A Blessing to the Families of the Earth
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Once upon a dream, I imagined the two peoples that share the narrow land between the Jordan and the Sea becoming a model for peacemaking to the peoples of the earth.
Was peace between them easy? No. For there are no obvious boundaries between the two peoples, and they both feel deep yearning for the whole land each calls its own. Precisely because their journey from hostility to peace has been hard, I felt that if they could walk the journey, their path would matter to all the peoples, whose path is also hard.
For we all live on the great unboundaried earth, and most peoples love a scrap of land some other people loves as well. In our generation of H-bombs and global scorching, the journey to Peace has seemed hard - but necessary.
It even seemed both canny and uncanny that the need for all the peoples to make peace came due in history at precisely the same time that the two families of Abraham met up once more in that tiny land where he had herded sheep.
Uncanny: The workings of the God of Abraham — Whose Torah taught that the seed of Abraham would become a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Canny: The churnings of history had through Modernity brought the Jewish people to nationhood in the ancient land, had through Modernity brought the Palestinian community to nationalism and a nascent nation there, and had through Modernity brought all the peoples to the brink where transformation meets disaster.
The upshot? It has all come about precisely as I dreamed - — but with all the colors reversed into their opposites. The green of life turned to the red of blood and fire, silver hope turned into black despair.
The two peoples do indeed teach many others. Arik Sharon responds to brutal terror with still more brutality, creating an infinite spiral of rage and death, keeping himself in power by creating hopeless dependency upon his mini-imperial vision; and look! — he becomes the model and the most dependable ally for a would-be real Emperor, a big enough American to bestride the narrow world on tanks of oil and make perpetual war on boasts of Christian triumph.
It is not that the Emperor fought his war against Iraq for the sake of his older, smaller brother Arik, for the sake of Israel, for the sake of the Jews. The conspiracists of right and left who blame the war upon the Jews, for good or ill, ignore that the Cowboy of the Apocalypse has much bigger fish to fry, much bigger cities to burn, a much bigger world to control.
The stakes were power at home and power overseas. At home, the unelected President could consolidate power by becoming Commander-in-Chief. He could transfer hundreds of billion of dollars to the ultra-rich, make destitute the poor, impoverish the workers, and rob the middle class of its pensions and its stock holdings by turning attention to a real live video game called Shock and Awe.
Overseas, stationing the US military in the heart of the oil region meant control of the planet.
The world remade in the image of Texas — not democracy but corporate oligarchy.
And on the reverse side of the historical phonograph record, the dark obbligato shadows Bush and Sharon. Just as Sharon teaches Bush, so Hamas teaches Al Qaeda. The terrorists of Hamas pour blood on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and look! - a global band of Muslim terrorists learns to pour yet more blood on the streets of New York and Washington.
Can we find anywhere in this a blessing from the two families of Abraham to the other families of earth? Is there any alternative to the war between Israel and Palestine, or the U.S. war against Iraq today, Iran tomorrow, Allah knows who next week?
It is not enough to say: Put a team of UN inspectors in Iraq. Or, set a peacekeeping team of US / UN soldiers separating the two peoples in Twice-Promised Land.
These might be useful, but nowhere near enough. What has gone sour is an entire vision of planetary connection and relationship. Treaties to make peace between Israel and Palestine, to heal the earth from CO2, to ban land mines, to create an International Criminal Court — all spinning down the sour drain. They had too few supporters to make the Imperial Corporations and the one remaining Super-state accept their authority.
Wintertime for decency. But what dies in winter leaves deep-buried the seeds of new and unexpected life. The one blessing of these terrible two years has been the firm though frightened grass-roots solidarity between some Israelis and some Palestinians and some menshlich human beings from abroad.
Women who held hands around Jerusalem.
Men who together rebuilt Palestinian houses that had been bulldozed down.
Rabbis who helped harvest olives when Israeli settlers were shooting at the Palestinian farmers.
Israeli and Palestinian families whose very own children have been killed by "the other side" — joining to mourn both sets of children, all of them the seed of Abraham. Joining to mourn their children together as Isaac and Ishmael came together to mourn their father Abraham — and by their grieving were released to live face to face at peace with one another.
Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the Occupation, and Palestinians who demanded that the suicide bombings cease.
Italians, Brits, French folk, Americans who fed and healed and cried. And died. Yes, one of them — an American — died, crushed under an American-built, American-sold bulldozer.
No, I take that back. Not "American" built or sold, but Global Corp built, Global Corp sold, Global corpse killed.
These networks of resistance are not "international," not between the nation-states, but transnational. Crossing all the official Boundaries. Just as the Global Corporations cross all Boundaries, but with one difference: These are seeded at the grass-roots,
These are the real seed of Abraham, and they could become a blessing to all the families of the earth. For the treaties that look beyond the old-time boundaries also need constituencies that exemplify nonviolence:
Germans and Americans who together will boycott the U.S. car companies that make SUVs. Who will put opaque "indictment" notices, crazy-glued and stet-faced, upon their windshields — for the crime of poisoning the earth. And whisk away on bikes.
Brits and Colombians and Canadians and New Yorkers who will "die" from simulated land mines in front of the offices of the generals and senators who have refused to ban them. And then arise to dance the music of the peoples who are dying as left-over wars continue to explode.
Lawyers who will serve on un-official alternative war crimes "courts" to cry out justice on those accused of terrorism or of war crimes, to hear whatever evidence can be gathered, serve subpoenas on those who refuse to testify.
People who will not only march against the Iraq War but buy some food to be delivered to Iraqi children - and give the Attorney General an affidavit they have committed this illegal deed of love.
Americans who learn from the Israeli-Palestinian Circles of Bereaved Families to mourn all the dead — not only US soldiers but Iraqis too, and others. Who create Funeral Processions for the Dying and the Not-Yet-Dead of this war.
Group after group after group of mourners, with many many coffins, each and all in silence, except for a muffled drumbeat, and everyone wearing black.
Mourning those who have already died and the Not-Yet-Dead:
US troops and civilians,
Iraqi troops and civilians,
UK troops & civilians,
Israelis and Palestinians, Kuwaitis and Kurds, Egyptians and Jordanians, who might be killed as the TV War gives cover to terrorists and vigilantes and armies of all stripes;
Saudi and Gulf States citizens who might be killed as a result of burning oil wells, depleted urnaium bombs, and other long-term environmental effects of the war;
Americans, Africans, Indians, Burmese, Venezuelans, etc etc, who will die of hunger, homelessness, polluted water and air, etc., as a result of money spent on this war instead of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, protecting the earth.
The front and rear of the funeral march to be made up of a great banner in rainbow colors:
THEY ARE NOT YET DEAD:
SAVE THEIR LIVES.
STOP THIS WAR AND THE NEXT THREE, NOW.
Something, someone, died this winter past: The American Republic, Uncle Sam. And yet — What dies in winter leaves deep-buried the seeds of new and unexpected life.
On February 15, the great round earth, convulsing, gave birth to something new:
A planetary community. Grassroots globalization. Millions gathering on every continent to assert that planetary community, not imperial war, should be the way to deal with dangers like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
The real seed of Abraham, who mourn their forebear's death and then join hands across the walls that are supposed to separate them, are the seed that offers blessing to the world.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center <www.theshalomcenter.org> ; author of Godwrestling — Round 2, among other works of spiritual renewal; and co-author of A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven: The Jewish Life-spiral as a Spiritual Path.