredited politician-Generals. Whereas once the political Right in Israel was the biggest advocates of use of force by Israel, today they are among the biggest skeptics.
        So while Israelis by and large understand the need for military altertness and preparadness, they have a healthy skepticism of military people and they no longer allow them to lead the country by the nose. Look at the debate in the country about what to do about Iran….most Israelis are very hesitant about attacking them.

    • i_like_ike52 says:

      I find it interesting that “progressives” have here and in other forums that I have encountered, end up at least partly justifying German aggression and outright genocide in the Second World War as being somewhat “understandable” because of Versailles. Is this out of some sort of concious or unconcious desire by “progressives” to ultimately blame all the problems in the world on British and American Capitalism and that everything negative in the world supposedly is derived from those Satanic entities, including Nazism?
      Do you know anything the First World War and its aftermath? Are you aware that the Germans imposed on the Russians the draconian Brest-Litovsk treaty in early 1918 which robbed Russia of far, far more territory and resources than Versailles ever did to Germany? That the entire Ukraine and Caucasus regions were torn away from Russia? Are you aware that the Allies ended up collecting very little of the reparations orignally demanded? Are you aware that the only area occupied by the Allies after the war was the Left Bank of the Rhine and this occupation was ended before Hitler ever came to power? Are you aware that Germany had undergone an economic recovery in the mid-1920′s and it was the world-wide depression that effected EVERYBODY that put an end to it? America had 25% unemployment but did not turn to Fascism or Communism. How can people justify Germany’s turn towards barbarism because of hard times when many others didn’t?

      All I can say is that if you have sympathy for the Germans because of Versailles, you certainly should have sympathy for Israel and its Jewish population who went through FAR, FAR more difficulties than the post-World War I Germans did. Thus, Israel’s policies today should also be “understandable” to you as well.

      • Yes, I have done my share of studying of WW I and its aftermath and, no, I have no desire to get into a spitting match with you. We clearly have different interpretations about what transpired and what it means for us today. I only ask that you not misrepresent my words. Nowhere in my comment did I say that the Versailles Treaty “justified German aggression and genocide,” nor that I have “sympathy for the Germans”. I do believe, as I thought I made fairly clear, that Versailles did nothing to create peace in Europe – and only kicked the can down the road toward further bloodshed.

  3. Matt P says:

    Congratulations, Brant!
    I hope it’s a great launch party.

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it tonight, but I’ll be there in spirit.

    -Matt

  4. emselinger says:

    Sorry I had to slip out early, Brant! The reading was very fun, and as always, you handled the Q & A with remarkable aplomb. I don’t know how you do it, on-line or live.


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