I lost and found my religion, a quarter century apart. In Israel in 1988, I saw the First Intefada. I could not reconcile my Israel-centered understanding of Judaism with my bedrock belief in the indivisible value of our lives. I became an absentee Jew. In 2012, I saw that I had defined Judaism too narrowly. I began to study then, and I have not stopped.
For some years, it has been my habit to wake up early and spend the last of each night and the beginning of each morning reading the Torah in Biblical Hebrew. That is the raw content from which my Jewish practice grows: study, philosophy, prayer, and (to my surprise) theology. My Judaism is a mix of introspective study, social prayer, and public activism.
I am not a Zionist because Zionism is an ethnic nationalism, not a religion. Religion is spiritual; occupation is an act of violence.
I lived and worked in Gaza 2011 – 2015, and I was a member of the UN emergency team that remained in Gaza through the 2014 war. I am a witness, and I will not be quiet, because quietism is just another word for enabling. When the status quo is so wrong, there is no neutral ground. You either actively work for change, or your acquiescence enables the wrongs to continue.
In February, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised to annex great swathes of Palestine with his best bro, Donald Trump. I took a deep breath and said, “You annex – I boycott.” I joined Independent Jewish Voices, an organisation that supports the boycott of Israel. I do so with some misgivings, but if I wait for the perfect protest, it will be too late.
I recently published Still Lives – a memoir of Gaza. I told my story to help humanize the de-humanized people behind the Gaza blockade. I call for the unexceptional application of international law, and the equal rights of all people in Palestine / Israel. If equality is antisemitic, then someone needs to tell me what semitism means.
I speak publically on these issues. Please contact me through this website if your group would like to spend an evening thinking about Gaza and Palestine as matters of human rights and human dignity.
I hope AJV will be one more venue for discussion, debate and learning. I want the community to hear more of our views. Judaism is plural. There are many ways to be a Jew.
Recent great reading:
The No-State Solution: a Jewish Manifesto, by Daniel Boyarin. Brilliant – at last a book that transcends the binary Jewish identification as religion or nation-state. Wherever we live, that’s our homeland: we are Diasporic and loving it.
Whatever Happened to Antisemitism? by Antony Lerman. How brave to take on this unfolding history!
Neither Settler Nor Native, by Mahmood Mamdani. Re-examines the shared origins of state, nation, and excluded populations. He strongly opposes our tendency to regard violence as merely criminal, rather than acknowledging its politically productive nature.
A New Hasidism: Roots and Branches, both by Rabbi Arthur Green et al. Reading them over and over, feel that I’ve been looking for these books for a long time.
Kabbalah and Ecology, by David Mevorach Seidenberg. This book traces a different path from ancient texts into our world and our issues.
Unsilencing Gaza by Sara Roy. No one can match Sara’s description and political analysis of the past fifteen years in Gaza. It’s so important for the newer generation of (particularly Jewish) activists to learn from the people who have dedicated their careers and decades to clearing the path.
Jeff Halper’s new book, Decolonizing Israel – Liberating Palestine. The whole community from the river to the sea needs to re-imagine its de-racialized future. AJV supports the kaupapa and the mahi, the principles and the work, of the One Democratic State Campaign.
A Threat From Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism, by Yakov M Rabkin.
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, by Rashid Khalidi.
Days of Awe, by Atalia Omer. New organizations are reforming Judaism, including my wonderful synagogue, Tzedek Chicago.
Justice for Some, by Noura Erekat. The history and the role of international law in Israel-Palestine.
Surprise yourself – reach into Gaza and meet some of its creative young people:
www.eltiqa.com Gaza’s contemporary art gallery
https://www.buildpalestine.com/organizations/gaza-poets-society the Gaza Poets Society
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arSHRKBXOxU&app=desktop Today we sing!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkuA_3kXBNA watch Shark and the Gaza Camp Breakerz
https://www.ggateway.tech/ I am the proudest co-founder of the GGateway ICT social enterprise. Meet Gaza’s tech generation.