Guest post by Hallie Rosen
Like almost every Jew, I too have a complicated relationship with Israel.
Israel has always been an important part of my Jewish identity. Brant and I met doing Israel activism on campus at UCLA and we spent almost two years in Israel before we were married. I’ve worked in the organized Jewish community for almost twenty years, first at the Anti-Defamation League and more recently at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
And like Brant, my views on Israel/Palestine have evolved. While I admire Brant’s courage regarding the Israel/Palestine issue, I haven’t felt completely comfortable taking the same kinds of public stands that he does. I agree with many of Brant’s viewpoints, but I admit there have been times I have felt uncomfortable with his being so public with his views – my ingrained impulse against airing Israel’s “dirty laundry.”
While I have read his blog and his book, and we have had many conversations about his activism and the general political situation in Israel/Palestine, I have never personally taken such a public stand on the issue until November 19, when I marched with Brant at a Chicago rally protesting Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
It was not a major decision on my part. I was very upset by the news out of Gaza, so when Brant invited me to join him in the march/rally, I readily agreed. Since I work near the rally site and it took place at the end of the day, it was a simple matter to walk over and join the group as people gathered at the Federal Plaza.
My first impression was surprise at how many young families were in attendance. I expected to see primarily college age students, but I was struck by the sight of many parents with school aged children and a fair amount of strollers. Since Brant was wearing a kippah, people knew that he was Jewish and several people came up to him to thank him for attending the rally and showing his support. They didn’t necessarily know who he was, but it clearly meant a lot for see a Jew walk with them. For me, it underscored that this was an issue of conscience for all peoples – not just Palestinians.
I expected to see protest posters and I braced myself for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments. From my ADL days, I knew that these kinds of protests can easily become an opportunity for fringe elements to chant anti-Semitic slogans.
But that didn’t happen. All of the messages were strong, but on target. As the group of about 700 people walked peaceably through the Loop during rush hour, there was chanting but also simple non-political conversations among the marches – about shopping, uncomfortable shoes, upcoming holidays, etc. I only saw one incident of an onlooker, who provoked some of the crowd – the police quickly subdued him and we continued on our way. As a relative newcomer, I didn’t fully feel ready to join the chanting. Perhaps I’ve not fully come to grips with what it means to be a Jew in solidarity with Palestinians.
We gathered once again after the walk to listen to speakers. Everyone was on message, asking for sanctions from the US, end of violence and settlement building, requesting a just peace, etc. When Brant spoke, he received a strong enthusiastic reception from the crowd – particularly when he was introduced as a rabbi.
As the crowd dwindled, we walked to the train station and back home. Later that night, I watched the news coverage of the rally and was surprised, at how violent the images were. The piece included edited snippets of protestors chanting and because there were kafiyyahs and head coverings, it seemed that the news media was only interested in showing us the familiar images of “angry Arabs.”
The news report failed to convey the racial and religious diversity of the crowd – and there were none of the mothers and young children with whom I had just spent a few hours marching. Once again I became profoundly aware of the power of stereotypes – and to a greater extent, of racism and how the images that we see on a regular basis prejudice our views and shape our opinions.
I also became aware of how important it is to step outside of one’s own comfort zone and find common cause with those whom you’ve previously assumed to be your enemy. In the end, marching for justice was for me an affirmation of our common humanity.
Thanks for the post, Hallie. I’m glad you felt able to take part in the march. I rarely go on such marches (not because of any personal unease – in my case it’s just because of disability) and so my own political involvement has always had to take rather a different shape. I learned very quickly that playing Snakes and Ladders with a developmentally disabled Palestinian child is peace and justice activism in its own right, even though it might not look like it. I hope you are able to find ways to be involved that ‘fit’ you, as well as continuing to push and challenge yourself where necessary.
Thanks so much, Hallie. How nice to see a demonstration like that through “fresh” eyes – the age, racial and religious diversity, the civility of the crowd, the distorted view that is often aired through our main line media. Bravo!
So nice to read Hallie’s guest post and to enjoy her ruminations on what it’s like to join her rabbi husband not only as a partner in conscience but as a witness against shameful conduct. To be of one mind about what’s right and wrong, and to be nurtured by each other’s convictions, can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a marriage, yet it’s an aspect that receives very little attention. Perhaps Hallie’s post will be a first step in addressing that neglect. Meanwhile, mazel tov to you both!
Hallie, it meant a lot to me to have you there marching with us. It is a powerful gift you and Brant give people by your presence at events and protests, as it reaffirms our common humanity across religious differences. You encourage others to step forward and find their voice for justice, peace and solidarity, which is essential in our movement for freedom, equality and justice in Israel and Palestine. As for the press — including the rude reporter from WGN who interviewed Brant — we have a long way to go to change the dominant anti-Palestinian messages and misinformed assumptions about the conflict in the mainstream media. But thanks to social media and the blog sphere, we are reaching more people every day, showing the realities of life under military occupation and promoting nonviolent actions to end it. Alas, I know there will be more opportunities to march together in Chicago, but one day I hope it will be to celebrate the end to wars and military occupations.
I have been called anti-semitic (even though I am semitic) because I address events not like a football game where people are on one side or the other, but like a champion for peace analyzing the situation to see how it could be made better.
I have never had any doubt in my lifetime about the legitimacy of Israel, but I have supported the good events Israel has embraced and protested the bad ones. For this I have been condemned by many.
I think American Jews until recently were largely ignorant of events in the Middle East and supported Israel just because it”s Israel. This is parallel to Americans who have no cognizance of world affairs but swallow without question whatever the spoon fed media puts out.
We have seen the world go down a dark road for several decades, led by an American practice of Eminent Domain. What people don’t realize is that this cannot go on forever and there is always a time to pay the piper.
There are people in America, the Arab World and Israel who promote the violence. They see the violence as a profit margin from weapon sales, an opportunity at Eminent Domain and an answer to their fears.
These are the people that need to be turned around, taken out of power and perhaps put on the front line of their next war.
I have written Haaretz and believe we need to follow the money to find out who is orchestrating more and more hatred and violence amidst populations that seek a better world for everybody.
Clarification re: American Jews supporting “Israel”. Of course every American Jew should support Israel, but that should not translate into a rubber stamp for the actions of any particular Governmental Administration. Israel as a nation of Jewish People is not Israel that attacks Gaza. As in the suspect death of Yitzhak Rabin, there are people always at work trying to control the government of Israel not necessarily for the Israeli People but sometimes just for their own pocketbook.
Great to have your post Hallie. I know as one hubbie who is passionate on this issue – it is great when your better half sees the sense and reason behind all this action and is able to share in the struggle.
Shalom, salam, peace to you both in your commitment to making a difference in the lives of others and challenging stereotypes and dogma. May it enrich the lives of others and your own.
Hallie, thank you so much for sharing this eloquently written piece. So disheartening, though not surprising, to hear about the disparity in the media coverage.
I want to thank you for this thoughtful, inspiring post. I’m a Jewish grandmother who was at the same rally/march against the attack on Gaza with three generations – my husband, daughter, and grandson (in stroller – most of the time). I wish that more of the people who dismiss our calls for peace with justice could have seen the people and heard the words that you and I did. I find it liberating to connect my social justice Jewish roots with the struggle of Palestinians for freedom and human rights. Those are the values I was raised with. Please keep expressing your thoughts and feelings — your own blog??????
Well good for you.I always wondered what you thought about all of your husband’s activities and am glad that you are not a carbon copy. Although some of your stands may be different from Brant’s, your commitment is the same. So glad that you saw how important it was for a Jewish presence in this protest against the Israeli actions in Gaza.
I am disappointed that Ms. Rosen’s blog failed to explain why she would march to oppose Israel’s actions to defend its citizen’s against missile attacks from Gaza.
Is she justifying or excusing those missile attacks? If not, does she think Israel has an obligation to simply suffer the attacks without responding? How many Israeli children must die before she is willing to support Israel taking action to defend itself?
As for the Palestinians themselves, I see a great deal of sympathy for a people that are responsible for murder and terrorism for decades. I don’t get it. RFK, Olympic athletes, and many more have died at their hands. Israel’s critics claim to be peace-loving people, yet they seem to have no trouble supporting Palestinian Arabs who have history of aggressive violence and turning on Israel for its history of defensive violence.
Let’s remember, in 1948, the Arabs attacked Israel from all sides and from within. To turn around after losing that war and claim that they are an aggrieved party is like a child killing his parents and throwing himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan..
I appreciate hearing your thoughts and reactions, Hallie. I am in conflict about this matter and it was helpful to me.
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