Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bibi ha'Baita - Pipi v'Lishon

I was there. My husband was there. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson were there. We were part of the 150,000 who marched and demonstrated last night throughout Israel for social justice.

It is hard to put into words the feelings of pride, solidarity, and the belief that a change is taking over this land.

Babies in strollers are doin' it
Children are doin' it
University students are doin' it
Young professionals are doin'it
Parents are doin' it
Middle aged are doin' it
And the elderly are doin' it too

Our new national anthem has become:
Ha'am doresh - Tzedek chevrati
(The people demand social justice)
and it is a beautiful anthem, especially when hundreds of thousands of ordinary people chant it

I was in the march and demonstration in Beer Sheva.
Beer Sheva, the 'capital' of the Negev, is usually a quiet city, where it's 200,000 people work - many in the hospital and university or shopping centers - go about their daily lives, go shopping and drink coffee at one of the cafes, but do not go out into the streets to protest. 

Last night, 9,000 (!) came out to protest. Last night, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, younger and older , came from throughout the city and from the surrounding towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, who are usually forgotten citizens of the periphery, to march together and shout: "Who, ha, mi ze ba? Midinat haRevacha" (Who - ha, who is coming? The welfare state)

The speeches at the demonstration at the City Hall square, where the march ended, reflected the voices of the people:  
The head of the Tent City in Beer Sheva promised not to give up, until social change was achieved.
The vice chair of the city's welfare department - a woman - spoke about the need for affordable housing and social welfare
The initiator of the Stroller March - a young mother - talked about the demand for free quality education for all citizens, and for the need to care for the elderly as well

After years of being in a deep sleep, the people of Israel are awakening.
The people demand social justice!

Yesterday, before the demonstrations began, my daughter, son-in-law and grandson came to visit us at Urim. Shachar, who is just a bit over 2 years old, sang us his new song, that he learned at the Stroller March in Tel Aviv last week:

Bibi ha'baita - Pipi v'Lishon
(Bibi - go home, go to the bathroom, and then to sleep...)

The people of this country are waking up after years of being in a deep sleep
Our 'leaders' are still asleep, hoping that they will wake up, and find that this was just a bad dream
It would serve them well to wake up soon (today) and begin to do the job they were elected to do - serve the people, not destroy them...

While the people of this country are going out into the streets, and reclaiming their rights to affordable housing, decent medical care, quality and free education for their children, our 'leaders' are trying to decide if they should cancel their summer recess, and begin seriously addressing our calls

Bibi Bibi titorer - anachnu ken shavim yoter
Bibi Bibi wake up! We are worth more!

It's often hard for me to take pride in my country. Over the years, we have done so many oppressive things, and caused so much harm, in the name of security. We have become a people rooted in such deep fear and hatred of Palestinians and others in our region, that we allocate between 54 - 62 billion dollars a year for defense. Privatization has become our middle name. The very very very rich have become very very very very rich, while the poor and the middle class have found that they can no longer achieve the most basic things that make one's life a life of dignity. 

Over these past few weeks, I have been able to become proud again. The social revolution is just beginning, but it is quickly gaining momentum. The social revolution is bringing together Jews and Arabs, young and old, secular and religious, whites and blacks. The social revolution is calling out loud and clear:

Atem midabrim al nadlan, anachu al ha'bait
(You are talking about real estate, we are talking about our home!)

Bibi, ha'Baita - Pipi v'Lishon

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Social Economic and Political Rights are for ALL

It is no longer a one-shot deal, a one-time deal, an event that is happening on one street.
The social-economic revolution is happening here, in Israel, from the north to the south, from the west to the east.

The tents on Rotschild, in the heart of Tel Aviv, have expanded to Kiriyat Shmona, Haifa, Hod Hasharon, Jerusalem, Kiriyat Melachi, Beer Sheva, Sderot, and to so many more cities and towns. When you drive around the country, you do not know where to look first, so many tents and protests...

Thousands and thousands of people, the older and the younger, grandparents, parents and children, have taken to the streets to demand a social system that makes it possible to live one's life without continued fear of economic collapse. That supports and diginifies one's work. That does not privatize every last bit of land and every social or educational service.

Even the social giants have joined in - the Histadrut, WIZO and Na'amat. The streets are filled with doctors, educators, social workers, psychologists, academics, artists, writers, musicians, students, farmers, ordinary people...

This is a revolution being led by the educated, secular, middle class. It's okay; if they had not started it, then perhaps it would never have begun, nor reached the dimensions that it has reached so far, and the dimensions that it will surely reach as more and more sectors and regions join in.


Our country is not only comprised of educated middle class secular Jews.

News flash: We have Palestinians - Muslims, Christians and Druze. We have Bedouins in unrecognized villages with no roads, electricity, running water, sanitation, no educational institutions. We have Ethiopians and shelter-seekers, and many, many poor people who cannot afford to come to these demonstrations since they need to work at their almost-no-pay jobs in order to buy their next meal, if they are lucky enough to have a job.

We have Palestinians locked up in the Gaza Strip and Palestinians behind the Separation Wall and checkpoints in the West Bank who are desparately trying to gain recognition for their own state, that they will be able to run democratically, free from Occupation. We have Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Old City neighborhoods who are at the mercy of aggressive settlers overtaking their homes, backed by the Israeli police, army and justice system.


Do not get me wrong: I am in favor of this revolution taking place in our land.

The message is clear:
People deserve to live lives of dignity - to have fair pay, fair chances to secure decent housing, quality free education for their children, clean water, affordable electricity, parks to play in, public transporation, a clean living environment.

But not only the educated secular middle class of Jews. ALL PEOPLE.

It is time to make outreach to these socially excluded peoples and ask them to join in this revolution, that should first and foremost work towards a social system that does not ignore their basic needs.

It is time to say, all of the money that goes to the settlements, to the military, to exacerbating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused a great sickness in this land.

As we take to our streets in this amazing social-economic revolution cascading through our country, it is also time to remember our neighbors in Gaza also deserve rights. It is time to remember that we are all just regular ordinary people who know that continuing to support the very, very wealthy, the settlers, and the military machine is a ticket to death, not life.

And we all want life. We all deserve life.

The message is simple.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our social revolution is here - Hallelujah!

In the spring, we had the social workers' strike, that called for social reform, decent pay, decent working conditions

Then the doctors' strike began - and is still going strong - that hopes to save the public health system

The cottage cheese revolution took off soon after - and prices of milk products decreased

For weeks, the housing revolution  has been a hit throughout the country - as tent cities spring up from north to south, since so few can afford houses, let alone apartments...

The Histadrut (the largest Labor Union) is now joining in, giving its full support

The students from throughout the universities and colleges call for fair tuition, so that we can have an educated society

And our the mothers, fathers, grandparents and children join the social struggle, in the stroller demonstration that will make it possible to raise a child without going bankrupt

And today, we also learn about the protests of the dairy farmers, who are demanding that they and their families do not go thirsty, as the government tries to cut milk prices

The system is rotten
It favors the very very very rich
and leaves the rest of us to try to make due
The present government is one that is busy passing anti-democratic laws
and sowing more hatred between the citizens - Jews and Palestinians, religious and secular
sowing more fear between Israelis and Palestinians
worrying only about the very very very rich

Our social revolution is here - Hallelujah!
Governments that devise systems against their citizens do not have the right to remain in power
Our country is for all of us - Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, men, women, secular, religious, younger, older. If we do not care for one another, no one else will

Our social revolution is here - Hallelujah!
More strength and power to every single person joining in the call for a more socially and economically just society.

Our social revloution is here - HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So much anger and hatred...

In today's Ma'ariv (for those of you who read Hebrew, click here for the article) , Yona Avrushmi, the man who killed the peace activist Emile Greensweig in 1983, gave an interview a few months after being released from prison for his crime.

Avrushmi says:
"I am one of the people who is responsible for the disappearence of the Israeli left, my name is written in the history books...There is no more Peace Now, no one hears about them. There is no left wing in Israel. Because of my action, many people understood what the Israeli left was... Why should I hurt left-wingers now? They don't exist anymore... People on the street want to kiss my hand... People want to kiss both my hands, the hand that opened the pin and the one that threw the grenade. I go to a lot of synagogues in the country...and everywhere I go I meet with support..."

So much anger
so much hatred

Instead of paying adoration to the grenades, the rifles, the tanks, the bomber planes, and to the other weapons of war, we should pay tribute to:

                                     Emile Greensweig is in the center, in the white shirt

And this

and this

Today the streets of Israel are filling with citizens from all walks of life protesting the government's trampling of our basic rights to decent and affordable housing, decent and affordable food, decent salaries and working conditions, affordable college tuition, affordable electricity...

Perhaps the message of these thousands and thousands of people who are setting up tents, marching through all of the cities, blocking the highways, will topple this government that spreads hate and anger and fear and has gone to war against its citizens.

Instead of anger and hatred, it is time for care, compassion, cooperation.

Yona Avrushmi, Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Fania Kirschenbaum - you do not speak for the people!

The days of anger, hatred, spreading fear, tearing the country apart are coming to an end.
Pack up your anger and hatred, it is not wanted, not needed.

Today we celebrate Emile Greensweig's message of peace, today we celebrate Daphni Leef, who got the young (and now older) people out into the tents, into the streets, to fight social inequalities, today we celebrate all of the thousands and thousands of ordinary people who are saying: A new day is a'dawning - one of care, compassion, cooperation...

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Many Times Can a Wo/Man Pitch a Tent?

How many times can a person pitch a tent?
Before our PM will take note
Yes and how many times can a young one cry out
'I'm tired of nowhere to live'
Yes and how many stakes will we need to purchase
to hold down the millions of tents?

The answer my friend
is on Rotschild Blvd.
The answer is in
Tel Aviv

How many times can a woman go to
her store and leave without cheese?
yes and how many times can a child go without
his milk for his bowl of krispies
Yes and how many tears will we have to wipe away
Before our salaries cover food?

The answer my friend
is also in Beer Sheva
in Jerusalem, Sderot
and Haifa

How many times must we go to the doc
And learn there's no appointments to be had?
Yes and how many beds can they cram in the corridors,
because there's no room in the wards?
Yes and how many times will we call for a nurse
To find that they're dead on their feet?

The answer my friend
is in Ichilov
but also in Rambam,
and Soroka

How many times will we elect governments
that trample our most basic rights?
How many fat cats must we all support
while we're told to manage with scraps?
How much injustice can one country bear
before it calls out - It's Enough!

The answer my friend
is now throughout this land
The answer is now throughout our land

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Times they are a'Changin'

Perhaps, maybe, maybe, a revolution is happening here in Israel.
Tens of thousands came to Tel Aviv to protest the social-economic inequalities that characterize our society.

People can't afford housing
Can't afford food
The medical establishment is on the brink of collapse, the doctors have been striking for months, the medical students have now joined them, and the nurses are on their way
The social workers tried to raise their status in the spring, and were given a few more crumbs. They are raising their voices once again.

Peace with our neighbors and the end to the Occupation and the siege can't get Israelis out to the streets, but apartments and cottage cheese and doctors' appointments and welfare can.

Now it's true, that most of the protestors and demonstrators aren't (overly) concerned about the rights of the Palestinians, but it could be a step in the right direction. Becoming aware of the right to rights may push some of these people to the understanding that all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, have the right to rights.

Here it began with the cottage cheese
And then moved on to housing

Backed by support for doctors

and social workers

The words of Bob Dylan gain new meaning today:

Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters, around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

And in my less prolific words:
Perhaps, perhaps,
maybe, maybe,
a revolution is happening here
People are discovering their rights
to rights
They're takin' to the streets
and coming together
to demand the right
to live lives of dignity

Perhaps, perhaps
maybe, maybe
a new day is a dawnin'

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You Can't Compare, But We Must Be Aware

In two and a half weeks, I'll be making my first trip to Poland, to see the major places where the Shoah took place. I've been studying the long-term psycho-social effects of the Holocaust on its victims, children and grandchildren, and to a lesser extent on the children and grandchildren of Germans, for over 20 years. I have interviewed, and read interviews of hundreds of survivors. I have been to Germany many times, and visited many Holocaust-related sites. But this is the first time that I will be making the trip to Poland, to the home of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Majdanek.

I am more than a little nervous; I am afraid that standing in the places where the killing machine was at its 'height' will overwhelm me; that I will become paralyzed with a deep fear (such as happened to me during some of my visits to Germany). But I know that I need to go to these places where so much of the world's bloody history took place, see them for myself, and stand where so many of my (Jewish) people were persecuted and murdered, solely because they were Jewish.

This trip will also be special because one of the two guides is my daughter, Noa, who for a number of years has been leading such tours for groups of teenagers from the Noar HaOved V'haLomed Youth Group . Noal - as it is usually called - is a movement based on the principles of a Zionism that is democratic, socialistic, socially just for all members of society. I have wanted to make such a trip for years, but wanted to do it with my daughter. And this year, the opportunity finally arose. 

The Noal trips to Poland, run under the auspices of HaMeorer - an educational arm of the youth movement (information at their site is only available in Hebrew) - are not the typical trips, organized by the Israeli Ministry of Education. They are not based on the premise: "Because the Shoah happened, we need to be wary of all non-Jews-and Israel needs to be military strong" but rather on the belief that "Because the Shoah happened, we must learn how to ensure that all peoples, whomever and wherever they may be, will have their rights and freedoms protected."

One of the main purposes of their trips, outside of providing in-depth learning experiences about the history of the Shoah and Poland, is to encourage the participants to undertake social-justice activities upon their return home in order to help create a kinder, more just world. One major undertaking of Noal, that grew out of their trips to Poland, has been work with refugees and asylum seekers from Africa. They opened up a school and led courses for refugees, from children to adults. They have helped them learn their rights, learn Hebrew, teach them practicalities of living in Israel. They have run summer camps and activities for the children. They have become the voice for these people, who often remain voicless and invisible to most of Israeli society.

After 15 years of running trips to Poland, the organizers decided to reach out to adults, parents of children in the youth movement who wanted to take such a journey to Poland. Their aim is to teach us a lot of the complex history, but also to spread the message that racism, persecution, demonization, discrimination are destructive wherever they take place. I have the good fortune to be in the first group for adults. In October they are opening up a second one, so for all those interested, you can sign up on their site.

Now, I am going to say something that might upset some of the readers. So, if you do not wish to be upset, then it is best that you stop reading here, and move on to another internet site... 

I am going to put some words together in the same sentence that most Jewish (Israelis) cannot bear - the Shoah, the Israeli Occupation, the siege on Gaza, and our present-day journey on the road of fascism.

(For those of you who really don't like these issues coming together in the same sentence, this is your last chance to move on to Facebook, Amazon, Ynet or whatever internet sites you prefer. Okay, I begin)

I know - you can't compare.
I know that the killing machine of the Third Reich and its collaborators was nothing like what came before, and nothing like what has come since.

But I also know that stereotyping, racist thoughts and expression, perceptions of the enemy, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or nationality, oppression, investigation of human rights group, silencing non-violent dissent, fear and hatred can too easily lead to mass killing, to mass atrocities, to genocide.

I know that there have been terrible genocides in our world, outside of the Holocaust - genocides of the Native Americans, of the Armenians, of the Tutus, to mention just a very few...

I know that our various (Israeli) governments have not put a plan in place to systematically murder all of the Palestinians. I know that what we are doing in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and what we are doing to the people of Gaza, is NOT an attempt to wipe them off the face of the map. I know this.

BUT, I also know that what we are doing, and have done for years, is VERY VERY dangerous, for with each step we take, we come one step closer to engaging in horrendous actions against humankind. Each step on its own may seem harmless, unimportant, but when taken together, they create a frightening picture.

Every time I learn something else about the Holocaust, learn another fact, hear another testimony, read another book, I am horrified at what happened, and how the world let it happen. Every time I learn something else about the Holocaust, learn another fact, hear another testimony, read another book, I am horrified that people stood by and let it happen, often in their own neighborhoods.

And that is why WE MUST be aware, and actively call out when we see such injustices happening, or about to happen. We CANNOT sit quietly and let hatemongers and fascists rule our country, rule our world.

While the Shoah has, so far, been a one-of-a-kind historical event, due to the systematic and machinery persecution and killing that was designed by the Nazi regime, and adopted by so many collaborators in the world, it is our duty to do the exact opposite. 

We have no choice but to say:
NO. Not here. No way. I refuse.

I know that you can't compare, but we must be aware
I know that you can't compare, but we must not fear
I know that you can't compare, but we must dare to say

NO. Not here. No way. I REFUSE.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Once Upon a Time in the Holy Land - Chapter Two

Once upon a time, in a place far far away (or very, very close - depending on where you live), there were two peoples who just could not get along with one another.

Neither people were willing to extend legitimacy to the other. Each side believed that they had the right to the land, and that the other was, at best, an unwelcome visitor. Their intransigence was very bad, and caused great sadness across the land.

The stronger side decided to take charge of the weaker side, and claimed that all of its territory would now be under its control. They created special villages and towns for their people, and helped them build  beautiful homes, but did not let the other people in. They created wide paved roads to these beautiful towns and villages, but did not let the other people in. They built impressive schools and colleges, and theatres and shopping malls, but did not let the other people in.

Now the fires of the conflict were always lit - sometimes the people fought over big things, and some times over small things. As the years passed, the two peoples became more estranged from one another. They lived in different towns and villages, and almost never saw one another, they rarely talked to one another. The stronger side made sure to keep the other side at a distance, keeping them confined to smaller and smaller areas, behind gates and walls and checkpoints, sometimes with no-to-little access to air space, water space, land space.

The resolution of the conflict between the peoples slipped further and further away. In fact, it became an everyday part of life, and people rarely noticed it anymore.

It became such a regular part of life that the two peoples forgot how to talk to one another. They forgot what the others really looked like, and imagined that they had all kinds of terrible characteristics, and were thought to be very, very evil.  

And so, as one year followed another, the stronger side continued to keep the other side locked up, under their control, while trying to go about their business.

BUT, because the leaders invested so much in cultivating fear, and hate, and blame, bad things also began to happen within the stronger people.  The leaders ignored the deterioration within their own towns and villages. 
The leaders stopped taking care of their own ordinary people, and lent all their support to just a few families, that grew richer and richer and got lots and lots and lots of wealth. Soon there were just a very few people who could afford whatever they want, and much much much more than they could possibly need, while there were many, many people who couldn't afford a place to live. In fact, things got so bad, that many had to give up their cottage cheese and live in tents in the middle of their towns.

The entire fabric of this once strong society began to dissolve. The schools were overcrowded and teachers were underpaid, there was growing violence within the society, often against women and children. The social workers could barely make their own ends meet, and even the doctors could not handle the burdens placed upon them, and took to the streets calling for reform.

But the leaders remained steadfast! They did not cave in to these petty grievances, and they continued to support the very, very rich and to let the others fend for themselves, while continuing, of course, to stoke the fires of hate against the other people, across the way ...

The leaders now spent their time in the parliment drafting new bills and laws against the activists and groups who were calling for an end to the war and an end to the injustices. Instead of using their positions to devise ways in which people could easily afford cottage cheese, put money down on a home, and instead of supporting a social system that cared for the people who were not very very rich, they put all of their energies into creating a new, even more heinous enemy - left-wing peace and human rights activists.

And a great darkness and sadness covered the land...

This need not be the end of the story; indeed we are still in its middle. We have the power to give it a better ending.

Here is my idea for chapter three - we all join together in quest of kind, compassionate, thinking leaders, who can help create good lives for all, for the stronger and the other people, in towns and villages throughout the land. Let's bring in the Good Witch...

Ding, dong the witch is dead
Which old witch?
The wicked witch
Ding, dong the wicked witch is dead

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tales from the Fascist Road

Today, Wednesday, Knesset Members will be voting on a very democratic bill calling for the creation of committees to investigate the funding sources of Israeli human rights groups.


They only want us since we have the audacity to engage in human rights, non-violence, and peace and social justice work. How nice to be the center of attention!

This bill, one of the many dream children of MKs from Yisrael Beitenu , erases any ambiguity that might have remained concerning the direction our country has taken.

                      Avigdor Lieberman, Chair of  the political party, Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our home)

We are in the middle of our hike on the fascist road - that leads from the south to the north, from the west to the east
Soon, there will be kiosks selling brown shirts and high boots, buttons and stickers.
(If you look hard, you can see them - there with the giant flags and brown-shirted guards...)
Up the road a bit, there are cars waiting to take us to jail,
Where we will be put in solitary confinement,
without the rights to meet with lawyers,
or to communicate with our families

When I first came to this land, in 1970, I came to a country I had been taught was democratic, to a country that believed in peace and freedom, that respected different views.

There were many, many things that I did not know about my country then. It took me a while to learn that the democracy, and the calls for peace and freedom, really only applied to the Jewish people. If you were Arab, well that was a different story.

In the past, when we went out to demonstrate, or to support peace initiatives, not everyone agreed with us, but our voices and actions were seen as legitimate, and our right to demonstrate unquestioned.

Today, legitimation is confined solely to those Jews who self-define as super-duper Zionists. These super-duper Zionists believe that the Palestinians (citizens of Israel, those in the Occupied Territories or who are refugees elsewhere) have NO place here, and that we, the Jews, are entitled to all of Eretz Yisrael Hashelma (Greater Israel). These super-duper Zionists, believe that they have the monopoly on defining who is Zionist and who is not, what is Zionism, and what is heresy, who can be Israeli, and who cannot, what it means to hold Jewish values, and what it means to be a traitor.

As we march on this fascist road
littered with anti-democratic bills and laws:
the boycott law
the bill to investigate human rights groups
the proposal to sign loyalty oaths
the proposal to begin each school with the raising of the flag and the singing of Hatikva
the arrest of non-violent peace activists at non-violent demonstrations

the song of the late great songwriter Phil Ochs comes to mind.
This is a land full of power and glory...her power shall rest on the  strength of her freedom, her freedom depends on us all...on us all

Monday, July 18, 2011

Proud to Work for Freedom and Human Rights

It seems that I, and the groups that I belong to, have done some pretty terrible things.

We work for freedom and human rights, and call out when we see injustices.
We work for dialogue, not violence.
We work for a humanity and sustainability, not for death and destruction.
We talk to our neighbors, instead of threatening them.
We reach out to our Palestinian friends in peace, instead of cowering in fear.
We believe in co-creating a future that is healthy for all of us, not one that is geared to benefit only some of us.
We refuse to be enemies.

Our Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, thinks that these are terrible ideas, terrible intentions, terrible actions. He is furious with Netanyahu and other Likud ministers  for not backing his call for an investigation of 'left-wing, human rights groups' (See Ha'aretz article here )

Dear Foreign Minister,
We are proud of our ideas, and of our actions.
We are proud of our ability to understand, that in order to live, we must honor life of all who live here.
We are proud to do our very small bit for freedom from oppression and human rights.

We suggest that for the sake of us all, you take your anger and channel it into life, not hate.
If you are interested, we will be very, very happy to share our knowledge, experience and insights with you.

Dear Mr. Lieberman - if you truly love our country, then consider supporting its fragile infrastructure of democracy and freedom. If you truly love our country, help us live, rather than digging us deeper into the pits of hate.

I am proud to be connected to groups, such as Other Voice and Friendship across Borders
I am proud to be part of a people's movement that says
no to discrimination
no to oppression
no to hatred
no to killing

If this makes us terrible, then God Bless terrible people...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Slowly, Slowly, Not so Quietly, Violence Begins Again in the Gaza-Sderot Region

We are beginning to see the Gaza-Sderot region heat up again. Since the beginning of July, and especially over the last week, Palestinian militant factions have shot 14 Qassams and mortars, that fell in Kibbutzim, Moshavim, near Ashkelon and in open fields (thankfully, no one has been harmed this time).

We - the Israeli air force - have been bombing some of their tunnels, in the southern and northern regions of the Gaza Strip, and have killed at least two and wounded five (including children).

This is a very familiar, all-too-familiar scenario - we bomb and kill them, they bomb and try to kill us, they bomb and try to kill us, we attack and try to kill and injure them.

Halas, Dai, Enough.

In how many languages do we have to say that we have had enough of this cyclical violence, and that we must find a way to negotiate some kind of very long-term ceasefire before our leaders take notice and do something?

In Arabic: كان لدي ما يكفي
In Hebrew:  מספיק ודי
In French:  J'ai eu assez de 
In Italian:  Ho avuto abbastanza
In Chinese: 我有足够的
In Greek:  Είχα αρκετό
In German: Ich hatte genug
In Russian: У меня было достаточно
In English: I've had enough

Violence begets more violence. It solves nothing. It does not bring security - not to them, not to us. It harms and destroys and kills all that is good, all that is valuable.

A few years ago, when visiting a family whose neighborhood had been hit by a number of Qassam rockets, one of the children said: "I asked my mother if we would leave Sderot if I were injured? She said: 'Of course, honey.' So I asked her:  'So why can't we leave now, before I get hit?" I am fairly sure that Gazan children are asking their parents the same question.

But we won't/can't leave because this is our home and they won't/can't leave because of the siege, and because it is their home.

There is a precious thing called freedom - freedom from discrimination, from violence, from fear, from hatred. The Gazans don't know it, we don't know it.

We want to know it.
Yes now.

Halas, Dai, Enough

Saturday, July 16, 2011

We Shall Overcome

The sun was VERY hot and there was NO shade. It was, after all, two o'clock in the afternoon, in the middle of July, in the middle of Jerusalem, in the heat of the summer.

But, there was a wonderful atmosphere. There were many, many smiles, huge banners and flags, drums, old and young, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, men and women, and children.

People came from all parts of Israel - 9 bus loads alone from Tel Aviv. Thousands from the north to the south.

                            Thousands march together in solidarity for Palestinian independence

We marched for Palestinian independence, the end to the Occupation, for freedom, for equality, for peaceful co-existence between neighbors. We called out slogans in Hebrew, in Arabic and in English. We gave one another water, helped one another along the one and a half hour walk from the Jaffa Gate to Sheik Jarrah.  We carried signs for one another, smiled at one another, met old and new friends. We waved to passerbys and invited them to join in. Many did.

I wish that the weather had been 10 degrees cooler, that there had been a bit of shade. But in spite of the not-so-easy conditions (you could tell this was an event organized by young people...), I was so glad to be there. To walk along the walls of the Old City, Israelis and Palestinians together, be part of a groundswell that calls and works for peace.

I met Mamoun among the crowd - big hugs and smiles. We walked together for most of the time. He brought me water and introduced me to his students, who were filming the event. I introduced him to my Israeli friends that I met along the way: "This is Mamoun, the Palestinian director of Friendship across Borders - this is my friend

Other friends were there from FAB and from Other Voice - Alon, Michal, Dana, Alon, Ariel, Naomi, Nomika, Shmulik...

                         Alon, Dana and Ariel - 2 Jerusalems, one Peace; Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies

On our way back home, Vivian - a round the clock peace and social justice activist, the co-excutive director of The Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development said:

 "When you called yesterday [Thursday] and told me about the march, my first thought was 'Oh no, I SO much just wanted to have a day at home. Not to travel anywhere. Not to do anything. Just relax. But then I thought, how can I not go? This is our responsibility and we can't ignore it. We may end up living in a fascist country, but I guess the two of us will die fighting for its freedom"

I don't want to die in a fascist country (truth be told, I don't want to die at all...). But if I have to go, I want it to be in a peaceful, democratic country that knows and honors human life and dignity. But if I can't have that, then Vivian might be right...

Friday, July 15, 2011

First They Came for the Boycotters...

As our democracy slips further and further into the Mediterranean, it is past time to wake up.
The New World Order is upon us, and a sad one it is at that.

First, there was the boycott law (see information on law and Association for Civil Rights response here )

Then there was the proposed law to investigate Israeli human rights organizations (see Ha'aretz article on this proposed law )

Then there was the proposal to have kindergarden children begin each week with a raising of the flag and the singing of Hatikva (and see the Haa'retz op-ed on this initiative )

My dear Israeli (and other) friends: WE HAVE ENTERED THE DOOR OF THE FASCIST STATE. If we do not take notice and change course, we will only have ourselves to blame for what follows.

I sadly close this week with new verses to a well-known poem -

First they came for the boycotters, but I loved my Ahava lotion, so I did not speak out
Then they came for the human rights organizations, but I was busy planning my vacation, so I did not speak out
Then they came for the parents who did not want their babies to have to sing Hatikva every Sunday morning, but I was busy buying my grandson a new toy car, so I did not speak out
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tomorrow Israelis and Palestinians March Together in Solidarity

Tomorrow, Friday, July 15th, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians will come together in Jerusalem for recognition of a Palestinian State and for the end of the Occupation.

Tomorrow, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians from throughout this beautiful land, will walk together in Solidarity

Tomorrow, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinans will come together in support of two democratic states, two peoples enjoying human and civil rights, freedom, dignity.

Tomorrow you will hear us shout:
Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live lives without fear, to live lives of dignity.
This land is big enough and rich enough for our two peoples
We cannot live our lives anymore in an endless, needless war. We claim our right to live in peace.

I look forward to meeting my dear Israeli and Palestinians friends tomorrow, at 14:00 at the Jaffa Gate, at this celebration for statehood and freedom. I look forward to locking arms with them and calling out together for freedom for both peoples from war. Together we look forward to a reality that makes sense for all of us, that does not kill us...

If we will it, it will come.
If we stand for it, it will come.
If we join together, it will come.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No, No, No to the Boycott Law

I confess:
I do not support the settlements
I do not support the Occupation
I do not support the siege on Gaza
I do not support any of the actions taken by the government and the IDF to curtail basic human and civil rights

I further confess:
I agree with international law, that the settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Not some, not those that are deemed illegal outposts by the Israeli government, that in spite of them being categorized as such by the Israeli government still provide them with paved roads and lights and garbage removal and security, but ALL.

And so:
When I buy pretzels, I do not buy pretzels made in a certain place over a certain line that has a color name
When I buy cosmetics and lotions, I do not buy from a certain company that is not within this certain line that has a color name
When I undertake academic work, I do not consider collaboration with a certain institution that is in that area, over that line

As an Israeli citizen of a democratic country, I have the right to refrain from buying foods or cosmetics I want from certain manufacturers. I have the right to choose with whom to undertake research, and with whom not.

All you other Israeli citizens: YOU TOO HAVE THE RIGHT. This is called democracy.

I cannot take the credit for this wonderful ideology and form of governance called democracy. Great people who came before me came up with this idea that honors people and is based in human freedom and dignity.

For example, the founders of our country, who wrote and signed our Israeli Declaration of Independence declared the central and integral place that democracy and freedom would have in our state. I have included below some long excerpts from this binding declaration. [The text can be found on the official website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So for those wondering, our MFA knows what principles are country is based on, and even publishes this binding declaration on their website - for the full text, click here]:

ERETZ-ISRAEL...was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom...Jews re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland... they returned in their masses. Pioneers...and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself....

In the year 5657 (1897)... the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country. This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which... gave international sanction ... to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The...massacre of millions of Jews in Europe  was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations... Jews...never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland...the Jewish community...contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations... On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly... call[ed] for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel... This recognition...of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable. This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.


WE DECLARE... THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
WE the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions. WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people...The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.


David Ben-Gurion

Daniel Auster
Mordekhai Bentov
Yitzchak Ben Zvi
Eliyahu Berligne
Fritz Bernstein
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Meir Grabovsky
Yitzchak Gruenbaum
Dr. Abraham Granovsky
Eliyahu Dobkin
Meir Wilner-Kovner
Zerach Wahrhaftig
Herzl Vardi
Rachel Cohen
Rabbi Kalman Kahana
Saadia Kobashi
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin
Meir David Loewenstein
Zvi Luria
Golda Myerson
Nachum Nir
Zvi Segal
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman
David Zvi Pinkas
Aharon Zisling
Moshe Kolodny
Eliezer Kaplan
Abraham Katznelson
Felix Rosenblueth
David Remez
Berl Repetur
Mordekhai Shattner
Ben Zion Sternberg
Bekhor Shitreet
Moshe Shapira
Moshe Shertok

To all of my fellow Israelis living in this country that we have fought so hard to achieve and to keep - without democracy, human dignity, freedom, justice, we are nothing.

When we try to squelch non-violent dissent, we go against our Declaration of Independence

When we try to mandate political thought, ideology and conscience, we trample human rights.

No, No, No to the Boycott Law.
YES to freedom and democracy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boycott the Boycott Law

Last night the Knesset - our Israeli parliament in our democratic country - voted in favor of the Boycott Bill. 

47 lawmakers said yes and only 38 lawmakers said no. Our Prime Minister and Minister of Defense decided to keep away from the Knesset floor during the vote.  

The new law, which had backing from the cabinet, makes it a civil offense to initiate sanctions against anyone or any group within Israel's territory, including the West Bank. Anyone that initiates such sanctions is now subject to litigation.

Opposition to the bill focused mainly on one point, which unfortunately, appears to be minor and unimportant to those who support it: It is anti-democratic. It harms basic rights.

A number of organizations are now planning on challenging the legality of the law in Israel's Supreme Court.

This is a law that tries to force us to accept the settlements.
To accept the Occupation.
To accept the oppression of another people.

The passage of this law proves that when a society discriminates and acts violently against another people, it also turns its discrimination and violence against its own people. That when a society harms the rights of another people, it eventually harms the rights of its own people.

We will all stand now as we lower our flag to half-mast to mourn the loss of democracy and freedom.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Too Many Things to Write About, None of Them Good

Where to begin, where to begin?

Newsflash no. 1 - On today's Channel 2 Morning Show, the hosts interviewed an ultra Orthodox rabbi who talked about the reasons why Jewish men should be allowed to be married to more than one wife, simultaneously, and that it does not even go against Jewish law (halacha). [see the following link for details - ] According to the rabbi, one of the main reasons given for this endorsement, which has been circulating in ultra Orthodox circles for a few years is, of course, that this is a super solution to the 'demographic problem'. Ya'ani, since the Arabs have a higher birthrate than the Jews, and since according to Islamic law, a man can marry up to 4 wives, thus increasing the number of children, let's fight their wombs with our wombs

Newsflash no. 2 - Former President Katsav, who was found guilty of rape and sexual assault, and sentenced to real jail time, is now being further investigated since there is good reason to believe that he instructed his private investigators to harrass witnesses in his trial (for this second piece of good news and governance, see the link from this afternoon's Ha'aretz ). A rapist, a manipulator, a harrasser, an obstructer of justice. Go Pres!

Newsflash no. 3 - Today Israel almost voted on a new law that would make it illegal for citizens of our democracy to partake in a cultural, academic, material boycott of the settlements in the Occupied Territories. That is correct: citizens (like me - gulp) could be fined and/or sent to jail for publicly condoning the Occupation. In response to the proposed law, Knesset's legal adviser noted early this afternoon that perhaps the Boycott law would not be such a good idea for a democratic country since it harms freedom of speech [for details see this article from Haaretz that came out earlier this morning -]

Well okay - perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel with newsflash no. 3... unless, of course, the proposers of the law decide to push it forward next week...

So today's news leaves us with the following current state of affairs in Israel:
Jewish men should be able to marry more than one wife to keep the Palestinians at a disadvantage and our former President was so noble that he didn't only rape and sexually assault women who were working for him but also tried to divert justice by harrassing witnesses and we (the few of us left on the left, or those of us who may not abide the Occupation of another people) may be fined and/or go to jail for publicly announcing that we think the oppression of another people is wrong and take a stand against all Israeli activities over the Green Line.

What a nice day for forward thinking, democracy and justice!

But all may rest assured - it is now official. The 'fly-ins', who wanted to protest the Occupation and the siege on Gaza, have been returned to from whence they came. We can now all breathe deep sighs of relief that we are, once again, secure in our very democratic and egalitarian country that believes fully in women's rights, non-violence, and the right to hold an opinion different than the governments.

I will be sleeping very soundly tonight.
For sure.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In the Summer Time When the Weather is Warm

Although I basically remain a child of the 60s, there's a catchy song that came out in the 1970s by Mungo Jerry, that is relevant for this time of year. A little nostalgia is always good, especially when hard times keep us from remembering some of the good times that we had...

This is summer time. We should be:
Sitting on the porch sipping our lemonade or iced coffee
Buying our favorite kind of ice cream, perhaps even two scoops
Watching the sun set at the beach in the early evening hours
Swimming in the pool
Enjoying our garden
Going to an outside concert
Being out, greeting people, who are out and smiling and enjoying life

There are are many nice things that the summer offers us. What a shame to turn away from such gifts. 

But, we have an unfortunate ability to often waste the good things in life. We make poor choices - for example, choosing to focus on the dark side of life, instead of basking in the light that the summer brings. We look for enemies and potential enemies and intrigue and only feel whole when we indeed find them.

But instead of feeling whole,
We get a hole in the pits of our stomachs
And our lives become filled with holes
Empty holes
That are so very far from holy
in this Holy Land

These first few weeks of summer have been weeks of craving darkness, characterized by enemy-paranoia. Darkness about the intentions of the activists on the Second Freedom Flotilla, darkness about the intentions of the 'fly-ins', darkness about the Palestinians move toward Statehood, darkness and paranoia about the way the 'whole world' perceives us.

Of course some of these activists from abroad actively want to see us destroyed. Of course some of these demonstrators want to demonstrate their hate of us. I am not advocating ignoring real threats where real threats occur. If we have concrete knowledge that someone is out to harm innocent people, then yes, of course s/he should/must be stopped, for violence against innocents should never be tolerated.

But I cannot advocate turning every person and every act into a threat, just because the person or the act is focused on bringing an end to the dark Occupation, and the darker siege in Gaza. Non-violent protest and civil disobedience work against the darkness of these injustices, and help us believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That the summer breeze can herald winds of needed change, for the Palestinians, but also so desparately for us.

We can spend this summer, holed up in the basements of fear, afraid to look at others in a different light. We can go to the beach, not to enjoy the waves and the incredible sunset, but to bury our heads in the sand.

But we can also make a different choice.

We can greet Israelis, Palestinians and internationals from around the world, even those who may have different opinions and beliefs than we do, with a real interest and willingness to engage in open dialogue, with open ears and open hearts. We can talk, not threaten. We can sit together, not deport. We can be together during these wonderful summer months, trying to learn about one another and to see one another in a different, less threatening light, that may then bring us some hope of continued warmth, even after the summer months are gone.