Rabbi Arthur Waskow 09/08/2003
As explained in the urgent plea from Israeli peace and human rights groups that we sent you, now is a crisis moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Netanyahu government is using its lame-duck power to shatter Palestinian communities through land grabs, house demolitions, highway-building that destroys farmlands, etc.
What can we do?
1. Urgent and immediate letters to Israeli and US officials and to the Jewish and general press, urging an immediate halt to all such destructive actions by the Israeli government. Addresses are listed at the end of this letter.
2. Gathering people to hold the "Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah," as a way of informing and inspiring people and also as a moment in which people can take further acts of peacemaking.
3. Planning NOW for groups of Jews (or Jews and Arab-Americans together) to meet with Members of Congress or their chief assistants in their home offices in the days RIGHT AFTER the Israeli elections -- especially the week of June 1, when the run-off for Prime Minister is likely.
All of these are explored in more detail below.
Blessings that your work for peace in the world flow back to you with a deeper sense of peace and harmony in your own life!
Speak out and support the Israeli peace & human rights campaign!
Send letters, e-mails or faxes demanding that Israel cease "creating facts" on the ground and enter sincerely into final status negotiations with the Palestinians. Send them to:
* Your representatives in Congress;
* Secretary of State Madeline Albright (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Fax: (202) 736-4461);
* Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Fax: +972-2-566-4838; Email: email@example.com );
* The nearest Israeli Embassy or Consulate: Embassy in Washington, DC Fax: (202) 363-4156 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
** Write a letter to your local general and Jewish newspaper, saying that your concern for the future of Israel -- its safety, its peace, and its ethical nature -- motivates you to urge an immediate end to demolitions of Palestinian homes and to destruction of Palestinian land-areas by highway-building on the West Bank.
** Mobilize your own congregation or Jewish communal organization to do the same.
THE ISRAELIS WROTE, " This is an historic turning-point. Either we act and speak out now to save the peace and prevent the Occupation from becoming permanent, or we consign future generations on both sides of the conflict to a bleak future of war and oppression. Join us!"
Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar & Sarah
The Seder emerged from The Shalom Center's work for peace.
Now let us turn specifically to the Seder.
First, you might plan a "Seder for the Children of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah." It could be a Jewish event, or one that brings Jews and Palestinians (or American Jews and Muslims) together.
The text of the Seder appears in the current issue of Tikkun magazine. You can get that issue by sending $8 and a LARGE (9X11) self-addressed stamped envelope ($2.09 postage) to Shalom Center, P O Box 380, Accord NY 12404. (If you can add a donation to help meet the considerable costs of preparing and publicizing the Seder, please do.)
Libby & Len Traubman at LTRAUBMAN@igc.org . have been in touch with Jewish-Arab dialogue groups all over the country, and may be able to connect you with one near you, or advise you on how to start one that could co-sponsor a Seder.
Secondly, with or without such shared sponsorship, your synagogue or local chapter of another Jewish group may be willing to host this Seder. We suggest using the evening of Sunday, April 4. Not only is it the fifth night of Pesach; it is also the night after Easter Sunday, and the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King. (The end of the Seder includes some words of his.)
Third, you might invite your own friends to gather on the evening of April 4 for this special Seder in your own home.
In any or all of these cases, there are actions you might take at the Seder itself that would advance the cause of peace between Israel and an emerging viable, integral, and peace-committed Palestinian state.
I know that all of us sometimes quail at the prospect of so much work to do for peace. Remember! -- We do not have to finish the job, or do it all ourselves. If we take up some part, we can make change happen without burning ourselves out.
We are listing four work areas. If you want to choose just one of these, great!
And you may want to treat the Seder itself as a moment of covenant, celebration, and prayer, in which those present commit themselves to gather at some later time to plan further action.
- 1. You can alert the press and other media to your Seder, if it is public and communal. The news media hunger for Passover stories , especially ones that are a little off-beat. So you can call a religion writer on your local daily paper, and the editor of your Jewish paper, and the news desk of a few local radio and TV stations , to let them know. You can send them a press release, using as much as you like of the model one we are including in this mailing (see below). The point of doing this is that the media can make publicly known the commitment of American Jews and Arabs to work together for peace.
2. You and your Seder guests and participants can join with "Breaking the Silence," a network of American Jews who placed ads in the New York Times , Forward, and Jerusalem Report almost a year ago. The ads urged the US government to strongly encourage Israel to move forward in the peace process.
Since then we have heard from people in the White House that these ads helped convince the US government that large parts of the Jewish community strongly supports US as well as Israeli action for peace.
So at the end of this letter you will find this Break-Silence statement, and a form for joining your efforts to those who signed. You yourself can join this effort, and you can share this statement with your guests -- inviting them to join as well.
And you can work with your friends to place this statement -- and whatever added remarks you like -- as ads in your own local Jewish or general newspaper. It is crucial to remind the whole Jewish community of the existence of strong Jewish support for peace.
3. You can act to end the Israeli government policy of demolishing hundreds of Palestinian homes.
As you will see, one of the major concerns of the "Story-telling" (maggid) section of the new Seder is the story of these demolitions -- not because of any charges of terrorism, but often because applications to permit adding rooms for new babies, etc., have been turned down and the Palestinians built extra rooms anyway.
Ending these destructive and rage-producing demolitions is one of the major goals of Rabbis for Human Rights, the only Israeli rabbinic organization that includes rabbis who are Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist.
Protests from Americans have had an important impact on Israeli government policy concerning home demolitions. At your Seder, you can take immediate action by having your guests join in a letter to Israeli and US officials on this horrendous policy.
4. You can plan to talk with Members of Congress to strengthen US peace efforts with the next Israeli government.
During this Pesach season, Israel is in the midst of an election campaign , in which peace issues are in the forefront. No matter who is elected in Israel, US action will matter in getting the peace process under way again.
If a peace-oriented Prime Minister is chosen, American anti-peace organizations may try to undermine him in Washington, as they did while Rabin and then Peres were Prime Minister. If an anti-peace Prime Minister is chosen, we may well face a major crisis -- since proclamation of a Palestinian state may soon follow. In either case, you can affect what the US does.
The regular Israeli election is set for May 17. A run-off election for Prime Minister will probably be necessary. It is scheduled for Tuesday, June 1.
At your Seder, you and your friends can plan to visit the local-district office of your Member of Congress later during the week of June 1, after the run-off election in Israel. Call ahead of time to schedule a meeting with the Senator or House Member or with his or her chief assistant.
From April 4 to June 1, you will have plenty of time to educate yourselves about what to say to these officials. Write Tikvanet@aol.com for more information from Break the Silence, and note the sheet of ideas that comes with this letter.
May your celebration of Pesach bring you a new sense of freedom, and may all the seasons of your life be seasons filled with joy.
Here's the draft of a PR piece for congregations sponsoring Seders to use. Feel free to modify it as you like. If a PR person in the congregation is available for this project, feel free to offer this as a possibility.
A PASSOVER FOR PEACE BETWEEN ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS:
ON APRIL 4, CONGREGATION XYZ WILL HOLD A SEDER FOR THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM, HAGAR, & SARAH
Why is this Seder different from all other Seders?
Because at all other Seders, we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
At this Seder, we tell the story of the collisions and reconciliations that have intertwined the children of Abraham and Sarah -- the Jewish people -- with the children of Abraham and Hagar -- the Arab peoples.
This story of conflict, suffering, and efforts to make peace began more than three thousand years ago, and this very day continues among Israelis and Palestinians.
The new SEDER draws deeply on the Biblical and Koranic accounts of Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, and Isaac, and includes as part of its "Telling," eyewitness accounts of the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians, and their acts of peacemaking.
Congregation XYZ will hold a communal SEDER OF THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM, HAGAR, AND SARAH on the night of April 4, uniting a wonderful moment for celebration and joy with efforts to build support for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
That night is the fifth night of Passover, the night of Easter Sunday, and the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King.
This new Seder was "woven" by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, author of the famous Freedom Seder, which was published in 1969 and deeply changed everyone's assumptions about what a Seder could be. Waskow is director of The Shalom Center, a national network that draws on Jewish wisdom to seek peace, pursue justice, and heal the earth.
In many communities in North America, and some in Europe and Israel, families, synagogues, havurot, Hillel Houses, and independent community-wide committees are planning to hold this Seder, some as a Jewish event, some as a joint effort by Jews and Arab-Americans.
In its March issue (now available), Tikkun magazine has published a special 8-page insert with text and graphics for the new SEDER.
To get a copy of the March issue of Tikkun, and information on how to make the Seder into an effective celebration of peacemaking, send a check for $8.00 and a self-addressed large (9 x 11) envelope with $2.09 in stamps to -- Shalom Center, Box 380, Accord NY 12404
What follows here is the statement of an American Jewish network, "Break the Silence" published last spring in the NY Times, the Forward, & Jerusaalem Report. New signers are welcome; the campaign goes forward.
U.S. JEWS, BREAK THE SILENCE
Yitzhak Rabin courageously pursued a course of peace through the Oslo peace accords. The current policy of the Netanyahu government is wrong. It reverses years of progress between the people of Israel, her Arab neighbors, and the Palestinian people. WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT.
We, the undersigned individuals represent U.S. Jews who want to return to the courageous policies of Yitzhak Rabin. We do not back the policies of the Netanyahu government. The time is now to organize Jews of every background to speak-out against the current Israeli government's return to a policy of fear and non-cooperation with her Arab and Palestinian neighbors.
We call on all like-minded Jews to join us. Help us to launch a national signature campaign and collect as many names as possible of Jews who will say publicly that they do not support Netanyahu's policies.
Help us show that the vast majority of U.S. Jews endorse a return to Rabin's policy, as expressed in the OSLO Accord, to exchange land for peace. Let it be known that we welcome the efforts of the Clinton administration to encourage the Netanyahu government to return to the OSLO commitments.
We look forward to fulfillment of the Israeli National Anthem, "Hatikva": the hope. We maintain that just as the Jewish people needs to live "Am Chofshi B'artzeinu," a free people in our own land, so the Palestinian people needs the option to live a free people with their own state alongside us, in peace with us.
We agree with Shimon Peres when he said: "Let me say it clear: 'In order for there to be a Jewish state, there must be a Palestinian state.'"
We join with Jews everywhere when we say we are Jews who yearn for peace and a secure Israel. And this is the best way to bring about a secure Israel, DO NOT LET YOUR SILENCE SPEAK FOR YOU.
Join the Break the Silence Signature Campaign. Gather as many signatures of U.S. Jews as you can who endorse this statement, and send names and contributions to:
Break the Silence Campaign,
Washington, D.C. 20035
___ Please add my name to signers of the BREAK THE SILENCE statement.
enclose a contribution of $ _____ to help publicize it.
City/ State/ Zip __________________________
Organization/ Title, if you like _________________