Sacrificing Israel’s Friendships – and Future— at the Altar of Elad

Last week, the Israeli online magazine +972 reported that Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of military intelligence and the current director of the Institute for National Security Studies, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, signed onto an ad congratulating settlers for taking over some 7 buildings (with more than 20 apartments) in East Jerusalem, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, which the settlers call the City of David/Ir David.  The ad read:

On the eve of Sukkot, we are happy to congratulate the dozens of new families that are joining the Jewish settlement of Ir David these days.  We salute the Zionist work of those who take part in this mission. Strengthening Jewish presence in Jerusalem is the challenge for all of us, and by your act of settlement you make us all stand taller. Together, we will welcome the pilgrims who are visiting on the holiday. We appreciate and endear you.

Yadlin and his co-signers are, in effect, endorsing the sacrifice of Israel’s future at the altar of Elad.  This is the right-wing organization that for decades has been the engine behind settlement in Silwan—an enterprise that has historically been and continues to be especially problematic politically, morally, and legally.  While recently Elad has endeavored to transform itself into a “mainstream” organization associated with cultural and touristic activities, its raison d’etre has not changed: to create facts on the ground that prevent a two-state solution and to establish an exclusionary, Jewish/Israeli hegemony in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

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Peace Parsha: What’s in a Name?

peace_parsha_logo186x140By Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson

As we begin the Torah anew, we are reminded once again of the power of names. God calls the light “Day” and the darkness “Night” (Gen. 1:5); God then hands over this divine prerogative to Adam, having him name all the animals and, ultimately, Eve (2:19-23). Two parshiyot later, an angel instructs Hagar what to name her son, she responds by naming God (16:11,13), and God changes Abram and Sarai’s names (17:5,15). Names, clearly, have power.

That’s why I’ve been distressed at the way the names of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Fraenkel—the three yeshiva students who were kidnapped and murdered back in June—are being put to use. By early July, a new settlement had been declared in their memory, its name bearing their initials. (See, e.g., this report from Public Radio International or from the settlers’ Arutz Sheva). In late August, Economic Minister Naftali Bennet gave this move an official blessing when he applauded the decision to expropriate 1000 acres of Palestinian land, saying it was an “appropriate Zionist response to murder.” 

This is not a new development—in Lords of the Land, Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar document the settler modus operandi of venting their anger by building new settlements or neighborhoods and naming  them after the slain (2005, p. 259, 263-4, 271). But if we really want to honor the dead boys, if we truly want their names to live on, perhaps we would be better served by pausing to explore what their names stand for and then building a society accordingly. I hesitate to write in their name, since I don’t know what they or their families would actually want. Perhaps I should let them rest in peace and leave well enough alone? On the other hand, if the settler movement feels free to lay claim to them, I want a counter-voice speaking up in the name of my values.

Gilad is a name with a double valence. It means “eternal joy,” and yet biblically it is associated with warriors. Gilad was the strongest family of the tribe of Manasseh, giving Israel such leaders as the Judge Yiftach and the prophet Elijah.

Eyal, a hind, brings to mind Yedid Nefesh, from the beginning of Kabbalat Shabbat: “Let Your servant run to You [God] like a hind.” It also conjures imagery reminiscent of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), the great love poem attributed to King Solomon. The rabbis, of course, read Shir Hashirim as an allegory for the love between God and Israel. “Shir Hashirim, of Shlomo,” they interpreted—“Melech she-hashalom shelo,” The King of Peace (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 3:6).

Naftali is initially named for the struggle between Rachel and Leah (Gen. 30:7-8)—not a legacy that I would like to carry forward. When Jacob blessed his sons at the end of his life, though, he called Naftali a swift hind who brings good tidings (49:21). In midrash Bamidbar Rabbah, the rabbis expand on this, writing that Naftali was very devoted to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents and used his great speed to deliver messages for Jacob (14:11).

This collection of images describes the Israeli society I want to see built as a tribute to these three slain boys: A society that is a source of joy to all its inhabitants and to its neighbors. A state that is strong in defense and restrained in attack, rushing to make peace and bring good news into the world. A nation drawn ever towards understanding and loving God, where young adults after their army service don’t have to go to India to find spirituality because they will have an abundance of inspiration and good role modeling at home. A people who honor its elders and does not only valorize youth and strength.

Such a State of Israel would truly be a fitting memorial for Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali. Another settlement that will be an obstacle for peace, a rallying point for protesters, a potential future evacuation site? That is simply a Tower of Babel, a monument built to human ego, destined to be a source of pain, confusion, and division.

 


Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson is Director of Education at T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. He first began to identify as a peace and coexistence activist in late high school, as a Bronfman Youth Fellow, upon learning for the first time about how Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated in East Jerusalem. This commitment led him to study Arabic in college, to rabbinical school at Hebrew College, and ultimately to his work at T'ruah.

 

"Price Tag" Escalation Timeline: Jan 1, 2011 - present

The following is a timeline of major "Price Tag" attacks (as reported by Israeli sources).  It documents a clear escalation in attacks, and the increasing spread of attacks inside the Green Line.  Italics indicate so-called "triggers" - events or developments that appear to be linked to subsequent attacks - although as has been noted in the Israeli press, "According to the Shin Bet, the right-wing extremists no longer appear to need a 'trigger' to take action, while the targets of the violence are also widening..." We will update this regularly.

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Listen to the briefing call with Yariv Oppenheimer, Director of Israel's Peace Now movement

yariv300x197Peace Now Director General Yariv Oppenheimer briefed APN on October 13 on the recent confrontation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, on settlement activity in East Jerusalem, and on Peace Now's role as Israel's gatekeeper of the two-state solution vision. Note: Due to technical difficulties, the first few minutes of the briefing have been cut off.

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October 13, 2014 - Recent books about the Israel-Arab dispute

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For a holiday change of pace, Alpher discusses some recent books about the Israel-Arab dispute, starting with the two best sellers by Shavit and Klein Halevy.

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Please join us for a briefing call with Yariv Oppenheimer, the Director of Israel’s Peace Now movement, on Monday, October 13, at 11:00 AM Eastern Time.

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"Un-American" ?

Approving new settlement construction on the eve of his meeting with Obama wasn’t enough. Blaming Peace Now for the White House’s criticism of settlement expansion wasn’t enough either. Prime Minister Netanyahu just had to stick a finger in President Obama’s eye by accusing him of being un-American.

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Building for Peace, Sukkot 5775

Sukkat_Shalom2_Slot_320x265Beginning Wednesday night, October 8th, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot begins. During the week-long holiday, Jews build a special kind of home to dwell in for the week, called a sukkah. The sukkah is a deliberately temporary house, which can have no more than one permanent wall, and whose roof must be open to the sky, covered only partially by natural materials such as branches. Over the course of the week, the Sukkah is supposed to be one’s home: to eat meals in, to celebrate, and even to sleep in.

Our Israeli sister organization, Peace  Now,  broke the news that on the eve of Rosh Hashana, when the Netanyahu government hoped that nobody was paying attention it went ahead with final approval of a plan for construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem –2,610 housing units in Givat Hamatos.

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Blaming the Messenger: Bibi & Friends Attack Peace Now

On October 1, the Israeli Peace Now movement broke the news that on the eve of Rosh Hashana, when nobody was paying attention, the Netanyahu government went ahead with final approval of a plan for construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem – Givat Hamatos.  To understand why this plan is so significant and problematic, see this analysis from Peace Now.  For further dismantling of the excuses offered by Netanyahu and other settlement apologists after news of the approval came out, see this analysis from Danny Seidemann.

The news of this new settlement approval – which came on the heels of the takeover of 7 new properties by settlers in Silwan – cast a pall over Netayahu’s subsequent meeting in Washington, DC with President Obama.  In the wake of that meeting, and following statements from the Obama Administration condemning the new settlement approval, Netanyahu and his fellow settlement defenders/apologists apparently decided that their best defense would be to go on offense – against Peace Now. 

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This week, Alpher offers further comments on Netanyahu's UN General Assembly speech; whether ISIS and Hamas are both "fruits of the same poisonous tree", as Netanyahu stated; how, as Netanyahu mentioned, Israel improving relations with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi (i.e., the United Arab Emirates) in order to counter Iran and ISIS could "eventually" benefit the two-state solution; were the East Jerusalem settlement announcements a deliberate provocation by Netanyahu to humiliate Obama, or yet another case of cognitive dissonance between the two sides?

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