I know many in the U.S. are in the midst of Thanksgiving celebrations, and the plan was that this email was to have already been sent first thing Wednesday morning. However, those plans had to be set aside when Israel announced its intent to demolish one-fifth of Susya within 15 days. See more below.
The Susya emergency found me in Edmonton, and after U.S. Thanksgiving weekend I will be in New Haven, White Plains, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, S. Bend, Madison, Western Massachusetts, Boston, and DC. Please see the schedule below. I am still available for Shabbat appropriate activities next Shabbat in the Chicago. I also have unscheduled time December 6th-7th, and in some cases have some availability in the communities I am visiting in between events. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
I just concluded a tour in October, and have never done two back to back trips like this. Although my recent trip exceeded my expectations, and our goal is within reach, we have more to do to ensure Torat Tzedek’s (Torah of Justice’s) financial stability. I hope to see many of you on my travels. And, with Giving Tuesday just around the corner, donation information appears below.
For those of you who can attend an event, we have a lot to talk about. Susya is one of many challenges and opportunities:
Last week I held a series of meetings in Awarta and Beit Umar. Thanks to our 2006 High Court victory, farmers can occasionally access their lands inside the fences of adjacent settlements. However, while this more or less “works” in some villages, most of the trees inside settlement fences belonging to Awarta and Beit Umar are dead. I saw a few shocking pictures surreptitiously taken during the recent olive harvest of the dry, dead trees. One farmer told me that he once had 100 trees. Three years ago he still had 40. Now, he has 5. As proud as I am of our role in winning the right of farmers to access their lands, together we have a lot more to do. Torat Tzedek is working with the farmers to create restoration plans, and to demand that the army implement them. Even while I am away, our rabbinic and Achvat Amim interns will be moving this work forward. OCHA is hoping to partner with us in order to map out all of the Palestinian agricultural needs that our 2006 victory should be guaranteeing.
Last week the Torat Tzedek board voted to support the work of our chairperson Yoav Hass, to stop Israeli arms sales to Myanmar. Back in 1980 I researched the prohibitions in Jewish law against providing arms to violent criminals. Then the issue was arms sales to South Africa. Yoav has already gone to Israel’s High Court, and begun to sign Israeli rabbis and other public figures on a petition. We cannot be silent.
On Wednesday, after over a year of delays, Defense Minister Lieberman announced his intentions regarding Susya. There are speculations that there may now be an internal government debate regarding whether Susya should live or die, but back in August Minister Lieberman made his intentions clear both for Susya and Khan al Akhmar. Two Jordan Valley communities have also received expulsion orders. The State declared its intent to demolish approximately one fifth of Susya within 15 days. The remainder may depend on the government’s desire to eliminate the principle the Israeli army planning committee used as an excuse to deny Susya’s proposed master plan. The government wants to cancel this because it also prevents them from legalizing settler outposts. However, the fact is that in the discussions between the army, Susya, and those of us representing Susya that took place before Minister Lieberman cancelled everything, the army had offered to legalize Susya without changing the “Tzamud Dofen” principle requiring an adjacent recognized community with infrastructure in order to recognize illegal building. My former organization that represents Susya legally, Haqel, has asked for a court ordered delay. However, if we don’t all pitch in, these homes and additional structures are doomed.
Meanwhile, after sitting for months on the results of the investigation into the tragic deaths of Yakoub Abu Alqian and Erez Levy on the day in January I witnessed hundreds of police officers with drawn weapons invade Umm al Hiran in the pre-dawn darkness, the State Prosecutor has now ordered the investigation reopened. Leaks of the report indicate that its conclusions may have been to damning to allow their release. Residents of Umm Al Hiran fear that this is a bid to allow the issue to die away, and not interfere with the government’s push to complete Umm Al Hiran’s destruction.
Torat Tzedek will not abandon Susya or Khan Al Akhmar or Umm Al Hiran. We continue to work with the international community to keep them on the ground, while exploring openings for internal solutions. However, we need you to contact your government’s officials and ask that they convey to Israel that plans to wipe out entire communities is unacceptable.
A co-author of the public defender’s office’s severely critical report on government public housing policy could only explain to Israeli single parents who came to the Ma’abarah’s November 5th program what they and the gathered activists already knew. Because of the amazing reversal of the policy we have brought about, the government is building new public housing for the first time since the early 90’s. However, this does not help those Israelis denied eligibility because of non-need based eligibility criteria. We must give these single parents hope.
Finally, this week’s Torah portion is my Bar Mitzvah portion, “Vayetze.” I have not fled my home as Jacob does, but I left my home this week in order to share with you my pride in what we have accomplished together, relate my deep concerns about many of the developments in the country that I love, and to enjoin you to keep your eyes on the prize.
My Bar Mitzvah sermon was about how we would perhaps respect the environment more if we realized what Jacob realizes only after he awakes from his famous dream and declares, “Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 25:16) Every place can be the place where we encounter God. Furthermore, from God’s creations we can learn more about God.
It occurs to me that this spiritual principle has continued to guide me through the years. I have dedicated my life to the idea that we can and must encounter God not only in nature, but in every human being we meet. That encounter leads to obligations. Unlike any of God’s other creations, we are created in God’s Image.
Finally, the ladder in Jacob’s dream connects between heaven and earth. We must be that ladder. When we ground our values in deeds, honor God’s Image in every human being, and work towards an Israel living up to the ideals of our Declaration of Independence, we unite Yerushalayim Shel Mata (Earthly Jerusalem) and Yerushalayim shel Ma’alah (The Jerusalem of our highest dreams and values.)
B’Vrakha (In Blessing),