Palestinian Family Ties: The Most Sacred Solidarity

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From left to right: delegation members Shafic Budron and his daughter Dima with Shafic’s Uncle Hasan, Al-Bi’na, Israel.

Early in the planning of our delegation, two of our Palestinian-American members, Shafic Budron and his daughter Dima, invited our group to visit to the homes of their family members in the Upper Galilee of Israel.  Shafic and his immediate family are dear friends to many of members of the delegation – and of course we graciously accepted their invitation. I think I can safely say this visit was one of the most eagerly anticipated part of our itinerary.

Like many Palestinian families, Shafic’s family was devastated by the Nakba. While many of his family members became internally displaced – and eventually became Palestinian citizens of Israel, others became refugees. Shafic himself was born after the Nakba and grew up in the infamous Shatilla refugee camp south of Beirut, Lebanon.

Shafic’s personal story is a harrowing one, but he eventually made his way to the US, where he became an American citizen, a successful businessman and a prominent member of the Palestinian community in the Chicago area. Shafic and his family are among the most genuine, open-hearted people I know – indeed his friendship with so many Jewish members of our delegation was a major inspiration for this remarkable trip.

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Most of Wednesday was a travel day as we drove north through the Jordan Valley toward the Upper Galilee. When we arrived at our destination in the village of Al-Bi’na, we were literally swarmed by joyous family members, who quickly and graciously welcomed the members of our delegation. Shafic’s uncle Hasan (his father’s youngest and only surviving brother) introduced us to his many children and grandchildren and extended family members as we sat in a circle for a cursory “get to know each other” session. Then we sat down to a sumptuous lunch (above), where we continued to get to know each other some more. By the end of the meal, we felt as if we had become adopted members of the family.

After a visit to the former village of Al-Ghabsiyah (see my earlier post), we went to Shafic’s cousin Dr. Abed’s home in the nearby village of Al-Jedaidah for a dinner that lasted well into the wee hours of the evening. Tired but exhilarated, we were eventually put up in family members’ homes for the night.

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This was clearly an emotional visit for the entire family, not least for Shafic and Dima themselves. The Budrons have, quite understandably, experienced a myriad of emotions on this trip and during our Galilee sojourn in particular. This was, in fact, Dima’s very first trip to Israel/Palestine. While she has visited her father’s family several times in Lebanon, she has never visited her homeland until now. She tells me she has heard stories about her ancestral home from her parents and grandparents for years – and is overwhelmed to finally make the visit now as a young woman.

It has been a profound and emotional visit for our entire American Palestinian/Jewish delegation as well. As of now, the trip has officially wound down. Several members are already returning home and I am preparing to depart today. There’s so much more to say, so many more experiences to describe. I’ll do my best to share as many of them as I can after I return.

In my next and final post, I’ll offer some concluding thoughts – and I have put out an open invitation to our members to share their thoughts with you as well.  Suffice to say for now this has been a sacred journey – one that has strengthened our relationships with one another and our solidarity with those who devote their lives every day toward a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

More thoughts to come…

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Hasan and Shafic say goodbye.

11 thoughts on “Palestinian Family Ties: The Most Sacred Solidarity

  1. How I wish that Israel had been conceptualized as a Jewish homeland, not a “Jewish State.” The first might easily have been shared with the Palestinians, the latter, by definition, is a construct of homogeniety.

  2. Dear Rabbi Brant, I just want to start by saying how much I respect and admire the work you do towards rasising awareness of the situation in Palestine and Israel and promoting a peaceful resolution to the conflict. You so eloquently express so many feelings that I can never find the words for and your arguments arethoughtful, respectful, and grounded in the tenet of protecting human rights and basic dignity and humanity. I had a question for you since recently my very liberal thinking Israeli friend expressed the sentiment that there could never be a solution since if Palestine had a sovereign state they would murder all the Jews living there and then try to take over the rest of Israel. I was absolutely shocked to hear him say this as I always thought he was open-minded and left leaning when in came to Palestine but obviously there is a deep fear and a sense of existential threar inside him. I was wondering if you havewritten any posts in response to this train of thought (ie “theyhate us and will kill us all if givenhalf the chance”) that I could share will mydistrustful Israeli friend? Yesterday I was in Nazareth speaking with Palestinian-Israelis about their struggle and have close ties with Christian and Muslim families in the West Bank so I feel well informed of the situation, but what my Israeli friend expressed left me almost speechless. It really cut me to the core and was an upsetting indication that this is probably a sentiment shared by a large percentage of Israelis. Any guidance for how to counteract such racist and erroneous views would be greatly appreciated!! Many thanks and continue your inspirational work – your words of peace give me hope that a better future is around the corner!! Best wishes, Monica Roland

    ________________________________

    • Monica,

      Thank you for your kind feedback. In answer to your question, I don’t know that there is any logical argument you can make to your Israeli friend because his comment is obviously so thoroughly grounded in fear, as you so correctly point out. I was struck that you characterized him as “very liberal” and “open minded” except in this instance. This has been my experience with many otherwise liberal Israeli and American Jews as well. While they will apply very reasoned and rational arguments to any number of political issues, their analyses of the I/P reality is suffused through and through with a toxic kind of knee-jerk fear that when push comes to shove, all Palestinians really just want to throw the Jews into the sea and take the state for themselves.

      While I might say you could quote any number of polls and surveys that indicate Palestinians overwhelmingly support a political solution that allows Jews and Palestinians to live together in the land with equal rights for all, in my experience this kind of argument rarely succeeds. I’ve generally come to believe that the most effective antidote to this irrational fear is to meet with and talk to real Palestinians. And to truly listen to them. I hope that your friend is open to this possibility, because I know first hand it was the only way I was able to let go of the base generalizations (a fancy word for racism) about Palestinians and their attitudes.

      • For someone so full of empathy with people like the Palestinians, the blacks of the south side of Chicago , Rwandans and victims of the hurricane in New Orleans, you are remarkably lacking empathy for us Israelis. You seem mystified that we are “so thoroughly grounded in fear”. Israelis had a situation where for several years, people didn’t know whether when they got on a bus or entered a shopping mall they would be alive when they left due to Arab suicide bombings. Additionally, for years rockets have been indiscriminately fired into Israel population centers (which is a war crime) and one doesn’t know if the next one has a particular fellow’s name on it.
        Is it surprising that this has had the effect of discrediting the so-called “peace camp” in Israel? It is also notable how you completely ignore antisemitic and even genocidal propaganda coming out of certain Palestinian circles. Well, we are aware of it. So you tell us “polls show a majority of Palestinians want a ‘political solution’, whatever that may mean. Well, even if that is true, there is a significant minority that doesn’t accept it. So what if there is a majority? Are the armed extremists going to put it up to a vote? Does HAMAS or the Aj-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade (whom you have quoted in the past) poll their population before they carry out an attack? For that matter, does a majority in Syria or Iraq or Lebanon support the fratricidal slaugther going on in those countries? What kind of a world do you think we live in? You, like so many “progressvies” assumes everyone in the world is like yourself, a reasonable, peace-loving person. Well, it just isn’t that way. Had you really wanted to show your committment to human-rights and decided to visit a refugee camp in Jordan or Syria instead of coming to the much more comfortable and convenient Palestinian territories a few minutes from Ben-Gurion Airport, you would really be exposed to a multitude of stores showing a darker side to humanity which you pretend doesn’t exist. And just remember, these Syrians and Iraqis who are killing each other are all brother Muslims and Arabs who love one another. Us ZIonist Jews, on the other hand, they DON’T like.; What would they do to us if given the chance? You could wave all the polls you want in front of them showing a supposed majority of Palestinians want a “political solution” and they would laugh at you.

        You yourself are constantly giving the reasons why the Palestinians should refuse to make peace with us. In fact, you rarely even mention peace as some kind of goal you are working towards. Instead you simply repeat all the grievances the Palestinians have, going all the way back to the founding of Tel Aviv as some sort of crime Zionist Jews did against them.
        All you seem to do is keep pushing “the struggle” of the Palestinians. You yourself say that Israel’s very existence is illlegitimate and a crime! It is therefore fair to ask you why the Palestinians should even agree to peace with us since a Jewish rabbi is saying that the most extreme Palestinian views are legimiate and justifiable, even if not so aesthetic from your “progressive” point of view. All your postings treat Israel as nothing more than some sort of caricature. You never seem to even visit Israel when you come on your visits to the Palestinians, (at least you have not mentioned it during your last two visits here).
        Thus, you are not acting as some sort of ambassador for peace, you are simply advocating extremist Palestinian positions.

        You asked me in a previous post if the reason I have posted comments here for several years is that I fear that you are having some effect on Jewish opinion. Well, the answer is no, I don’t believe you are. In fact, it seems that most of your persuasion is directed at non-Jews and not the Jewish community. It is true that American Jews are less and less supportive of Israel, but, unlike what Peter Beinart claims, it has nothing to do with Israel’s policy. It is simply a product of apathy and assimilation. German, Irish, Mexican, as well as African immigrants to the US also lose interest in their country of origin as generations come and go. Most people in the world don’t care about the Palestinians, the Jewish settlements and the Arab-Israeli conflict in general. I can prove it to you. Just as you and the other “progressives” are indifferent the great human rights catastrophe going on in Syria and Iraq and other places in the Middle East, the vast majority of the world is also indifferent to what is going on here. That’s just the way people are.
        The reason I post here is not because I am going to change your mind, or those who think like you, but rather I believe that the Jewish people, as a nation, have a historic mission. I hope that maybe some Jews, and non-Jews who are open-minded, might read what I am writing and that I can keep another Jew aware of this mission which is fulfilling both on a personal for that Jew as well as being beneficial for humankind in general..

  3. Obviously….rabbi you wish your blog ,free of thoughts and ideas contrary to your points of view…as this Is your private reservation,you wield that power with a wicked hand. I can only deduct that you are truly afraid of contrary versions of the facts, why is that?….if your positions have any value,they need to stand up to argument. Your complete rejection of any mention regarding violence by the Arab world…is completely disingenuous and delusional….you sure love to preach to your very own choir…

    • One the reasons I like this blog is because the Rabbi encourages opposing points of view. And he responds to them respectfully, which is something I find depressingly rare these days. I was just reading something by Dennis Prager where he does his usual thing of saying the left is “anti-Israel” instead of actually trying to respond to them and treat them with respect.

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