From planting to burning down trees

Tu Bishvat

Barbara Green

When did we go from being a people who plant trees to a people who cut and burn them down?

When I see photographs of Israeli settlers cutting, uprooting, or setting fire to Palestinians' olive trees to intimidate them, I can't reconcile what I see with what I thought I knew of our own tradition.

Carob treeTu Bishvat is the New Year of the Trees, one of four new years in our tradition. Children celebrate the holiday with songs and tree planting. On Tu Bishvat, it is common to retell the Talmudic story of the famous miracle worker Honi who once saw a man planting a carob tree. Ḥoni said to him: How long until it will bear fruit? The man said: Not for seventy years. Ḥoni said: Do you expect to live long enough to benefit from this tree? The man responded: I found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I am planting for my descendants.

Jews venerate this symbolism of a future for our children, and we show our faith in that future by planting trees. The chalutzim who built the Jewish state planted forests. Today we recognize that covering entire hillsides with trees common in northern Europe was not so environmentally sound, but the impulse was a good one. Planting trees means we believe that there will be a future.

Years ago I went to the West Bank with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who then headed the organization Rabbis for Human Rights, to help with the Palestinians' olive harvest. We were a group of international volunteers from many countries. When Arik gave us instructions, I felt ashamed. "If the settlers come to make trouble, don't engage with them. Your job is to interpose yourself between the Palestinian farmers and the settlers. The IDF will protect the settlers; that's what the government has directed them to do." For some of the international volunteers, this was their introduction to Israel. This was the ugly side.

vandalized treeEvery year, settlers destroy hundreds of Palestinian trees in acts of wanton vandalism. They attack the farmers and prevent them from harvesting the fruit of those long-lived trees. What kind of future do Palestinian children see as their Jewish neighbors destroy their olive trees, their source of livelihood? The message is clear: Arabs not wanted here.

Can we ever go back to treating trees with reverence? Can we observe Tu Bishvat with a sense of joy and hopefulness? I don't accept the alternative. Our tradition enjoins us to "choose life" and this includes trees.

Israel’s Peace Now movement and Americans for Peace Now, its American sister-organization, work to end the occupation and establish peaceful relations between Israel and an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Please support us in this work.

Thank you,
Barbara Green

P.S. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2017 alone, nearly 3,000 olive trees have been vandalized by settlers. This doesn't include assaults on civilians and other destruction of property - all forbidden by Jewish law- but the destruction of these trees is the greatest irony because they are olive trees - the symbol of peace. Help us expose those who sow hatred and conflict through assault and vandalism. Support Americans for Peace Now.

Tu Bishvat begins the night of January 30th. Tu Bishvat is a Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It is also called "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot," literally "New Year of the Trees."

Barbara Green has been a volunteer for Americans for Peace Now for many years. She lives in Washington, DC.

Seeking the truth in 2018

This year has brought an assault on truth that has left us all feeling like Diogenes the Cynic, wandering the streets with a lamp, looking for “an honest man.” Since our founding, Americans for Peace Now has been meticulous in uncovering the truth. We  shine a lantern in places that extremists would prefer to keep dark and hidden. We are unshakable in our honesty, even when the truth we tell is unpopular.

So, let us get right to the point: Americans for Peace Now will continue speaking the truth in the New Year, as will our sister organization, Peace Now in Israel.  

We will speak the truth about settlements: Settlements are used to prevent a viable two-state solution, to dispossess Palestinians of their land and, sometimes even to outright punish them. Settlements are the most potent of Israel’s actions against them. Settlements are the most potent of Israel’s actions against them.  

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"The hope thing"


At this time of the year, I typically write to you reflecting on the progress made toward Israeli-Palestinian peace in the year that passed, and highlight the reasons for hope for further progress in the coming year.

As 2017 comes to a close, "the hope thing" becomes more difficult. With Donald Trump in the White House, Benjamin Netanyahu in his ninth consecutive year as Israel’s prime minister, and no sign of diplomacy from any of the players, it's hard to find reasons for hope. At least not in the short run. Holding one's breath in anticipation of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian “ultimate deal” would not be a healthy way to start the new year.

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Rob Eshman and the Rabbi

My husband Rob Eshman will be receiving the Press for Peace Award at the Americans for Peace Now “Vision of Peace Celebration” on January 29, 2018, which I am honored to Co-Chair. You may not know him, but allow me to say a few words - objectively, of course - as to why he is so deserving of this honor, and why I encourage you to support the event and the organization that is sponsoring it, even if you are unable to attend.

In addition to my personal affection for Rob, I have immense respect for his vision and courage. He was the long-time editor of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and the accompanying website, which under his leadership became the most visited Jewish news website outside of Israel. Beyond the numbers, however, he has provided the local and international Jewish community and other interested readers, with what too often is lacking -- thoughtful, honest, comprehensive, and varied opinions and perspectives on Israel and Jewish affairs. He has not shied away from taking public stands himself, most often expressed via his weekly columns, which while controversial for some, have always been motivated by his love and deep connection to the Jewish people and to Israel. I believe that through his writing, leadership, and courage, he has significantly impacted the discourse on these important issues.

I am proud that Americans for Peace Now has chosen to honor Rob with its Press for Peace Award in recognition of his unique contributions. It is also very exciting for me, and humbling to him, that he will be honored alongside David Broza, the Israeli music icon and peace activist.

For the vast majority of you who will not be able to attend the Vision of Peace Celebration in Los Angeles, I encourage you to participate with us by donating to Americans for Peace Now. You will be supporting the work of the organization here in the US, and of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), its partner in Israel. Your donation will provide an opportunity to include a Vision of Peace Tribute Message – whether specifically to David Broza, Rob, or the cause of peace for Israel – and I am flattered to say that Americans for Peace Now is also offering my newest book “Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul” for a donation of $100 or more (indicate "Einstein" in the comments box).

Go HERE for the invitation to the event and a link to the response card and online donation page.

In Peace,

Rabbi Naomi Levy

Rabbi Naomi Levy, a member of the first class of women to attend The Jewish Theological Seminary’s Rabbinical School in New York City, is the founder and spiritual leader of Nashuva, a groundbreaking Jewish outreach organization based in Los Angeles. She is also a best-selling author and nationally noted speaker on revitalizing faith, spirituality, healing and prayer, and has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, Oprah, and been featured in Parade, Redbook, Self, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and Los Angeles magazine. In recognition of the impact she has made, the Jewish Forward identified Rabbi Levy as one of the nation’s 50 most influential Jewish leaders and Newsweek included Rabbi Levy in its list of "Top 50 Rabbis in America."

I'm writing this as an American and a Christian


The festivals of light, in the various traditions, fall during the darkest time of the year - or so it seems to this Christian on Christmas Eve. The darkness, of course, is what makes the light shine brightest. In a similar way, hope has its truest power when things appear to be hopeless. Hope is a choice.

My train of thought, I admit, is running along the track of contemporary desolation. I am writing this letter on behalf of Americans for Peace Now. Peace Now is the heroic - and deeply patriotic - Israeli organization that has steadfastly stood for peace between Israelis and Palestinians for a generation. Recent turns in the old story, taken in Washington and Jerusalem both, have made the struggle for such peace seem more difficult than ever, but that only makes it more precious.

The end is as clear as ever, and so are the means: a two-state solution arrived at through agreed negotiations, enshrined in a secure Israel living side by side with a fully recognized Palestine, formed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Good will, self-interested mutuality, respect by each side for the absolutes of the other, arrived at through compromise - these remain the elements of peace, and they are still possible.

As if the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians were not searing enough, the recent intervention from abroad - the U.S. administration’s feckless short-circuiting of final status negotiations by its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital - has complicated the peace process immeasurably. That defines the darkness of this moment. But that also defines the fresh importance of Peace Now, whose commitment has never depended on a shallow optimism that cannot survive when intolerant religious fanatics of whatever stripe seem ascendant. As a Christian, I am especially aware of the negative influence of Jesus-proclaiming American zealots whose End Time fantasies and Biblical literalism pre-empt both Israeli democracy and Palestinian nationhood. That such voices are heard in the White House only makes their rebuttal the more urgent.

That is why this is the time, more than ever, to support both Peace Now, and its U.S.-based sister organization Americans for Peace Now. Peace Now most emphatically affirms the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. That means, with equal emphasis, that Peace Now opposes the Occupation of the Palestinians. Peace Now continues its crucial work of tracking and opposing the ongoing settlement project in the West Bank, especially when settlers seize land owned by Palestinians and illegally build on it. And Peace Now brings its power to the streets, as it did last summer, convening a throng inTel Aviv’s Rabin Square to reject the Netanyahu government’s disastrous anti-peace policies.

Peace Now receives nearly half of its funding from Americans for Peace Now. APN’s informative website ( offers a wealth of information and analysis for Americans to think more clearly - and pragmatically - about Israel’s challenges and about the role that our nation should - and still can - play as a peacemaker.

I am writing this letter as an American and as a Christian - at a time when detached uninvolvement, whether at home or abroad, amounts to a gross failure of civic and moral responsibility. Our religious and political texts; our doctrines and policies; our triumphalist dreams; our assumption of national innocence; our habits of racial and religious contempt; even our naive wishes for an easy peace - these are threads in the Holy Land’s still untied knot. Historically part of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, we are obliged now to be part of its solution. We must choose hope.

That is the invitation we have from Israel’s Peace Now and its U.S. sister organization. Please join me in supporting both Shalom Achshav and APN. Please make a generous tax-deductible contribution to Americans for Peace Now. Even in the present darkness, this is what the light of the possible peace looks like. Please commend Peace Now to everyone you know - now more than ever.

Thank you.
James Carroll

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Resist the policies of Netanyahu and Trump

It took Donald Trump less than a year. Now – after setting ablaze every sensitive issue in American public life and after alienating some of our closest international allies – he has tossed a firebomb into Jerusalem, the most combustible place on earth.

For those who had illusions about his ability to strike what he calls "the ultimate deal," Trump’s unilateral, reckless and diplomatically useless recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital serves as a bitter reality check.

Since Trump’s announcement last week, I’ve heard many doomsday expressions. The hyperbole, as well as the cycle of disappointment, violence and bloodshed make it easy to succumb to "hope fatigue."

Please read the following letter I’ve written for Americans for Peace Now about the remedy for such fatigue - it is being mailed now to tens of thousands of American households - and please consider including APN in your end-of-year giving.

If APN represents your voice, as it does mine, please consider joining me in making a generous year-end donation.

In peace,

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Letty Cottin Pogrebin is still inspired!

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Fatigue? Fuggetabout it. Letty Cottin Pogrebin is inspired!

Like many activists in the peace camp, I’m occasionally afflicted with “hope fatigue” as I watch the Israeli government give up on the pursuit of peace.

When I think back to the high hopes we had for the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Summit, the Clinton Parameters, and the Quartet’s Road Map, a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more remote today than ever before.

I can’t help feeling distressed that both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have permitted the extremists on both sides to dominate the political agenda. My despair deepens as I watch Israelis gobble up land in the West Bank and take over Palestinian property in East Jerusalem that’s supposed to be subject to negotiation in a future peace agreement between the two parties.

But the staff and supporters of Americans for Peace Now—and the young leaders and volunteers at Shalom Achshav, our sister organization in Israel—refuse to succumb to hopelessness and fatigue. They just keep plugging away. And because of them and their work, I keep getting reenergized and recommitted to the struggle to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Honor Rabin's Legacy – Don't Let the Zealots Win!

RabinLike all Israelis of my generation, I will never forget the night of Nov. 4, 1995.

Having just heard from the news desk editor at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot, I called Palestinian officials for reaction. I was Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs correspondent at the time and was on the phone with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat when I heard on Israel Radio that Rabin’s spokesman was about to make a statement. As Eitan Haber hushed the crowed, I started translating for Erekat: “The government of Israel announces in dismay, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv.”

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The Trump administration won't have any more excuses

In a recent interview, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – a long-time supporter of Israeli settlements – falsely claimed that Israel occupies “only 2 percent” of the West Bank.

In fact, with the entire West Bank under Israeli military law, 100 percent is occupied by Israel. Yet, when a reporter followed up with State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, asking what percent of the West Bank the Trump administration believes is occupied, she stated: “I don’t know that we have a map of that.”

We at Americans for Peace Now have good news for the State Department: Facts on the Ground 2.0 is coming soon.

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