Walking for Peace

Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace, co-founded by Rabbi Lynn Gottleib and Abdul Rauf with local Philadelphia activists. This sign is hanging on the walls of the International Airport in Philadelphia in the International Terminal as part of a Civil Rights display. Abdul Rauf is wearing a white kufi and holding the banner.
Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace, co-founded by JVP Rabbinical Council member Rabbi Lynn Gottleib and Abdul Rauf with local Philadelphia activists. This sign is hanging on the walls of the International Airport in Philadelphia in the International Terminal as part of a Civil Rights display. Abdul Rauf is wearing a white kufi and holding the banner.

I know our hearts are breaking for the many wounds we tend, and the sorrow we feel for the brokenness of this world. As a comfort to our hearts, I would like to share these moving words from my dear friend and peacewalk colleague, Abdul Rauf Campos Marquetti. Abdul Rauf has been unflagging in his advocacy for peace building among his brothers and sisters in Islam, as well as among people of faith everywhere. He has a life long commitment to serving incarcerated brothers and working for prison justice. His vision of Islam is shared with hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world who have suffered immense trauma at the hands of the West for a thousand years. We join interfaith brothers and sisters who are choosing to actively pursue healing and restorative justice, to build peace, and walk into the future with awareness, skill, determination and hope. We choose to heal the wounds of structural violence and transform attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that perpetuate violence through the work of restorative justice and peacebuilding. May Abdul Rauf’s words inspire us in our interfaith work.

–Lynn Gottleib
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, The Muslim-Jewish Peacewalk is about transformation and the use of an alternative methodology that is deeply rooted in the Ibrahimic traditions.

Each peacewalk has its purpose, its challenges, its different forms, yet they all lead to dialogue, conflict resolution, reconciliation, peace, justice and compassionate actions. These are walks of peace without the violence that so mars the face of our world. As a Muslim I have personally conducted many peacewalks that have taken these different forms. Twice the journey of Umra from my home in Albuquerque, NM to the Holy City of Mecca. I have walked through Palestine, Lebanon and Israel and seen the devastation of occupation and woe, as an interfaith peace delegate with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. I have walked the PeaceWalk from masjids to synagogues to churches throughout the US and Canada, and to the Nevada Test Site on Shoshoni Land. These peacewalks have transformed my life and given me a new perspective on what it means to be a Muslim and the responsibility that it entails.Why the Peacewalk? Allah Subhana Wa’tala says in the Holy Qur’an: “I made you different so that you may get to know one another.”And for what purpose? “that you may learn righteousness.” And the crux of righteousness? It is centered on the pursuit of justice and peace for those who are suffering and those who are oppressed. Why the Peacewalk? In these times of conflict and unrestrained military violence we must be able to find creative, nonviolent and alternative ways to build Peace…for the future of our children. “

Abdul Rauf Campos Marquetti, 2004

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JVP Rabbinical Council Response to Escalating Violence in Jerusalem

As the horrific news of more violence and more death pours in from Jerusalem, the JVP rabbinical council stands in mourning with all those who have lost parents and children, homes and houses of prayer, sisters, brothers, and friends. We renew our efforts to be a voice for justice and peace for all people in Israel and Palestine.

We offer this bundle of poetry as a way to reflect and heal from the reports of mounting violence and to recommit to being part of building a future of which we can all be proud.

1.  A prayer in remembrance
by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

May the memories of those killed in senseless hatred be for a blessing.

May their spirits be lifted up and comforted in the close embrace of God’s motherly presence.

May our precious children be safe from harm.

May all the children be our children.

May we protect all parents from mourning.

May our hearts and the hearts of our people be healed quickly in our day from the wounds of the past and present.

May every grieving parent find comfort.

May we live to see the day when no parent has to grieve.

In Hebrew, translated by Rabbi Lila Vesid:

תפילת זיכרון

מאת הרבה רחל ברנבלט
והרבה לין גוטליב

יהי רצון שזכרם של בנינו
שנהרגו בשל שנאה חסרת פשר
.יהיה לברכה

יהי רצון שרוחם תעלה
ותתנחם בחיבוקה החם
.והאימהי של אלוהים

.יהי רצון שילדינו היקרים יהיו בטוחים מכל צרה

.יהי רצון שכל הילדים יהיו ילדינו

.יהי רצון שנגן על כל ההורים מן השכול

יהי רצון שלבבנו ולבבם של בני עמנו
יירפא במהרה בימינו
.מפצעי העבר וההווה

.יהי רצון שכל הורה אבֵל ימצא ניחומים

יהי רצון שנזכה לראות את היום
שבו לא יהיו עוד הורים אבֵלים

2. Let Us Join Those Who Refuse
by Melanie Kaye-Kantrowitz

let me be strong as history
let me join those who refuse
let there be time
let it be possible
let no faction keep me
from those who suffer
let no faction keep me from those who needed a home
and found one
[let no faction keep me from those who had homes
and lost them: stolen, walled off, razed, occupied]
let no faction keep me from those
who need a home now.

3. Revenge
by Taha Muhammad Ali

At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!

But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.

Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbours he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school …
asking about him
and sending him regards.

But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbours or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

4.  Dirge Without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave.
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.

Open a Window

by Alana Alpert, rabbinical student

In Masechet Brachot, R. Hiyya bar Abba says: “A person should always pray in a place that has windows.” Why do we need to pray in a place that has windows? Obviously because we need to look outside. But more than that – we need to pray in a place that has windows because true prayer is not just introspection; it requires engagement with what is beyond the synagogue’s walls.

There are several reasons why Parshat Hayei Sarah encourages us to reflect on prayer. The first is because it is in this parsha that Isaac goes out to the field, “la’suach”, which is interpreted as meditative prayer.

Indeed, it is Isaac’s prayer that sets the precedent for the daily afternoon mincha service.

Parshat Hayei Sarah also makes me think of prayer because the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs in Hebron, which is purchased by Abraham in Parshat Hayei Sarah, has become a place of prayer.

Let’s open a few windows and explore what is going on outside of the walls of our ancestor’s tomb:

Through one window we see the Casbah, the Old City of Hebron. Most of the shutters of the shops are closed since long and unpredictable curfews make it nearly impossible for businesses to function. We see metal grates hanging over many Palestinian homes, placed there to catch the garbage and rocks thrown down by the settlers above.

Through another window we see Shuhada Street. Once a center of commerce full of life, it is now empty. Palestinian families who have the bad luck of a door of their house leading onto that street have had that door sealed shut by the army.

Through another window we will see graffiti: “death to arabs” is scattered among the Stars of David.

The third reason I think about prayer when I look at Parshat Hayei Sarah is because Midrash Tanhuma, when reflecting on the parsha, tells the most beautiful midrash.

Discussing the importance of kavanah,­ mindfulness or intention ­during prayer, the rabbis declare that Abraham is the highest exemplar.  They say, “…And nobody inclined their mind and heart like our Father Abraham.” The example the rabbis bring of Abraham’s mindful and heartfelt prayer amazes me: they point to Abraham challenging God.

When God tells Abraham that he is going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, he fights for the innocent, claiming that there must be some number of righteous people within the city’s gates. He asks: “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?… Far be it from you to do a thing like that!… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

What if we chose to emulate our ancestors in life instead of guarding them in death?

The hevre of Project Hayei Sarah works to honor the memory of Abraham as he was at his best: speaking up for the innocent, fighting for justice. This Shabbat, thousands of Jews will travel to Hebron to pray at Maarat hamachpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs. For Palestinian residents, this weekend in the Jewish calendar means increased restrictions on movement and heightened risk of violence. As protest & tikkun (repair), members of Project Hayei Sarah will be opening windows into the situation in Hebron in shuls, minyans, schools, shabbat tables, and blogs. To hear more of our Torah, visit our website for dozens of video divrei Torah. Please “like” us on Facebook to support our work to reclaim this parsha towards peace & justice in Hebron.

May we find what true prayer requires of us:

the strength to look at what is going on around us, and the chutzpah to demand that things be different.

May we open a window:

l’kaveyn daateynu,

educate ourselves & others about the situation in Hebron,

l’kaveyn leebenu,

open our hearts to the suffering in the holy city of Hebron.

May we find that opening this window will do more than challenge us to ask hard questions — may it bring in air & light & hope for a better future for all of us.

Ken yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.

alanaPCS

Alana with Nawal and Leila from Women in Hebron, an embroidery and weaving cooperative in the Old City

Four Questions for “Women of the Wall” On the 46th Anniversary of the Six Day War

by Cantor Michael Davis

Every Israeli politician knows that, before attending election rallies from Nahariya to Nitzana, she will first have to fly to that other center of Israeli politics: New York. To win an election, the Israeli politician must win the hearts and financial backing of the Jews of New York and other major Jewish centers in North America. Israeli NGOs, too, travel the same American route, campaigning for credibility, viability and dollars in synagogue basements and the living rooms of Jewish supporters  across the United States.

Israeli left wing politician Anat Hoffman, knows this political truth well. Recently,  her organization, “Women of the Wall” achieved a major breakthrough when it was adopted by the mainstream American  Jewish community as its cause célèbre. Several times a week, I get a mass mailing from someone in my professional and personal networks on behalf of Women of the Wall. No other organization cuts through the vague barrage of mass mailings the way  the American campaign for “Women of the Wall” does. Outdoor solidarity prayer services in city centers across the U.S. and a rabbinic mission to support Women of the Wall are signs of the remarkable resonance this campaign enjoys in the American Jewish community.

As an Israeli, back when I was still living in Jerusalem, I supported “Women of the Wall.” I voted for Anat Hoffman’s Meretz party on the Jerusalem City Council. Today, as clergy in a liberal synagogue, of course I am an advocate for the full inclusion of women and girls in Jewish ritual life.  Yet, I have serious reservation about the American campaign for “Women of the Wall.”

Here are four questions for the “Women of the Wall” campaign:

1. “Women of the Wall” wants the Western Wall, the largest Orthodox synagogue in the world, to allow women’s participation in ritual, a deeply held American Jewish value that extends from Reform to the liberal wing of modern Orthodoxy in America. In Israel, this activism is upsetting to mainstream Israeli Orthodox (and irrelevant to the vast majority of non-Orthodox Israelis). But the tone of the campaign’s supports seems to relish taking the battle to the Orthodox. The energy for fighting this battle comes in no small part from a desire to defeat the Orthodox.

Confusingly, back in the U.S., the liberal Jewish community holds the Orthodox in high regard: they are true Jews. Donating money to Jewish Federation is a standard way of expressing one’s Jewish commitment. In my hometown of Chicago, the bulk of the monies that the JUF raises from the liberal Jewish community are given to local gender-segregated Orthodox synagogues and their associated institutions. To be a good Jew is to honor the Orthodox by supporting institutions that bar women from ritual.Why are the Orthodox our friends in the United States but our adversaries in Israel?

2. The official practice in the Jewish community has been to avoid criticizing Israel. This is dictated as the responsibility of non-Israeli Jews. Many – but not all – of the people who are signing on to the Women of the Wall campaign comply with (and therefore, at the very least, implicitly enforce through social approval) this policy. Now, through its advocacy for Women of the Wall, the Jewish community is advertising to the world that Israel discriminates against women. What a shanda!

Why grant this particular campaign the rare exemption from the Jewish imperative to always look out for Israel’s good name?

3. In the densely populated square mile of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall plaza is a new-fangled anomaly. This open space was created immediately after the Israeli army captured the Old City in the 1967 Six Day War, exactly 46 years ago.. Overnight, Israeli bulldozers demolished the Mughrabi Quarter, clearing the way for what we know as the Western Wall plaza. The Israeli army first evicted the (non-Jewish) residents of the Mughrabi Quarter. At least one man was killed when he did not get out of his home in time.

However important the cause of women’s prayer is, isn’t it unseemly to focus the campaign of women’s right to pray at the scene of death and expropriation?

4. Back in the 1970s, the organized American Jewish community provided the essential legal framework and key political backing to launch the State of Israel’s signature national project of the last four decades, namely, the colonization of the West Bank. We created this reality.

The organized Jewish community continues to provide financial support and political backing to Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies. The silent majority of American Jews, through its silence, endorses the community leadership’s backing of Israel’s well-publicized injustices on the West Bank. Through our continued silence, we enable Israel’s ongoing destructive (and, frankly, self-destructive) stance.

How can we own the issue of women at prayer when we ignore our responsibility for the far more serious, ongoing problems that we did help to create, namely, the State of Israel’s violent campaign against its Palestinian population?

Corners and Wings: A Prayer for Mori

by Rabbinical Student Alana Alpert

I’m very lucky to be a part of a prayer group of people committed to and working towards liberation of all people from various systems of oppression. Together we are exploring how activists can use prayer as a space for healing and as a practice that expands our ability to imagine the world we are working towards. This past week, I asked my friend who would be leading the group if we could take a few minutes to pray for my friend Mori. That morning he would be reporting to the draft headquarters of the IDF, after being refused a hearing as a conscientious objector.

Moriel and I met last summer as we were both preparing to spend a year living in Jerusalem where he would be working with Rabbis for Human Rights. I watched in awe as he used his fluent Hebrew and Arabic, as well as his seemingly endless energy and courage, to throw himself into the work. We started organizing together and he became a dear friend and colleague, supporting each other to find balance, going to demonstrations, and passing notes during infuriating panels. I knew this week would come, and that he wouldn’t go quietly, even if that might have meant less time in jail.

When planning this week’s service, my friend tried hard to understand what it was that I needed, but I didn’t know myself. I told her, “I don’t know how to pray about it except cry about it, so I guess I just need some witnesses.” That morning we chanted the verse “v’havieyenu l’shalom m’arbah kanfot haaretz” – “bring us in peace from the four corners of the land.” I wrapped myself tightly in my tallit and wound the four sets of tzitzit, representing the four corners, around my fingers. I was reminded of how often those verses are sung to the melody of Hatikvah, that for many the State of Israel is the fulfillment of this prayer. I felt overwhelmed by a wave of heartbreak and disbelief:

Why should we gather from the four corners?

So that Jews can put each other in jail?

For the crime of not believing in violence?

Weeping, I read the last paragraph of the beautiful piece Mori wrote explaining his decision:

So I refuse. I refuse to serve in the army, to put on a uniform, to pick up a gun. I refuse to contribute to the cycle of violence and dehumanization that plagues this place that I love. I refuse because I love, and because I believe in the possibility of a better reality, and because I believe in God and in humanity and in nonviolence and because, as R. Heschel teaches, to despair is the most selfish thing one can do, to say “this is hard for me,” or “it seems to me that the situation will never change,” and to thus be unable to serve God by serving others. I believe that the situation can change. I believe that my refusal is a tiny, tiny, tiny contribution to a reality in which violence is less normal, less prevalent, less accepted. I seek to refuse with the most humility that I can muster, because I do not know, about this or about anything. I refuse in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation, and in hope that the ripples of my action will reach the hearts of some members of my Israeli Jewish and American Jewish societies. I refuse to hate those who have chosen differently, and I hope that the refusal to hate will be reciprocated by those who disagree with my decision.

Between sobs, rocking back in forth in my tallit, I managed to tell the friends surrounding me that the root of the word for kanfot (corners) was the same as knafaiim (wings), and prayed something like this:

Please God, Source of Life, don’t let them clip Mori’s wings. Bring us into a new world where no person can tie another’s wings, where no person can hold another prisoner for wanting to serve You.

Ken yehi ratzon – May it be Your will.

(You can read the full piece on Moriel’s blog. Moriel’s story was also recently featured in Ha’aretz, here.)

A Prayer for Syria

by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Shekhinah, in Whose womb creation is nurtured:
when your children are slaughtered you weep.
Bring peace beneath Your fierce embrace
to Syria. Let a new image of the world be born
in which American Jews pray for Syrians, who pray
for Israelis, who pray for Palestinians, who pray
even for American Jews. Fill the hearts
of the insurgents with Your compassion
so that when the regime comes to its end
no one seeks the harsh justice of retaliation.
And for us: strengthen our resolve not to turn away.
We bless You, Source of Mercy. Bring wholeness
to this broken creation. And let us say: Amen.