Disruptions Over Gaza: Notes from a Summer Protest

I had planned to write this post several months ago, but when circumstances in my personal/professional life recently took a dramatic turn, I took an extended hiatus from blogging. I’m happy to say I’m finally coming up for air – and that readers of this blog can fully expect to see increasing posts in the near future.  I’m leading with one that deals with an event from this past summer. Although it deals with news that are now a few months old, I believe it is a story that remains tragically relevant.

Back on August 21, I participated with a small group of activists from Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago that disrupted a fundraiser sponsored by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF). At the time, Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza was in full swing and the JUF,  like many Jewish Federations across the country, was actively raising funds for the war effort.

It is important to note that Jewish Federations are more than merely a network of social service agencies; they seek to serve as the official face of the Jewish community.  Given their prominence as community spokespeople, their unquestioning, knee-jerk support of Israel’s policies and actions has been painfully problematic – particularly when it comes to a war as controversial as Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” this past summer.

It is safe to say that increasing numbers of us in the Jewish community were morally repulsed by Israel’s actions during the months of July and August. We understood full well that this military onslaught was a war of choice, not self-defense. We watched as the Israeli military killed 2,100 Palestinians in two months, the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians – including 500 children. We listened over and over as the Israeli government and its apologists justified its bloodshed by claiming that Hamas used its civilian population as “human shields” – a false claim that has been repeatedly disproved by human rights observers.

While JUF Chairman Bill Silverstein made the claim at the fund raiser that “world Jewry is standing behind (Israel),” there were, in fact, a myriad of public Jewish protests against Operation Protective Edge throughout the US. In addition to Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace chapters organized protests in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, and San Diego, among others. In a protest against one prominent corporate enabler of Israel’s war machine, the Seattle chapter of JVP staged a “die in” at Boeing headquarters in Tukwila, WA, temporarily closing the entrance to their facility. Here in Chicago, JVP staged an act of nonviolent civil disobedience inside Boeing’s corporate office, resulting in the arrest of five activists (video here).

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In addition, “If Not Now When?,” an inspirational new grassroots initiative spearheaded by young Jews, held public prayer vigils at Jewish communal institutions across the country. INNW’s dramatic inaugural vigil in New York City was held on July 28 in front of the offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. After a statement was read, memorial candles) were lit and placed on the ground. Nine activists were arrested during this prayerful act of Jewish civil disobedience (video here). It was my honor to participate in such a vigil here in Chicago, which took place on August 7 in front of the JUF offices downtown (see pic above).

While all these actions differed in approach and tone, together they provide evidence of a growing movement of Jewish conscience against Israeli militarism and the devastating human toll it has exacted in Israel/Palestine. During Israel’s similar military onslaught on Gaza in 2009/09, this movement was barely in its nascent stages; by the summer of 2014 I think it safe to say it found its voice in an immensely powerful way. It was particularly notable that many of them were organized by young Jews in their 20s, reinforcing the findings of an August Gallup poll that found a majority of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 considered Israel’s actions in Gaza to be “unjustified.”

It is also important to note that these protests have been deeply rooted in Jewish values, symbols and liturgy.  The JVP Chicago members who organized and carried out the disruption at the JUF fundraiser were most certainly motivated by the sacred Jewish imperatives that exhort us not to stand idly by, to pursue justice, to not follow the multitude to do wrong. And I was particularly proud that our group was multi-generational, ranging in age from 20s to 60s.

While I did not participate in the actual disruptions, I was present in the Hilton Towers ballroom to give my fellow protesters support, to film the action taking place and tweet pictures of the disruptions as they unfolded. As you can see from the video clip at the top of this post, there were a series of five disruptions during the course of the evening. The first occurred as Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was speaking; two members of our group stood up, held up a banner that read “Shame on Israel,” and repeatedly chanted, “We are Jews, shame on you. Stop killing children now!”

Security grabbed their banner away immediately and they continued chanting as they were escorted from the room. Three other pairs of protesters and an Israeli-American also disrupted speakers at various points during the program. Each time time, the response of the crowd grew angrier – the final pair of activists were physically struck and had water thrown in their faces by attendees. (I myself was eventually asked to leave and was also escorted from the room by security. I can only assume someone from JUF recognized me and outed me to the program staff).

Speaking personally, I will say without hesitation that my participation in this action was a profound, even sacred experience. It took place during a terrible, tragic time in which I, as a Jew, was being implicated in crimes that were being committed by a state purporting to act on behalf of the Jewish people. In my hometown of Chicago, the organization that claimed to represent my community was openly urging on the war effort and was publicly raising funds to support it.

It is difficult to describe the sense of anguish and alienation I felt as I sat in that room, listening to speaker after speaker urge on the war effort without expressing an iota of concern over the scores of innocents that Israel was killing daily. The only mention of the Gazan dead arose when speakers defensively and cynically wielded the canard of “human shields.”

I was sitting directly behind the first pair of disrupters. They stood up just as Rahm Emanuel had announced that he and his wife were pledging $5,000.00 to the JUF’s Israel Emergency Campaign. (Why exactly the mayor of Chicago was so publicly and dramatically taking sides in a international conflict is another troubling question for us to ponder). I must say that when I saw my friends stand up, point their fingers at Emanuel and exclaim “Shame on you!” it truly felt like a redemptive moment. It was if my own soul as a Jew – indeed, as a human being of conscience – had finally been given back its voice.

Following the action, I heard criticisms from some that our disruption ran counter “to the values of dialogue.” If we were looking for convince members of the Jewish community of the worthiness of our cause, we were told, this kind of jingoistic, disruptive sloganeering was just not the way to do it.

Of course such a critique utterly misses the point of our protest. We were not seeking “dialogue” with members of our community; on the contrary, we were protesting war crimes being committed in our name. We certainly did not have any illusions that our action would convert anyone in that ballroom to our cause. Our target audience was not the attendees of the JUF fundraiser – rather, we sought to send a message to the world at large. To state loudly and openly that the entire Jewish community is not, in fact, marching lock step in support of Israel’s war effort.

We also heard the critique that our actions was just downright rude: rude to our civic leaders, rude to the speakers and guests, rude to decorum of this function and rude to the JUF as a whole.

Yes, our action was disruptive – that was, in fact, its point. But if these disruptions felt rude and impolitic, the discomfort felt in that room was beyond miniscule in comparison to the horrors that were being inflicted at that very moment on the people of Gaza. Our protest was at its very core, an act of tochechah (“reproof”), hearkening back to the Biblical dictum “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and incur no sin because of that person” (Leviticus 19:17).

When I think of this kind of criticism, I can’t help but think back to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he addressed a very similar critique leveled at him by liberal clergy who urged him not to “cause tension” through public acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in their city.

As King wrote to his Birmingham colleagues:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

It is now three months since the ceasefire that ended the carnage of that terrible summer. And of course, we have already forgotten about Gaza. With the increasing shortness of our news cycles and attention spans, it has all but disappeared from our view.

But of course, the tragedy continues on. The death and destruction inflicted on the people of that tiny strip of land still reverberates: through pain and agony of the injured and the traumatized and through the grief of so many who lost parents, siblings, children and friends. As a Gazan friend recently told me, no one – no one – in Gaza is untouched by the pain of grief.

As a Jew I will never forget the tragedy of those two months, nor will I remain silent over the crimes that continue to be committed in my name. But I am heartened by those in my community who are increasingly finding the courage of their convictions. It is truly my honor to be counted with the disrupters, the “nonviolent gadflies” who seek to “dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored.”

16 Replies to “Disruptions Over Gaza: Notes from a Summer Protest”

  1. I’d like to correct a few errors in Brant’s post.

    1. Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” was a response to Hamas’s attack against innocent Israeli civilians.

    2. It was a brutal, criminal (i.e., war crime) war of choice by Hamas and a necessary defense of innocent Israeli civilians (Jews, Muslims, and Christians) by the Israeli armed forces.

    3. It is not true that “overwhelming majority of [Gazans] were civilians.” The ratio of civilians to combatants among the Gazan casualties was close to 1:1 – an amazingly good record. In fact, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey stated “that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit … civilian casualties.” See http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/11/10/joint-chiefs-chairman-dempsey-undermines-obama-administration-criticism-of-israeli-actions-in-gaza/

    4. Hamas used its civilian population as “human shields.” See http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4706/gazan-hamas-war-crimes

    5. You question “Why exactly the mayor of Chicago was so publicly and dramatically taking sides in a international conflict”. It is pretty obvious. Innocent Israeli civilians were being attached by Hamas war criminals. All moral people would publicly defend the innocent civilians and do whatever they could to stop the murderous (actually, genocidal) Hamas war criminals.

    6. You write “Our target audience was not the attendees of the JUF fundraiser – rather, we sought to send a message to the world at large.” I assure you that there is already too much hateful anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the world. I don’t understand why you want to send a message to the world to create more anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

    7. You write “…the discomfort felt in that room was beyond miniscule[SIC] in comparison to the horrors that were being inflicted at that very moment on the people of Gaza.” You fail to mention that Hamas was the cause of those horrors. Israel offered “calm for calm” and accepted all ceasefires offered and honored them. Hamas a) started a war, b) refused to accept most ceasefires, and c) when Hamas accepted ceasefires, it broke them – murdering more Israelis.

    8. You write “As a Gazan friend recently told me, no one – no one – in Gaza is untouched by the pain of grief.” I suspect that your friend is correct. i hope that he and most other Gazans are intelligent enough to realize (as those interviewed in the article at http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4706/gazan-hamas-war-crimes were) that Hamas bears the full responsibility for their pain and grief.

    1. David,

      As regards comments 1,2 and 5: you make the claim that Israel’s actions were a “response to Hamas’ attack against innocent Israeli civilians” and that Israel “accepted all ceasefires offered and honored them.” You do not, however, offer any evidence to support your claim. I would refer you to the piece to which I linked in my blog post, which offers a specific timeline of events that belies your claims. If you have any specific information that would contradict the order of events listed in this timeline, I would very interested to hear them.

      In response to #3: I submit that the Joint Chiefs Chairman’s comment about Gazan civilians is also vague and unsubstantiated. Nowhere in his remarks does General Dempsey provide backup to his allegations other than to say “Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit civilian casualties.” The specific statistics to which I linked in my post come from United Nations estimates and were determined through investigation of actual events on the ground.

      As per #4: do you actually mean to cite a private think tank headed by John Bolton as an authoritative, non-partisan source on human rights? As my links point out, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have determined that there is absolutely no evidence to support Israel’s claims that Hamas used Gazan civilians as human shields. These are reputable human rights organizations that utilize a painstaking process of research that involves actual investigators on the ground.

      With all due respect, the post to which you link in #8, which clearly arranges cherry picked comments from interviewed sources to score ideological points, makes a mockery of the concept of human rights work. Respected orgs such as AI and HRW go where the evidence takes them and presents their findings based on actual research. If you are seeking to disprove their findings, you’ll have to better than the radically biased John Bolton and his “Gatesone Insitute.”

      1. Brant,

        First, I want to thank you for having the integrity to post my previous message (and presumably, this one also).

        If we accept that the goal is understanding, the first step has to be allowing the other to speak. The next step, and it is a difficult step, is allowing ourselves to listen. A way to test whether you are really willing to listen is to ask yourself:
        1. Is there anything that could get me to change my mind?
        2. What sort of evidence would I accept as proof that I was wrong?
        3. Am I prepared to see that if it is shown to me?

        This whole exercise is made even more difficult by the fact that authorities that you could trust in the past have allowed their biases to make them untrustworthy. See http://www.ngo-monitor.org/ for an assessment of the trustworthiness of various NGOs. You made reference to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Rather than my writing about the serious problems with both of them, let me refer you to NGO Monitor’s evaluations at http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/amnesty_international and http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/human_rights_watch_hrw_

        In the past, one might have said, well if show me a picture or a video, then I’ll now it’s true. But as you probably know, the Pallywood PR campaign crops, edits, uses staged photos, and mislabels photos so that picture of child killed in Syria two years ago is passed off as “Gazan child killed by Israeli forces yesterday”. For specific examples, see the series at http://honestreporting.com/photo-bias-in-the-media/

        In your response to my comments 1, 2, and 5, you request evidence that “Israel’s actions were a ‘response to Hamas’ attack against innocent Israeli civilians'”. There are Israeli government pages showing the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel, for example, http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Terrorism/Pages/Palestinian_ceasefire_violations_since_end_Operation_Cast_Lead.aspx and http://www.idfblog.com/facts-figures/rocket-attacks-toward-israel/ The Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel,_2014 summarizes rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel by month and also by day. Please read the full description there. The summary is

        Month Rockets Mortars
        ——– ——- ——-
        January 22 4
        February 9
        March 65 1
        April 19 5
        May 4 3
        June 62 3
        July 2,874 15
        August 950 2
        ——– ——- ——-
        Total 4,005 31

        In your response to my comment 3, you write “The specific statistics to which I linked in my post come from United Nations estimates ….” The UN got its figures from the Ministry of Health in Gaza (i.e., Hamas). It appears that they also blamed Israel for deaths due to natural causes, domestic violence, Gazans killed by Hamas rockets that fell short and landed in Gaza, Hamas militiamen murdering Fatah supporters, and Gazans murdered by Hamas when they protested Hamas’s barbarism and were labelled “collaborators”. Here are some sources of much more objective analysis.

        http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4570/gaza-civilian-casualties

        http://honestreporting.com/analysis-of-gazans-killed-so-far-in-operation-protective-edge/

        http://www.israellycool.com/2014/07/26/latest-analysis-of-gazan-casualties-in-operation-protective-edge-as-of-july-25th/

        The six reports:

        Preliminary, partial examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge and analysis of the ratio between terrorist operatives and non-involved civilians killed in error

        Examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge – Part Two

        Examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge – Part Three

        Examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge – Part Four

        Examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge – Part Five

        Examination of the names of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge – Part Six

        all available from The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/

        TIME magazine reminds us that on a previous occasion, Hamas was forced to walk back their lies:

        “We have seen this before. A similar dispute over casualty figures occurred during Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in the Gaza Strip in January 2009. The Israelis contended that the majority of the fatalities were combatants; the Palestinians claimed they were civilians. The media and international organizations tended to side with the Palestinians. The UN’s own investigatory commission headed by Richard Goldstone, which produced the Goldstone Report, cited PCHR’s figures along with other Palestinian groups providing similar figures. Over a year later, after the news media had moved on, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad enumerated Hamas fatalities at 600 to 700, a figure close to the Israeli estimate of 709 and about three times higher than the figure of 236 combatants provided by PCHR in 2009 and cited in the Goldstone Report. Initially, playing to the international audience, it was important for Hamas to reinforce the image of Israel’s military action as indiscriminate and disproportionate by emphasizing the high number of civilians and low number of Hamas combatants among the fatalities. However, later on, Hamas had to deal with the flip side of the issue: that Hamas’s own constituency, the Gazan population, felt they had been abandoned by the Hamas government, which had made no effort to shelter them.”

        If you re not satisfied with the military judgement of America’s highest ranking military officer (Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey), I can offer you the testimony of British Colonel Richard Kemp who spent most of his 30-year career in the British Army commanding front-line troops in fighting terrorism and insurgency in hotspots including Iraq, the Balkans, South Asia and Northern Ireland. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. From 2002 – 2006 he heading the international terrorism team at the Joint Intelligence Committee of the British Prime Minister’s Office. Read an interview at http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/30/col-richard-kemp-israeli-pilot-aborted-gaza-strike-17-times-to-protect-civilians-jewish-people-should-be-proud-of-the-state-of-israel-interview/ or watch a video of him speaking at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbD82ECZK1U

        In your response to my comment 4, you disparage a report by Mudar Zahran (who describes himself as a Jordanian Palestinian),apparently because you disagree with the politics of the Chairman of a foundation on whose web site it was posted. If you have any criticism of the content of the article (or even of the author), please tell us. I think (at least, I hope) it is beneath you to try to discredit the content of an article because you disagree with the politics of the Chairman of a foundation on whose web site it was posted.

        You describe Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as reputable human rights organizations. I believe they both once were reputable. Please read the above references reports by NGO Monitor to see how they’ve chosen to sacrifice their reputations in pursuit of anti-Israel bias.

        If you need any further support of my comment 4, see some of the pictures in the article at http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4570/gaza-civilian-casualties
        the article about Hamas’ ‘human shields’ manual at http://nypost.com/2014/08/05/hamas-manual-details-civilian-death-plan-israel/ or watch the video at http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4340.htm

        See the videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_fP6mlNSK8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu-e5qWXx-k (with English captions) for reports from Gaza showing rockets being fired from among civilian shields. The blog at http://lahavharkov.com/2014/08/06/journalists-threatened-by-hamas-for-reporting-use-of-human-shields/ also deals with this.

        You suggest that the post that I link to in my comment 8 “cherry picks” comments “to score ideological points”. Why do you think that Mr. Zahran would be foolish or stupid enough to use anti-Israel comments if he were trying to support Israel? Independent of your opinion of Mr. Bolton, based on what Mr. Zahran wrote and what he quoted from his interviewees, (it seems to me that) he was providing an honest assessment of how typical Gazans feel after having endured the war that Hamas started. If you have any knowledge that calls Mr. Zahran’s report into question, please share it with us.

        Thank you for your consideration of the points I raised in my previous message and in this one.

      2. David,

        You and I have very different views about the reliability of sources. I submit to you that groups such as the Gatesone Institute, NGO Monitor and “israellycool.com” are partisan organizations whose essential mission is Israel advocacy. Say what you want about Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, but they are simply nowhere near as politicized as these organizations.

        The most compelling evidence for this is the fact that AI and HRW are equally as critical of Hamas as they are of the Israeli government. In fact, in the wake of Operation Cast Lead as well as Operation Protective Shield, they have accused both sides of committing war crimes. You will not find anything published by NGO Monitor or the Gatesone Institute that is even remotely condemning or critical of Israel’s actions. Witness the reports you cite: item after item lists Hamas’ rocket and mortar fire alone. Taken together, this certainly seems damning – but of course it only lists one side of the equation. The lack of any critical consideration of Israel’s actions indicates that these organizations exist only to advocate for Israel’s position in the public arena.

        BTW: I agree with AI and HRW that Hamas’ firing of rockets into civilian populations is contrary to international law. However, we must also reckon with the asymmetrical nature of this conflict. Israel is the overwhelmingly more powerful player in this equation, and used state of the art, massive military weaponry in its bombardment of Gaza. They literally dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs on a heavily populated, tiny strip of land, knowing full well it would result in massive casualties. This was simply not a level playing field – witness the radically imbalanced ratio of Gazan causalities to Israeli dead and injured. While both sides may be guilty of committing war crimes against civilian populations, Israel’s actions resulted in overwhelmingly higher death and injury to civilians – a fact that simply must be factored into the moral calculus of this situation.

        Regarding Mr. Zahran, I have no doubt that he, like many Gazans, have little love for Hamas. But I think we should be deeply suspicious when he lists uniformly identical comments to make the claim that they represent “typical Gazans.” When a journalist lists essentially identical points of view to make the claim that they are somehow normative of an entire population, it generally indicates a distinct bias.

        I will end this conversation here, but like you I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in on this issue in a respectful manner.

  2. Brant, your voice in this medium is most welcome, and I’m grateful you feel sufficiently restored to be writing here again, but I confess to continuing regret your voice will no longer be identified as that of a congregational rabbi. I sincerely hope the congregation you faithfully served for so many years and which I deeply respect will not forget its voice in calling for justice even when it is “disruptive”.
    I am often reminded that the rabbi whom I attempt to follow was often considered rude and was certainly disruptive on several occasions. The “authorities” were frequently not pleased. I am reassured that when any of us summon the courage to follow faithfully we are drawing on the same deep moral core which lies at the heart of our respective traditions.

  3. Dear Rabbi Rosen,

    I am sending you my heart-felt appreciation.

    When this summer’s war began, my husband and I had been Jews for all of 6 weeks. We are new converts. It was a crushing initiation. I was obsessed and distressed and practically in a sustained frenzied pressure to somehow make the violence and killing, inflicted by both sides, stop, all the while knowing I was utterly helpless. I worried, for all the obvious reasons, but also for some closer to home. The congregation which I love and feel a sense of community with was becoming divided, before my very eyes. This too, is now part of my inheritance, I thought all this sorrow too is now mine.

    I was also, for the first time in my life, confronted with the very real fact that some people will dislike, even hate me, without having to bother with knowing me at all, simply for the fact that I am, now, a Jew.

    The world, my world, was suddenly, emotionally, psychologically, sociologically, spiritually, more complicated that I could have anticipated through mere cognition alone.

    Some background.

    My husband’s and my journey and decision to become a Jewish might be more than unusual. And, it is, in part, very interconnected to the deep concerns you discuss in your blog

    Although our explorations in Judaism began in 2009, it was Mar – Apr of 2011 that might capture the imagination most.

    During that time, my husband and I were Peace Delegates in Israel and the West Bank. (It may also be of note that my husband twice lived and worked in Gaza helping to establish the one and only mental health center there.)

    We were on a brief volunteer stint with the Non-Government Organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) http://www.cpt.org/work/palestine.

    CPT is rooted in the pacifism of its founders, the Mennonites and the Quakers. It actively supports and employs non-violent action.

    It was during a 3.5 hour battle between the settlers, the Palestinian villagers and the IDF, on a hillside in the South Hebron Hills that my love for and commitment to Israel became embedded in me in a way that would alter my life forever.

    It’s defining event came in the form of a brief interaction with a young male Israeli soldier. What happened, I believe, I recognized and voiced to him the suffering I was witnessing, a suffering which included his own. He did not want to be on that hillside; in that conflict. He, like most probably everyone else there that day, wanted simply to be studying or working or raising a family. He wanted a “normal life.”

    Violence does not only affect or alter or injure the victim. It also affects or alters or injures the offender. I wonder, sometimes, who is damaged more, at the end of the day. Inflicting violence on another tears a hole in one’s own moral fabric and I oft times wonder, if over time, it risks shredding it completely.

    When I was a Christian, I was a Christian for one reason and one reason only.

    It was because of the message of non-violence.

    That was the only thing about “the Christian message” that spoke to me – the rest was, to me, an unconvincing nonsense.

    Although it’s a complicated, long and, I think, beautiful story of why I left Christianity to build a Jewish life, I doubt that either you or any other readers would be particularly interested. I will try to keep this short.

    I was able to leave what was, to me, a uni-dimensional belief system that purported pacifism within some of its denominations, because I had found a rich, layered, powerful, all encompassing approach to life that has its ancient roots firmly embedded in the very values and ethics that make sense to me; that I want to aim my life in the direction of living. Maybe they are best encapsulated, for me, in the words, “You have been told, human, what is good, that is, the traits that God expects of you – acting justly, a passion for loving kindness, and walking humbly with Your God” (Mic 6:8) (Siddur Eit Ratzon, Joseph G. Rosenstein, 2010) and “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof” (Deut 16:20).

    In recent years I learned that there are people, Jewish people, who are committed to active engagement in and grappling with what non-violence might look like, during this time in our lives, in the life of Israel, in the life of Judaism and of the Jewish people, and in the history of this world. This belief, this knowledge, offers me tremendous comfort and great hope and it fills my life with meaning and with purpose.

    Dear Rabbi Rosen, I suspect you are perhaps not as alone as it must feel, at times. I don’t know what proportion we might be nor at what stage of the process we find ourselves, whether we are afraid, at the moment, to risk speaking up and to question, disrupt and challenge what is done, in our name. Nevertheless, we are here. We are beginning to find one another. And, I believe, we are growing and that we must. We must, not for our sakes, but because ours is the God, whether or personal faith and practice or or tradition and culture, who sets the captive free.

    I hope one day that we shall meet.

    Shalom,
    Tiferet

  4. I’m glad to see you posting again, Brant. I wondered where you were.

    This summer a very close friend in Gaza was bereaved when a tank shell hit her aunt and uncle’s home (next door to hers) and killed her two little cousins, aged four and seven. Her updates were chilling (and their absence was terrifying – electricity shortages meant that she couldn’t be in touch all the time and I was often left wondering if her family were still alive). Then I would go to Hebrew class and have to listen to people who treated the mere sound of a siren in Jerusalem as though it were the Blitz but who were happy to dismiss two thousand dead Gazan bodies as not bad at all compared to Syria. The fact that some lives are far cheaper than others under this regime has never been clearer to me.

    I am grateful for your continued activism on behalf of people like my friend Samiha and her dead cousins, who aren’t considered quite so deserving of life and dignity.

  5. Yes you are a brave man, and have my undiluted admiration. I saw a video somewhere, of an American-Jewish boy who was standing on a street in Jerusalem protesting the mindless assault on Gaza citizens, and this kind of heroism by sections of the Jewish community has not received enough prominence. In the Jewish as well as Islamic communities, extremists have been allowed too loud a voice. Actions like the one you mention give me hope

  6. I was there and even the video looks like Chicagoans proudly love and feel close to Israel while a few miscreants support the killers of Israelis.

  7. I saw the video and heard you speak about the event that took place at J.U.F./ I fully support the actions taken by yourself and the grpoup of people who went in and protested at the meeting. As Jews we must let our voices be heard. so all know there is a growing movement that does not support the atrocious actions that the Israeli Government is taking. social protest in a nonviolent manner is a long standing action to have your voice be heard. many of in the Jewish community need to hears this and many others support us. Keep going Brant and we and many others will walk along this path with you. I only wish that I could have bee there myself.

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