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From Rabbi Katie on Israel’s 70th anniversary

04/18/2018 03:41:17 PM


What should a rabbi say as we greet Israel’s 70th birthday this week? Some will stay silent because it’s too divisive to speak about the topic at all. Some may toe the line of one narrative or another -- Praise for a Modern Miracle!, or Condemnation of a so-called Apartheid State. To me, neither of these approaches is complicated or careful enough to be true to the place I know and what it means to the Jewish and Palestinian people. It’s a tough time to find hope for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. Heck -- it’s a hard time to find hope for the future of Democracy, even in our own United States! And yet, if you go beyond headlines and start meeting real people, you cannot deny the tremendous goodness and resilience you find, face by face, conversation after conversation. I have not given up hope for either the US or Israel to transform for the good in my lifetime. I do not believe it will be easy, but I owe it to my children and their children to try really hard. And I also owe it to them here and now to remember gratitude and joy and to stop the dark hard push for justice from time to time and to revel in the freedoms and abundance we do have now, to celebrate what we can, even while we commit to spreading that abundance to others.

I hope that you will join me in exploring Israel and Palestine in the years ahead. Next year we will be creating many opportunities to learn about this complicated place with depth and nuance and in June of 2019, we will be taking our first ever Or Shalom trip to Israel and Palestine! There is no better way to understand a place or to find hope about its future than to go in person and meet the real people who are doing good work there. I hope that you will hold the second half of June 2019 on your calendars and come to our informational meeting Wednesday evening May 23rd to learn more about our trip. In the meantime, I offer some words that I found inspiring from my friend and colleague, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, who sent this message on behalf of Rabbis for Human Rights this week…


From Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman writing on behalf of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel

I write this on the eve of Israel’s 70th birthday. This is super-charged period in the Israeli calendar. Days after Passover we observe Yom Ha-shoah Ve-ha-Gevura (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and a week later Yom Ha-Zikaron (Memorial Day) for our fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Then it is a breathtaking turn around to Yom Ha-Atzmaut (Israeli Memorial Day).

So much of the national ethos is captured by having these days of memorial lead up to Independence Day. It reinforces the precarious nature of our national identity.
interwoven with a terrible sense of victimhood and sacrifice. It should be no surprise that we Israelis are a little crazy. We live with a constant sense of power and powerlessness. On Yom Ha-Atzmaut I celebrate, and I invite you to celebrate, the messy miracle we call Israel. Yes, it is a miracle. Who could have imagined that a little more than seventy years after the Holocaust the greatest challenge facing the Jewish people would be how to handle the enormous military power we possess? Oy! We make so many mistakes- but I would not prefer the alternative of being powerless.

It sounds strange but I believe that to choose powerlessness would be immoral in its own way.
So on Yom 
I will celebrate this wonderful, complicated, tragic, exhilarating and messy miracle – the State of Israel. None of these complications absolve us of the responsibility for making this the most moral and just Jewish state possible. … to continue to teach our young people the connection between human rights and Judaism, to pursue justice for the poor and marginalized among us, and to protect the rights of the most vulnerable peoples in our midst, including Palestinians who continue to live under military occupation. We will not apologize for the need for a national Jewish homeland, nor we will we shirk from trying to make it worthy of the most enlightened and holy Jewish values.



Mon, August 8 2022 11 Av 5782