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 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.
2021 opens with two excellent studies, short and pointed:
Nathan Thrall, former Crisis Group analyst, writes on “Israel’s Apartheid: the Separate Regimes Delusion” in the London Review of Books. Israel’s foremost human rights NGO describes “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid.”
And Jeff Halper’s new book, Decolonizing Israel – Liberating Palestine is the call to action. 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.
Others, recent and excellent:
Paradigm Lost, by Ian Lustick. A broad survey of our moment and how we got here.
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.