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Tish`a B`Av Drash
On the night of Tisha B’Av no one knew how many people would come to the event organized by Sheikh Jarrah activists following the reading of the book of Lamentations. The HUC - JIR lounge was full (In holds around 100), with people even sitting outside. Amongst those who attended, were both religious and non-religious people. Most of the attendees were our supporters, but there were also those who came to ask questions. Most of the questions related to how to cope with Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah who do not want to see our flag and do not want to joint or parallel pray.
I do not know any source in international law indicating that human rights are only geared for those who think like us, neither do I read in the book of Genesis that only totally righteous were created in the God`s Image. Nowhere is it written that human rights are protected only when we derive utilitarian benefit.
Nevertheless, those looking for utilitarian benefits ought to be vanguard of the struggle for human rights. It may be naïve to think that because we joined the Sheikh Jarakh struggle, Palestinians will automatically like us. However, the chance of being mighty as defined in Pirkei Avot D`Rabi Natan - turning an enemy into his friend - are much higher if we join the struggle for justice than if we abandon it.
Another question that was asked was, `Don’t you know that you are swimming against the flow?` We know it very well, although I am convinced that most of Israelis are good people who would support us if they would spend one night in Sheikh Jarrah, or see the children learning in the Khan El Akhmar mud and tire school, or for one day accompany farmers trying to access their lands next to settlements.
Maybe it was precisely because of our awareness that since the Gaza war we are swimming upstream more than ever before - that it is so important for both the religious and non-religious amongst us to feel that we have a place where we can be together and know that our beliefs and values are have roots in the Jewish tradition. Paradoxically, our faith must sustain us precisely because it is not fundamentalist and therefore allows the possibility that we do not have the whole truth. The people who oppose us do not always have these doubts. A tiny example: A week ago we accompanied farmers to water their trees. A military patrol came and immediately said that it is forbidden for us to be there. Our faith is tested not only in theological discussions, but also when we stand in front of soldiers and say that we have the right to be here and you do not have the right to prevent us.
Finally, our faith is a faith that it is based on our ancient sources, but is not based on the desire to get back to a mythological past in which there was a perfect Jewish society. It is not based on the idealization of either ourselves or the Palestinian people in the present. Our faith and belief is in what should and could be in the future. We finished the reading of Lamentations on Tisha B`Av with the same words we recite every time we return the Torah to the ark, “Renew our days as of old.” I always add quietly, “And more”.
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