War Looming: Make Fasts of Tammuz & Ramadan into Hunger Strikes Against Violence?
Submitted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow on
As War Looms, Can Jews & Muslims Join In 17 Tammuz/ Ramadan Fast on July 15 In “Hunger Strike Against Violence”?
[Note added on Wednesday, July 9 — one day later. Please see my comment at the end of this essay, as the “looming” war becomes a burning war.]
There are two crises in the world that call especially for Jewish responses:
One because it involves the future of a state that calls itself “Jewish,” and of its supporters in America — their spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and practical futures – at a moment when the relationship between Jews and our Abrahamic cousins of Palestine is filled with violence that threatens to kill more people, breed more hatred, and poison the bloodstream of Judaism and Jewish culture;
The other because it calls on Judaism as –- probably uniquely — a world religion that still can draw on having once been an indigenous people of shepherds and farmers with a Torah, offerings, festivals, and many other practices centered on the sacred relationship with the Earth. Can these roots regrow new flowering at a moment when all the wisdom of all human cultures is needed to cope with a planetary crisis that originates in human mistreatment of the Earth?
Reb Zalman addressed both of these, beginning from the deep spirit-place that was his calling in the world. In two Shalom Report letters this week, I will suggest ways to begin the spiritual turning necessary to address both these.
Let me begin with the first crisis, which every hour is worsening toward war:
Bottom line, a proposal, originating from Israelis & Palestinians; : That the traditional Jewish fast day of 17 Tammuz, which coincides this year with a day in the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan, be set aside on Tuesday, July 15, as a “Hunger Strike Against Violence.”
Background: Murder, violence, and ugly threats of it have broken out in Israel, its settlements in Occupied Palestine, and in Palestine itself – at both the level of street mobs and the level of governmental rockets, bombs, and troop mobilizations.
The endemic violence of occupation has been intensified by the murder of three Israeli youngsters by some Palestinians, one lynching murder of a Palestinian youth by Israelis, Israeli street mobs threatening pogroms against Palestinians and Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin, and exchanges of rocket and missile/ bomb firing between Gaza and Israel.
Eliaz Cohen (an Israeli poet/ settler in Gush Etzion) has proposed that Jews & Muslims respond to the outbreaks of violence by joining in a Hunger Strike Against Violence. He suggested fasting on the traditional Jewish fast day of 17 Tammuz, this year on July 15, which is also a day in the month-long fast of Ramadan. (Both fasts are from sunrise to sunset.)
What is 17 Tammuz about? It commemorates the day when the Babylonian Army broke through the walls of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, three weeks before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple.
So it is, among other things, a day of sorrow for the dead and self-restraint from killing.
My thought: — It would be both a serious expression of commitment to peace and decency and also a serious memorial to Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who died last week, for us here as well in the USA to join with Muslims on 17 Tammuz in a Hunger Strike Against Violence, and to end the day together with Iftar, the evening break-fast.
To do this, we could ask a mosque near any one of us, and/ or a chapter of organizations like CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, to join with our own congregation.
What does this have to do with Reb Zalman? He schrei’d Gevalt, gevalt, about the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila; he visited the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron not in triumph but in Abrahamic peace; he became a Sufi initiate; he climbed the mountain known as Sinai with Muslims.
Why should we do this? The editorial board of Haaretz, not just an op-ed piece, has just warned that:
“There are no words to describe the horror allegedly done by six Jews to Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat [allegedly to “avenge” the murders of three Israeli youngsters]. Although a gag order bars publication of details of the terrible murder and the identities of its alleged perpetrators, the account of Abu Khdeir’s family — according to which the boy was burned alive — would horrify any mortal. Anyone who is not satisfied with this description, can view the horror movie in which members of Israel’s Border Police are seen brutally beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, the murder victim’s 15-year-old cousin. …
“[We Israelis] belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.
“Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.”
It seems to me that for the sake of God’s demand for justice, peace, and love for BOTH the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and for the sake of our own souls as well, we must support such a “cultural revolution in Israel” and in the American Jewish “organized” community — where idolatry for Israel is replacing love for Israel, despite deep disquiet and disaffection at the grass roots.
Below is what Eliaz wrote. And below that is a report from The Times of Israel (NOT a left-wing or liberal paper) about visits of sorrow and condolence between the bereaved families of the two peoples, including a Palestinian Muslim who affirmed the idea of sharing the Fast of 17 Tammuz/ Ramadan.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Thanks to Rabbi Eyal Levinson of northern Israel, who sent me Eliaz Cohen’s proposal:
“A day of fasting together, or in the language of civil protest: a hunger-strike day, next Tuesday, when the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz and the fast of Ramadan, Jews and Muslims will unite in a day of fast.
“For both traditions/cultures – this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, for self repair and for self and communal purification and for repentance.
“This is an attempt to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” “in which each man and woman in their home and in their communities will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.
“Afternoon gatherings and classes will be held between the two communities – sharing stories, studying and praying together, and by the appearance of the stars the people gathered will share an “iftar” – breaking the fast with a delicious meal.”
Earlier Sunday, two Palestinians from the Gush Etzion area … arrived at the Fraenkel’s Nof Ayalon residence where the family is in the midst of the traditional seven-day mourning period [for one of the three Israeli youngsters murdered by Palestinians]. Last week, the Fraenkels condemned the murder of Abu Khdeir [a Palestinian youngster murdered by Israelis], saying, “There is no difference when it comes to blood. Murder is murder; there is no justification, forgiveness or atonement for any murder.”
One of the visitors [said] that Fraenkel’s statements last week after Abu Khdeir’s murder “touched a large portion of the Palestinian people.” “I come from a bereaved family, I lost my brother and I have family that were former prisoners, unfortunately we also threw stones at you. … “The moment we learn to deal with each other’s pain and stop the anger against one another, the situation will be better,” the visitor said. “Our mission is to strengthen the family and also to take a step forward towards the liberation of my people. We believe that only through the hearts of the Jews will our liberation happen.”
He described the warm welcome the Fraenkels gave him, and said: “We are sorry for any harm against people, whether Jewish or Muslim. We don’t want anyone to be hurt, and want to reach a political agreement.”
The two Palestinians also described an upcoming initiative called the “Hunger Strike Against Violence,” next Tuesday, on which the Jewish fast of the 17 of Tammuz coincides with the ongoing Muslim Ramadan holiday.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ I hope that as we mourn Reb Zalman, we turn the mourning not only into tzedakah but also into tzedek (balanced justice), chesed (loving-kindness), and mishpat (justice on behalf of the poor and disempowered). “Tzedek u’ mishpat ashira: l’cha YHWH azamaira. Of love & justice I will sing, to the ONE Breath of Life I’ll sing praises!”
Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s newest book Dancing in God’s Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion is now available!
Gloria Steinem calls it, “A wonderful book! Before the hierarchies and divisions of religions, there was the all-inclusive circle of spirituality. In Dancing in God’s Earthquake, Rabbi Arthur Waskow helps us trace our path back to our spiritual home.”
For an inscribed book, write him at The Shalom Center. Otherwise, order at Orbis, 1-800-258-5838). He calls this book the “harvest of my whole life-experience – and like a harvest, intended not only to draw on the past but to feed the future.”