Archive for August, 2014

Tisha B’Av 2014 – naming the dead of Gaza


On Tish’ah b’Av 2014, Jews for Justice for Palestinians organised a vigil in the centre of Bristol, which attracted more than 100 people. Our aim was to name all the people killed in Gaza and say Kaddish for them. As people joined us, they were given a section of the list of 1400 people killed and asked to choose one name to write on a placard. Before saying Kaddish, we held up our placards and in unison, read out the names of the dead, each person from their list.This is my introduction: Today is Tish’ah b’Av, the Jewish festival of mourning. From our Liberal prayer book: “On this day, Jews think of all people who have suffered and perished because of the cruelty of their fellow human beings. But we think especially of the agonies inflicted on our own people, the House of Israel, ever and again, from earliest until recent times. Some we have forgotten; others are sealed into our memory, a wound that does not heal. We mourn a hundred generations of victims and martyrs whose blood still cries out from the earth. Exile and persecution: how often that has been the Jewish fate! Whole communities were destroyed during the Crusades. We were held responsible for the Black Death. Jews were banished from almost every kingdom in Europe until, in 1492, the fateful expulsion from Spain was ordered by royal decree. In Poland, in the Ukraine, in Russia, anonymous thousands suffered pogroms and death for being Jewish. And only recently we drank more deeply than ever from the cup of sorrow. A world without Jews: that was the intent of Hitler and the Nazis.”Today on Tish’ah b’Av, I am fasting. I am mourning not just for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history but for something even more heart-breaking, even more devastating – the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Jewish people. And I am mourning for Judaism because it is Judaism itself that is being murdered by Israel – the Judaism of compassion, loving-kindness, justice and peace. The traumas of the past still shape the consciousness of many Jews and influence the behaviour of the State of Israel today. These traumatised people deserve compassion and need healing. But trauma does not exonerate Israel’s behaviour.May our people’s long history of persecution, especially from the Nazi Holocaust, open our hearts to passionately value all life equally and to abhor dehumanising and murdering any group of people, including Hamas, including Palestinians.(Quote from Rabbi Michael Lerner) “Above all else, I grieve for all the unnecessary suffering on this planet, including the Israeli victims of terrorism, the Palestinian victims of Israeli terror and repression.  And yet I affirm that there is still the possibility of a different kind of world, if only enough of us would believe in it and then work together to create it.”(Quote by Sheila Yeger) Remember the nir tamid, the divine spark within each of us, that we all bear both the responsibilty and the privilege of being human beings. That what unites us is so much more than what divides us. That being peace is the only way forward.


Regret for the loss of innocent lives in Gaza


In these painful times we regret the loss of all innocent life. Our thoughts are with all those who grieve and we fervently pray that we soon see a just and lasting peace for all in the region.” This was the statement made recently by representatives of different denominations within the British Jewish community, including the community I belong to.

2014PhotoYasmeen Nayef al-Yazji 4 Hatem Zain Nayef al-Yazji3

On the 21st July, Israeli warplanes bombarded a house belonging to the al-Yazji family west of Jabalya in Gaza. As a result, Wajdi Mahmoud ‘Ali al-Yazji, 54; his wife Safinaz Nabil al-Yazji, 50; and his grandchildren, Yasmeen Nayef al-Yazji, 4, and Hatem Zain Nayef al-Yazji, 3, were killed. Four members of the family were also wounded and the house was heavily damaged. (Source: PCHR) A photo of the children was on the website When I saw the smiling, happy faces of Yasmeen and Hatem, I didn’t feel regret. I felt nauseous. I felt torn apart. I felt grief-stricken. I felt guilt. I felt despair. I saw my own precious grandchildren, Shanteya, 4, and Riley, 2, looking at me for protection. Even if Wajdi Mahmoud ‘Ali al-Yazji and Safinaz Nabil al-Yazji are not innocent, even if they deserved to die, I don’t feel safer as a Jew knowing that an Israeli warplane dropped a bomb on their house without even knowing their names.

I don’t feel regret but I can fervently pray and this is my prayer:

May our people’s long history of persecution, especially from the Nazi Holocaust, open our hearts to passionately value all life equally and to abhor generalising and dehumanising any group of people, including Hamas.

May Israeli policy makers come to their senses and realise that their policy of seeking security through domination is inhumane and ultimately ineffective. May the State of Israel cease Operation Protective Edge, bring an end to the 7 year siege of Gaza, end the 47 year long military occupation of the Palestinian people, acknowledge the unity government of Hamas and Fatah as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, and negotiate to find a just and lasting peace for all in the region.

May the US and UK governments stop providing military aid to Israel and start exerting meaningful and serious pressure on the Israeli government to work towards a just and lasting peace for all.

May Hamas, Islamic Jihad and any other Palestinian militias stop firing rockets into Israel and stop talking about ‘obliterating the Zionist entity’.

May the Israeli and Palestinian people join together to formulate the only workable, just and lasting way out – a single democratic state which guarantees individual and collective rights for all.

In Hebrew, the word for prayer is l’hitpallel which means to fill our hearts and minds with the vision of what we want to see. I visualise Yasmeen and Shanteya, Hatem and Riley together with their parents and grandparents playing, laughing, running around, dancing, singing and eating. All together in peace, love and harmony.

As Martin Luther King said of another apparently intractable conflict, “Out of the mountain of despair, comes the stone of hope.”