Tag Archives: Israel

Statement Following the Elections in Israel

The voters of Israel have spoken in a free and fair election, and it appears that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will, in the coming days, be provided the opportunity to form the next government of the State of Israel.

The organized Jewish community of Greater Boston holds a deep respect for and commitment to the democratic process, both in our country and in Israel. We welcome and support the efforts already underway by the current government to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

We also take this moment to note that Israel’s electoral system can lead to political results that do not fully reflect the will of all of the people of the nation, not unlike the electoral system in the United States. This week’s election campaign and results suggest a nation that is deeply divided, even as the electoral process will likely provide a distinct mandate to the parties currently in opposition. Those who would celebrate this outcome, and those who will be dismayed by it, should all take heed of this reality as we discuss and interpret the meaning of this election. In the coming years we will continue to strive to engage with curiosity to understand these differences among the Israeli people and with those in our own community who will have differing responses to this outcome.

What remains true, for us, the Jewish Community Relations Council on behalf of the organized Jewish community of Boston, is our deep love for and commitment to the people and the State of Israel. JCRC will continue to work every day to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. JCRC will continue to support all those who live and work there, our friends and partners on the ground who are striving every day to build an inspiring future of equality and opportunity for all of Israel’s citizens. JCRC will continue to work with our friends and partners to advance the conditions for peace and co-existence with Israel’s neighbors. JCRC will continue to confront and challenge those who deny the legitimacy of the Jewish people’s right to statehood and those who hold Israel to standards that they do not apply to any other democratic state.

At the same time, we would be remiss to not take note of the success of the Otzma Yehudit faction in this election. This party was founded by disciples of Meir Kahane and is understood to be a successor to his Kach movement – which was banned by the State of Israel and declared a terrorist organization by both Israel and the United States.

It is the long-held view of JCRC and of a broad sector of the American Jewish community – going back many decades and oft reaffirmed - that the anti-democratic, racist, and violent values of Kach, and now of Otzma Yehudit, are anathema to our Jewish values and to the values expressed in Israel’s declaration of statehood ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion”. It is because of our continued and unyielding commitment to Israel as a Jewish, secure, and democratic state that JCRC has stated before and we restate now that we abhor any effort to normalize these views and to bring these actors into any governing coalition.

As Israel’s political parties enter a period of negotiations over the form of the next coalition government, we take this moment to express our hope that responsible leaders across the ideological spectrum will recognize and appreciate that the inclusion of an extreme faction like Otzma Yehudit in the coming coalition could have potentially significant consequences: for Israel’s democratic character; for Israel’s relationship with some of its strongest allies in our Congress (who have already expressed concerns); and for Jewish communities like ours that take inspiration from Israel’s declaration of statehood in our continued work in partnership with and support for all its people.

JCRC has communicated to the representatives of the government of Israel and to our partners and friends in Israel our concerns, our commitments, and our hopes for the coming period of negotiations.

The Weavers of Peace

By CEO Jeremy Burton

I arrived home yesterday after spending eleven days traveling with JCRC’s first study tour to Israel in over two years. Our delegation, a dozen local Christian ministers, was chaired by the Reverend Dr. Greg Groover, pastor of the Charles Street A.M.E. Church, and Rabbi Joel Sisenwine of Temple Beth Elohim. The group included Congregationalists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Methodists, Baptists, U.C.C., and non-denominational Christians. 

Before we began our journey, I encouraged participants to listen in our various meetings for what point in time people began their stories. 1917 or 1948 or 1967? The arrival of Saladin or of Abraham? And so on. Because in this place that I care so much about, where you start your story says something about your identity and your analysis.  

Along our journey, in addition to providing experiences uniquely meaningful to Christians, such as baptisms in the Jordan river, we met with people expressing diverse perspectives and narratives. Some of them challenged me deeply. For example, Hannah, who brought us to the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to tell us about the work that she and others at Ir Amim are doing there. But even in her critique of her government, I hear values that resonate – such as her commitment to a two-state solution. She’s fighting, she tells us, as an Israeli, to protect and advance her understanding of Zionism; a term and a hope and a necessary Jewish homeland that resonates for her, despite the flaws she’s seeking to change. 

Across the barriers that exist here, we hear a common thread. Whether it was a Palestinian guide in Bethlehem or a Jewish member of a farming community very near the Gaza border, we hear a critique of ‘solutions’ that, though they may solve the immediate symptom, do not address the underlying problem. Rather, they create more barriers, more obstacles. “It's Tylenol”, this Jewish villager near Gaza tells us. 

Demonization and simplistic answers may make people in the U.S. feel good, but they won’t actually help people on the ground. “We” need to build more mutual interests, not mutual animosity.  “We have to learn”, said this villager who has to explain the red-alert of the rocket alarms to his three-year-old, “how to be good neighbors so that eventually these walls can come down, as all walls do.”  

On our final day we toured the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation - an organization that we are committed to working with through our Boston Partners for Peace (BP4P) initiative. We met with Nadav Tamir, the former Consul General to New England and a dear friend of Boston’s Jewish community. When asked how Shimon Peres still managed to feel young when he was well past ninety, Nadav cites a famous quote from the former President: 

Optimists and pessimists die the exact same death, but they live very different lives... You are as young as your dreams, not as old as your calendar. 

As we concluded our time together in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, I invited our participants to join me in staying connected with this place and its people when we return home – not by looking back to where the story begins, but by looking forward with optimism. 

I invited us to remain inspired by groups and leaders that we met with along the way this week and whom we are committed to amplifying through BP4P. Visionaries like Mohammad Darwashe of Givat Haviva who is working every day to move Israel toward achieving the promise of its declaration of statehood, to ensure the full civic equality of all its citizens. People like Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan, two leaders of the Parents’ Circle who are holding each other’s grief and trauma over the loss of daughters to the violence and working together to build a shared future in a shared homeland.   

Women like Hamutal Gouri, a leader in so many feminist spaces including Women Wage Peace, building a grassroots movement with their Palestinian partners at Women of the Sun to support and advance negotiations. And activists living on the West Bank, like Hanan and Noor from Roots/Shorashim/Judur, who are doing the challenging work of bringing Jews and Palestinians in their communities together for a movement of understanding and transformation.  

We end our time together by looking to the future, holding on to and lifting up those who dream for this still-young country and its neighbors.   

We all have a choice. There are those – here and in the U.S. – who want simple solutions to simplistic questions about who to blame and why this conflict endures. Their answers demonize; creating walls both physical and metaphorical without addressing the possibilities on the ground for a better future.  

Or, we can choose to stand with those who want to build relationships and who see the possibilities for these two people. I choose the builders of these bridges, the weavers of peace, the ones who understand that holding each other's humanity is itself a profound act of transformation. I choose hope. 

I hope that you will join with me, JCRC, and Boston Partners for Peace, in making that same choice.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

 

Community Response to BDS Supported Mapping Project

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Under the guise of an interactive map, the innocuously named “Mapping Project” is promoting a list of Jewish communal organizations in Massachusetts that it contends are “responsible for colonization of Palestine or other harms such as policing, US Imperialism and displacement”. Virtually every Jewish organization in the Commonwealth, along with its leadership, is listed in this map along with the relationships of each to civic, governmental, university and other community organizations. Whether those relationships were cultivated by the Jewish institution or the community organization, the underlying messages are clear: Jews are responsible for the ills of our community and if you maintain your relationship with Jewish organizations, you will share that responsibility.

It is a list with names and organizations to be shunned, isolated and disenfranchised. And it draws on age-old antisemitic tropes that are all too clear to our community: Jewish wealth, control and conspiracies.

But we will not be intimidated and we will not be silent.

As a Jewish community, and one that has made allyship and outreach the cornerstones of our work, we condemn this demonization of the Boston Jewish community and attack on its relationship with others. This is no thinly veiled attempt to target the Jewish community – it is an explicit one that is keeping lists and naming names.

At a time when antisemitism, including antisemitic attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel intensify, we in Boston will stand together and continue our work building bridges, supporting our allies and each other, and confronting antisemitism where we see it and when we experience it – as we do today. And we ask you to join us in helping our friends and community leaders and organizations recognize the antisemitism embedded in this hate-filled effort and ask them to join us in calling this out.

We have just marked the 20 year anniversary of the dedication of the Zakim Bridge – a visual reminder of the bridge-building led by Lenny Zakim. At this moment, let us take inspiration from his words as we join together:

We have the power to change things. It doesn’t take much to start a revolution of thought and spirit. It takes one person and then another. When it works, it’s a work of art.

JCRC Statement on Terror Attacks in Israel

Today, sadly, we witnessed yet another terror attack in Israel – the fourth in a series of escalating attacks over the past two weeks targeting the civilian population of Israel. We share the immense pain of the families and are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life. 

We stand with Israel in the face of this ongoing wave of terror, pray for the speedy recovery of the injured, and extend our deepest condolences to the victims’ loved ones.

We echo the comments of Issawi Frej, Minister of Regional Cooperation and an Arab citizen of Israel: “When these people attack, they don’t only attack Jews, they attack all human beings, they attack you and me and everyone who is looking for hope and for peace. We must not let these extreme people take us to a dark place.”

Extremists who oppose reconciliation and normalization can never silence those who work hard every day toward a vision of two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security. This indiscriminate and senseless violence has taken the lives of Arabs, Druze, Christians, and Jews alike – including Ukrainian foreign workers. We call upon all those who wish for a better future for all of Israel’s citizens to join us in condemning these cowardly acts of terror.

Telling the True Story of a Place

Earlier this week I sat down with one of our beloved Israel educators, Yishay Shavit. Yishay used some of his time during the pandemic – and shut-down of Israel’s tourist industry – to co-edit a fascinating collection of pieces by his guide colleagues, titled Heartbeats: The Insider’s Guide to Israel. 

We had a great conversation about the publishing process, the stories in the book, and about some of his own experiences during the pandemic, as a parent at one of the seven Hand-in-Hand schools, a shared-society initiative that we are proud to feature through JCRC's Boston Partners for Peace initiative.  

I talked with Yishay about our experience working with him and some of the other educators in the anthology, and the deliberate effort he made to include a diverse set of voices from across the Israeli spectrum – right and left, secular and religious, Mizrahi, Russian, and Arab citizens of Israel. Knowing that he has Palestinian friends and colleagues who are not Israeli citizens and who guide under the Palestinian Authority tourism ministry, I asked him why those voices were not in the book. 

His response is one I’m continuing to sit with. 

Yishay said that the easy answer would be that this is a book about Israel. “But that would be a lie. You cannot understand Israel without the point of view of the Palestinians.” He went on to say that their plan had been to include at least one story from a Palestinian guide who was not an Israeli citizen. A Palestinian guide had in fact submitted an essay. But then, Yishay tells us, this guide withdrew from the project. 

His Palestinian colleague told Yishay: “To talk to a group on a bus, it is wonderful. But to have everything printed, in a book… Someone is not going to be happy with what I wrote, Israeli or Palestinian.  I could pay a heavy price for that and I simply don’t want to take the chance.”  

Yishay then approached four other Palestinian colleagues, who raised similar concerns. Regrettably, he and his co-editors concluded that “it simply wasn’t going to work.” 

Yishay called this a “tragedy.” “That people are too scared to write their own opinion, about the conflict… and print it in a book” (and to be fair, he notes, a book printed by Israelis) is why he and the other guides featured in this book are unable to capture the complete spectrum of the issues and nuances of the region.    

For me, this story really gets at the complexity of telling the story of what’s happening in a place, particularly in a place like Israel. There’s such a difference between reading an article in a newspaper or book in America and traveling there and actually engaging with people on the ground. There’s no replacement for having authentic conversations with people to learn about them, their lives, and their realities. There are things people choose to tell or not to tell a reporter. And there are things people choose to have or not have on the record, in print, forever. The best, most illuminating, and most real conversations are the ones that happen in people’s living rooms – or on the bus - where they can tell me their truths, ones I sometimes find challenging to hear, but whose authenticity I cannot question.   

I am, as always, grateful for Yishay’s wisdom, and for the stories that he and his colleagues share in this new book (and I encourage you to check it out). And I am grateful for the reminder that not all truths will be found in reading about a place. I’m yearning to get back to Israel as soon as I possibly can to continue these conversations. I’m excited for the pastors who will be traveling with us and Yishay next summer.  

And I’m encouraging everyone to remember that you can’t really know everything about any place, and certainly not somewhere as complicated as Israel and the Palestinian Areas, by reading an article or a book. You have to go and have the conversations with the people who live there; with as many and as a diverse a representation of them as possible. In doing so, we can truly begin to understand this place, in all of its complexity, that we care so deeply about – while at the same time acknowledging what we still have yet to understand.  

Shabbat Shalom, 

Jeremy 

Jeremy Burton 
Executive Director 

Statement from JCRCs on Congressional Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

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Statement from Jewish Community Relations Councils on Congressional
Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

September 23, 2021

As Jewish Community Relations Councils deeply committed to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we thank the 420 Members of Congress who voted to fully fund the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This overwhelming bipartisan vote demonstrates the commitment of the United States to upholding the special relationship with Israel and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. We are deeply disappointed with those Members from our own delegations who failed to support this uniquely bipartisan vote.

The Iron Dome determines which rockets are likely to hit civilian areas and attempts to destroy them mid-air, thus saving lives. Without the Iron Dome, rockets launched by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and other terror organizations would surely maim and murder countless additional Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as Palestinians. Simply put, Iron Dome limits severe escalation of the conflict on a near-daily basis.

Objecting to funding this purely defensive technology reveals an attempt to further isolate and delegitimize Israel. We are proud that the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans are committed to funding the Iron Dome.

Signed:

Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas 
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York 
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis 
Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee of Detroit

Statement from JCRCs on Congressional Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

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Statement from Jewish Community Relations Councils on Congressional
Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

September 23, 2021

As Jewish Community Relations Councils deeply committed to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we thank the 420 Members of Congress who voted to fully fund the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This overwhelming bipartisan vote demonstrates the commitment of the United States to upholding the special relationship with Israel and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. We are deeply disappointed with those Members from our own delegations who failed to support this uniquely bipartisan vote.

The Iron Dome determines which rockets are likely to hit civilian areas and attempts to destroy them mid-air, thus saving lives. Without the Iron Dome, rockets launched by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and other terror organizations would surely maim and murder countless additional Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as Palestinians. Simply put, Iron Dome limits severe escalation of the conflict on a near-daily basis.

Objecting to funding this purely defensive technology reveals an attempt to further isolate and delegitimize Israel. We are proud that the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans are committed to funding the Iron Dome.

Signed:

Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas 
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York 
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis 
Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee of Detroit

Wisdom from our partners in Israel

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With my friend and teacher Mohammad Darawshe, of the Givat Haviva Center for Equality and Shared Society.

Yesterday I returned from 10 days of travel in Israel, made possible thanks to a CJP solidarity mission last week. I was privileged to participate and grateful that I could extend my time – when so few are fortunate enough to be able to travel – visiting with many of our partners; the groups we work with through Boston Partners for Peace and our connection to the Alliance for Middle East Peace, our on-the-ground partners who we work with on Study Tours, and the many thinkers and doers who educate and inspire us.  

I came with a desire to support our friends and partners, and also to search for inspiration and wisdom to inform our own commitment to the challenging work of bridging differences and supporting the hard conversations and initiatives that build shared society and cross-border connections. I wanted to hear how they have navigated COVID, how they make sense of the events in May, what their perceptions are of Israel’s new coalition government, and perhaps most important, what they are thinking about the road ahead.  

Amidst numerous rich and informative conversations, some topics and themes came up repeatedly. Folks were eager to talk about the recent Jewish Electorate Institute poll indicating increasingly harsh criticism of Israel by growing numbers of Jewish Americans. The people I met with weren’t terribly interested in talking about regional issues, both positive (normalization with various states) or threats (e.g. Iran). What was most on their minds seemed to be the challenges to the social fabric of society here, whether that was – depending on the meeting – between Jewish Israelis, all Israeli citizens, or all the people living in Israel and the Palestinian Areas. 

I heard a degree of optimism about the new government from people we’ve been working with. For Hamutal Gouri – a leader in Women Wage Peace - there is inherent opportunity in the fact that folks who had not been in decision-making rooms until now, are newly "in the room where it happens” (to paraphrase her), including many of Gouri’s allies in the feminist movement. At the same time, leaders are grappling with the brokenness of political and civil discourse; Rachel Azaria – a former Member of Knesset and Jerusalem deputy mayor who has, for now, left electoral politics – is working to develop a new language of civic and political discourse; the rhetoric she experienced in her time in the Knesset (where half the country calls the other traitor, and, the other half call their opponents, fascist) wasn’t helping solve problems and is actually dangerous. I also met with leaders who are doing the hard work of being in conversation and relationship with religious extremists, including radical nationalists in the Jewish and Muslim communities, because it is, to their mind, the extremists who need to be reached in service to progress, not the liberals who already embrace openness and dialogue. 

Two voices are staying with me. The first is my friend and teacher Mohammad Darawshe, of the Givat Haviva Center for Equality and Shared Society, who met with the CJP group. He’s done a lot of thinking over the years about building a common society for all of Israel’s citizens, and about the role of diaspora Jews as a third stakeholder with Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the future of the country. One point he underscores repeatedly, is that productive intergroup dialogue and shared identity work is possible only when one first comes in with a strong sense of personal and group identity. In his work, Jews and Palestinians are encouraged to develop and strengthen their own narratives and identities in order to facilitate the work of hearing the stories of others, without being threatened by them. 

The second voice is Shivi Froman, a new relationship for me. The son of Rabbi Menachem Froman (of blessed memory), he lives in Tekoa, a Jewish community beyond the Green Line. As I sat with him in his living room, he told me about his work with Roots/Shorashim/Judur and with Syrian refugees (that led to him addressing the UN in New York a few years ago), but mostly about his ethos on extremists and moderates in his communities.  

Shivi tells me about a teaching his father liked to share, an idea from the kabbalistic tradition that asks why we need two ears, two eyes, and two arms. The teaching goes that the left side is to hold the personal space – he puts out a stiff-arm with a palm out like a stop sign – the space of protection and defense of self. The right side – and here he hugs himself with one arm – is to draw close, to see and hear the other and to embrace them fully as they are. Shivi embraces his father’s wisdom that one needs both sides in balance. He compares this to a bird flying with only one wing or someone paddling a boat only on one side.  The bird and the sailor would perceive themselves as moving forward when in fact they would be moving in circles and not making any progress. One has to do both – protect the self and embrace the other – in equal measures, or one isn’t achieving anything lasting. 

There is wisdom here from Mohammad, from Shivi, and from all the others I’ve been meeting with, about how to have courageous conversations and to challenge oneself to be in difficult relationships across differences. There is also wisdom here regarding the challenges we face as a Jewish community in America, in our own identities, in our conversations with each other, and in our work with others – including those who are extremists in their own ways. In order to do effective relationship work, we must first fully develop our own identities and narratives, and we also must ensure that we are balancing both our defense and willingness to be open.  

I come away, as always, from my time in this place I love, inspired and challenged by the people I meet and care about, committed even more so to their work, to our work supporting them, and to what we can learn from their leadership. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Statement from JCRC regarding MA State Senator Jamie Eldridge’s Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

It is utterly shocking that a member of the Massachusetts Senate would elevate Hamas as a legitimate actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There can be absolutely no moral equivalence between the State of Israel - an American ally, whatever criticisms one may hold about that nation’s government - and Hamas, a designated foreign terror organization, by both the United States and European Union, that is funded and supported by the regime in Iran and whose charter explicitly calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.

The legitimization of a designated terrorist organization by an elected official is irresponsible  and should be a matter of grave concern to all residents of our Commonwealth and to his colleagues. We insist that Senator Eldridge clarify his views.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) actively supports efforts to achieve Palestinian national aspirations through peaceful means. We are wholly committed to realizing the full equality of all Israel’s citizens. Conversations about the relationship of “occupation” between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people are important and we embrace those challenging conversations.

JCRC has reached out to Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge to request an opportunity to discuss our concerns regarding his statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite our long relationship with Senator Eldridge he has not, at this time, responded to our request, nor did he make any attempt to be in dialogue with us prior to issuing his statement.  

Update – June 10, 2021, 4pm

We welcome Senator Jamie Eldridge’s statement of clarification today, including, specifically, regarding his understanding of the terrorist organization Hamas. We thank the Senator for the discussion we had today, and we look forward to being in continued dialogue with him about how to advance our shared commitment to achieving a secure and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

On the other side of the wall

This past week I sat down, separately, with two of our partners in Israel, Mohammad Darawshe and Raz Shmilovich. We had asked each of them to join us to share their experiences, as an Arab and a Jew, and as Israelis, during these recent, difficult weeks. How, we wondered, do they and their neighbors think about the tensions of recent events?

Mohammad Darawshe is the Director of Equality and Shared Society at Givat Haviva. We’ve met with him often over the years, both in Israel and here in Boston, to talk about his work, building a shared society for all of Israel’s citizens. In recent weeks he and his family have experienced harassment and danger, even to the point of Mohammad having to hide his Arab  identity from Jewish extremists in Afulah, and his children facing racist comments at school and work.

Raz Shmilovich lives in Moshav Netiv Ha’Asara. A farming community, this is the closest Israeli village to the Gaza strip, where we visit regularly to talk with him and his neighbors. Even during relative calm, their lives can be unimaginable to us. Bomb shelters are everywhere, but even during the best circumstances, residents only have 5 seconds to reach a shelter once a mortar is fired. We’ve seen where terrorists dug a tunnel under the wall and came out amidst their greenhouses, along with the ongoing efforts to protect the residents by building an anti-tunnel barrier outside their homes.

My conversations with them reminded me of a much-commented upon event in this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach. This portion tells the story of the spies, sent from the wilderness to scout the land of Canaan. Famously, when they return to the Israelite camp, they make a report:

“The people who inhabit the land are powerful, and the cities are fortified… more over we saw Anakites (giants) there.”  Numbers 13:28

Their report evokes fear in the Israelite camp. And yet, some forty years later, in the time of Joshua, in a story we also read this shabbat, we learn that the Canaanites of this story were afraid of the Israelites as well. In Jericho, a Canaanite woman, Rahab, tells a new generation of Israelite spies that “dread of you has fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land are quaking.” (Joshua 2:9)

The medieval scholar Rashi, in his commentary on our Torah portion, looks at these two moments and explains that “the higher the walls, the more fearful the people.”

I asked Raz what he is telling his children right now. He said he tells them about the need for Palestinians and Israelis to actually live together “two or three generations living one by each other, next to the other, we would learn not to fear.” He grew up with open fields and roads, riding his bike in Gaza to markets and playing basketball with Palestinian friends, a human experience his children have never been able to share. Raz appreciates the full humanity of the parents on the other side of the wall. But this is not an experience his children have ever known. “When my kids come to me… happy for someone being killed, that’s a wake-up call for me. I don’t want anyone to die. But for them, Gaza is like an entity.” He tells them about a kid, Ahmed, on the other side of the wall, in Gaza, who goes to bed afraid. “He doesn’t have a bomb shelter to go to. He doesn’t have a school to go to.” And Raz hopes that Ahmed’s father is telling him the same story about Raz’s children, who also live in fear.

I asked Mohammad about the fear that he and his family have experienced and what he, as a long-time co-existence advocate, says to his own grown children right now. He tells them that people are living in the heat and anger of the moment, and trying to exercise power – even if they don’t have it – to cause damage. He tells his children to reach out to their friends, including their Jewish friends, just to say hello. He’s initiated 100 calls in the past week with Jewish friends to say that “just because there’s a meltdown out there, we don’t have to be part of it. It doesn’t mean we have to disconnect from our hope for partnership… The duty to get out of the problem, is for each individual to pick up the phone and say… lets have coffee, let’s sit and talk.”

Now, there are times when security needs require protective walls. Security barriers have successfully reduced violence, here and elsewhere. But the wisdom in Raz and Mohammad’s words, and their implicit response to Rashi’s message, is that when we build walls - literal and metaphorical – even for all the right reasons, they can also close off the social interactions that can reduce fears. Walls limit our ability to see and hear other people as human beings, with full lives, dreams and hopes, and fears.

What Raz, Mohammad, and so many of our friends on the ground are doing is refusing to be defined by their own fears and fears that others may have of them. They are teaching their children first-hand how to reach out and to connect. They may (or may not) see some walls as necessary at some times, but they also believe there must always be a door to the other side.

There are people on the ground who are doing the necessary work of peace, of creating and opening these doors, like so many of the organizations we support through our Boston Partners for Peace initiative. This week we have an opportunity to support their critical work. Please join me in signing this letter from the Alliance for Middle East Peace to the Biden Administration, encouraging them to support the International Fund for Peace at the upcoming G7. This funding will ensure that peacebuilding organizations such as Givat Haviva and the others featured on our Boston Partners for Peace platform will have the resources they need to transform their communities.

I look forward to seeing you at further conversations with our partner organizations, and I encourage you to read about them on the Boston Partners for Peace website.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy