Yom Kippur 2014/5755: We can change the story now

rocky-mountain-sheep-portrait267x200Beginning this Friday evening and continuing through Saturday night, the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, will be observed by Jews throughout the world.  This year, on Rosh Hashana, ethicist Michael Walzer reminded us that throughout the season leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews engage in the accounting of one's soul -cheshbon nefesh: we examine our behavior, taking an honest measure of ourselves in the year that has passed.  This self-reflection reaches its pinnacle on Yom Kippur.

On the second day of Rosh Hashana, we read the Torah portion in which Abraham brings his son Isaac up to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him. This story is part of cycle of readings that begins on the first day of Rosh Hashana with the story of Hagar and Ishmael being cast out into the desert. Many commentaries note that the two readings are connected - that the (near-) sacrifice of Isaac is a measure for measure punishment of Sarah and Abraham for their treatment of Hagar and Ishmael - a "see how you feel" moment, as it were.

Yom Kippur, then, completes that cycle: on Rosh Hashana we are forced to take a hard look at our treatment of others, and on Yom Kippur we hope that our cheshbon nefesh, our self-reflection, has taken root, allowing us to genuinely repent for our deeds, and so to change our future behavior.

shofar2014320x265In an unusual calendrical twist, this year Saturday is not only the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, but also marks the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, commemorating the parallel story of the Koran in which Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son - Ishmael. The stories of Isaac and Ishmael seem to be about sacrificing what one holds dear to the capricious commands of a God who demands perfect obedience. But if we follow the story in the Torah through to its end, it offers something richer: it offers a story of mending. At the end of Abraham's life, Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father in peace. 

We don't have to wait for "the end," though.  We can change the story now.  May this year's coincidence of Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur spur each of us to do cheshbon nefesh - to examine our behavior so that we can change for the better.  May it inspire us to work together for peace, now.

Peace Now: Settlers Take Over 6 Houses in Silwan

Settlers entered last night (30.09.2014) into 6 buildings in Silwan, in the area of Wadi Hilweh creating a new reality in the sensitive area, just few meters from Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque). Despite settlers claim to have purchased the buildings from Palestinians, some owners of the buildings are denying any sale and have begun operating in order to evacuate the settlers, among others, through legal procedures.

The implication of this offensive act has far reaching consequences.  It is the largest settler operation since the creation of settlements at Silwan, back in 1991. The 6 buildings consist of approximately 20 housing units, which could thus expand the settler presence by about 100 settlers, an increase of about 35% from the amount of settlers in the area as of yesterday.

The political context of the matter is heavily severe. Albeit if the government of Israel was not a direct agent in the current settler entrances, its policies granted the radical settlers to achieve substantial powers that they can determine almost at will the political reality, and among others, the planning, constructions, tourism, purchases and policing at the Palestinian neighborhood. Government and municipal policies allowed the settlers to create their own private guard which secured this operation at the middle of the night. After the dramatic entrances, the Israeli police are now protecting the newly created settlements. The unjust and dangerous reality at Silwan has been achieved after 2 dozen years that the Israeli government and police are allowing and supporting the different settler operations.

The creations of the new settlements come at a horrifying time in Jerusalem. Since the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, nearly 3 months ago, there are heavy tensions in the city, including almost daily violent clashes at Palestinian neighborhoods. This upcoming Friday both the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated, causing further pressures and tense, especially around Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This article was originally posted September 30,2014 on the Peace Now website.

Statement: International Community Must be a Stronger Partner for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Following the speeches delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today and by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, APN today released this statement:

Speaking before the UN General Assembly, flinging accusations and mutual recriminations, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas revealed, with striking clarity, the vast gulf that separates them with respect to their views on the way forward to resolve the conflict that continues to consume both of their peoples.

The speeches of these two leaders also revealed a simple truth: Today, the question is not whether Israelis or Palestinians have a "partner" for peace on the other side, or whether now is the time to launch yet another empty peace process, or whether energies should be invested in making the indefensible status quo more stable. Rather, after more than two decades of peace efforts, after more than 47 years of occupation and conflict, the question today is whether the international community is ready to be a real partner to Israelis and Palestinians in aiding them – and, indeed, pressing them, with meaningful benefits and consequences – to end this conflict.

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September 29, 2014 - Has Abbas slammed the door? Has Netanyahu? What will happen now?

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This week, Alpher discusses whether Abbas has slammed the door on a peace process, what to make of Netanyahu's remarks in response to Abbas' speech at the UN, how much progress Abbas will register on his new initiatives, what could happen now in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, why the issue of African migrants is so significant for Israelis.

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Report on APN Israel study tour 2014

Americans for Peace Now Israel Study Tour

September 6 – September 11, 2014

erekatSeveral themes dominated our meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, journalists, and activists. This report explores themes that came up in our meetings, and provides highlights from meetings that were not off the record. It also provides some information about things that the tour participants saw.

INSS-Benedetta-Berti-and-Pnina-Baruch-Thurs_zpsf91a755fWe came to Israel right after a very difficult summer. The summer began with the tragic kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenage yeshiva students and then the murder of a Palestinian teen, immediately followed by the war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas. We arrived shortly after the declaration of a ceasefire.

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Click to read the full Israel Study Tour 2014 report

On this Rosh Hashanah, we wish you a year of light, hope, and peace

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Tonight, as we hear the ram's horn, we are called to review our individual and communal experience in the year that passed.

As we look back, this past year has been a particularly dark one.

Secretary Kerry’s peace initiative crumbled. Against the background of a diplomatic lull violence erupted after the kidnapping and murder of four teens, three Israelis and a Palestinian, and the violence triggered a war, from which both Israel and Gaza emerged devastated and desperate.

So it is with relief that we can turn our faces forward, and place our hope in a fresh beginning. In this spirit we remind ourselves that while darkness encompasses and blinds you, it takes only a tiny candle to banish the dark and see.  

We hope, at this time of new beginnings, you will choose to light a candle, and to recommit yourself to the cause of peace and to the work of APN and Shalom Achshav.

On this Rosh Hashanah, we wish you a year of light, hope, and peace.

 


We hope you have seen this timely letter from Michael Walzer, America’s leading expert on ethics in wartime, and one of America’s foremost political philosophers. A longtime member of APN’s Board of Directors, Walzer, the author of the iconic Just and Unjust Wars, a practical analysis of the Just War doctrine, co-editor of Dissent, and contributing editor to the New Republic, wrote a compelling reminder of our need for cheshbon nefesh, accounting for one’s soul, on Rosh Hashanah, the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. He reminds us that Rosh Hashana is, “a time for facing facts and telling the truth about ourselves as individuals and as a community. The process is called cheshbon nefesh in Hebrew, an accounting of the soul. It is time for Israel and her supporters in this country to do just such an accounting.” Read Michael Walzer's letter here.

 

 

 

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This week, Alpher discusses the prospects of nuclear negotiations with Iran and Gaza negotiations in Cairo; whether a new intifada has erupted in East Jerusalem; is the resignation of a senior Likud minister who was conflicted with Netanyahu, leaving the party second in size to Yesh Atid in the Knesset, the beginning of the end for the current government;

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Book Review: Seeking Palestine by Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh

This is another in a series of reviews of new books on Middle Eastern affairs. We asked Dr. Gail Weigl, an APN volunteer and a professor of art history, to review the book Seeking Palestine, edited by Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh.

Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh, Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian
Writing on Exile and Home (Northampton, Massachusetts: Olive Branch seeking-palestine
Press, 2013), 202 pages. $16.00.

What does it mean to be an exile from Palestine? Is it defined merely by physical dislocation, or is it less tied to a place than to an idea, to a Palestine that once or perhaps never existed, to a pervasive sense of being displaced, even from a land that was not the land of one’s birth? The essays that compose Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home examine notions of exile, of Palestine, of Palestinian identity in diaspora from the perspectives of poets, academics, novelists, artists and independent writers living as outcasts from a country that never existed as a nation-state, the idea of which calls forth irrepressible longing for a way of life known only through memories, many of those not memories of their own. These writers ask themselves what it means to cling to an identity, a way of life, a set of grievances across generations, and whether the persistence of an idea and an identity can persuade the world at large to seriously address the Palestinian longing to return to their homeland.

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Peace Now: So How Many Settlers Are There?

As published today by AP, Settlers claim that the number of Israelis living in the West Bank is 382,031 (excluding those who live in East Jerusalem). This number shows a rapid growth in setters' population, of 2% in six months, double the growth rate in Israel itself.

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16/9/14

Earlier this year the Jerusalem Municipality approved two construction permits requested by the right wing Elad association in Jerusalem's Hashalom Forest located on the seam zone between East and West Jerusalem. One permit was for legalizing structures built by Elad as part of an ideological tourist center they established on lands given to them by the JNF (KKL), and the other was for the construction of a new camping site meant to accommodate large groups.

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