Archive for January, 2009

Creating a Positive Vision


On the 22nd January, 3 friends, two Jews and a Quaker called a meeting in Bristol (UK) to hold the people of Israel and Palestine in their hearts during this time of terrible conflict. The purpose was not merely to influence public opinion but to infuse public opinion with compassion. Why? Because we cannot even think of changing minds without first opening hearts. We believe that the 9.5 million people living in Israel and Palestine are intelligent and creative enough to find their own way to peace. They deserve our compassion. All of them. We passed round photos of Olmert and Lipni, Haniyeh and Rayan – people with names and faces, leaders who need our support to act with wisdom and humanity. Drawing on our Jewish tradition, we meditated on chesed (loving-kindness), chanted, sang and lit candles in the shape of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Drawing on our Quaker tradition, we held a meeting for worship, a gathered silence with ministry by those moved to speak. Then we shared our vision. One after another, we called out what we want to see, speaking as if it already exists, speaking from our hearts. “I see Israeli and Palestinian leaders shaking hands and smiling at each other, working together in a unified government, like Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness in Northern Ireland.” “I see Palestinians and Israelis travelling freely around the country.” “I see people making music together.” “I see people celebrating each other’s festivals.” “I see children playing, carefree and relaxed.” And on and on. In the words of one participant: “I came home from this event profoundly moved and heartened. I do not believe this is a ‘cop-out’ or in any way evades the history, seriousness and dangers of the Middle East conflict, or the difficulties ahead.  Instead it reminds us that words and argument and ‘being right’ are sometimes of very limited help, but this does not mean there is ‘nothing we can do’.  Other creative, shared, responses are possible.  And beautiful.  And fragile.  And important.”

The three friends:

Lisa Saffron, author of Checkpoint – the novel of hope and inspiration about Israel and Palestine Buy on
Sheila Yeger, author of Dove – a drama about conflict and hope. Listen free on Listening to the Tune in Dialogue
Maria Kennedy


Jewish values and the Israeli attack on Gaza


In 1968, at the age of 16, I left Judaism, unable to reconcile the teachings of our enlightened religion with what I saw happening in Israel. A few years ago, I was introduced to the views of some “Torah-true” Jews who are opposed to a state of Israel. I’m not attracted to Orthodox Judaism but their teaching on justice and compassion convinced me to give Judaism another shot. I joined a Liberal/Progressive synagogue.  I’m trying to apply Jewish teachings to the events in Gaza.
My understanding is that “the dignity of created beings” is one of the fundamental values in Jewish tradition. Every person is created in God’s image and therefore we should not cause unnecessary suffering to anyone.  Jewish texts teach us to respect and honour those who are different from us. The Torah calls on us on 36 different occasions to “love the stranger.” Examples are: Leviticus 19.33 “And if a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong him.” Exodus 22:21 “You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the heart of a stranger as you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” When supporters of Israel’s offensive in Gaza claim that “Israel cannot tolerate rocket attacks on its civilian population,” this seems to contravene these values. The people of Gaza are a civilian population living under Israeli rule. They are not exempt from our loving-kindness and compassion. I have met Muslim and Christian Palestinians in the West Bank. I received their hospitality, ate with them, stayed with them in their homes. They are not so different from Jews. Supporters of Israel say that no nation would tolerate rocket attacks on its civilian population. But there are other ways to respond. During the IRA bombing campaign on mainland England, the British government did not retaliate with aerial and ground attacks on civilian populations in Ireland. They could easily have targetted the nationalist neighbourhoods which are clearly marked with coloured pavements. Instead the government held secret negotiations with the IRA. Jewish law sets forth a detailed set of rules about how to behave. Self-restraint is one of them.

Creating a Positive Vision

Meditation and Reflection on Peace in the Middle East

In response to the current events in Gaza, a group of Jews and Quakers in Bristol (UK) invite you to join us for an evening of meditation, singing, prayer and reflection on our vision of peace, love and justice in Israel and Palestine. All are welcome.

Thursday 22 January 2009 from 6.45 to 9pm
Horfield Quaker Meeting House
300 Gloucester Road BS7

No one can remain unaffected by the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. When we hear the news, we may react with fear and rage or we may turn away and try to ignore it. Either way, the disturbing events remain in our minds as powerful negative forces, holding us trapped. Not only do we feel dreadful but while in that mind-state, we cannot visualise a way to change the situation for the better. As long as we focus our hearts and minds on the problems and the horror of what’s going on, we get more problems and more horror. Let’s not give any of our energy to violence and hatred. Let’s create a vision of the possibilities of transformation that do exist in the region.