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.

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