Rabbibrian's Blog

A Voice for Justice and Peace in Israel/Palestine

Rabbis Declare Fast for Gaza

Posted by rabbibrian on July 10, 2009

Over the past few weeks, I have been privileged to work closely with Rabbi Brant Rosen and  several rabbinic colleagues developing a campaign to break the silence in the Jewish community on the issue of Gaza.  I am very pleased to invite you to participate in Taanit Tzedek-Jewish Fast for Gaza, the campaign that we launched yesterday.  This is the first rabbinical response to the suffering in Gaza.  Although rabbis have taken the lead in this initiative, we invite all Jews, all people of faith and all people of conscience to join us.

To read more about the project and to sign on as a participant, please visit our website: http://www.fastforgaza.net

I want to  acknoweldge the extraordinary vision and courage of my colleague, Rabbi Brant Rosen.  Rabbi Rosen was, in my opinion, the most courageous rabbi in America during the Gaza war.  On his blog and in many public settings, Rabbi Rosen, a brilliant congregational rabbi,  spoke the truth about the war at a time when there were just a handful of  rabbis  in America who said a word about the incredible suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people.  He upheld the Jewish commitment to menshlichkeyt/human decency at  a time of moral crisis.   Rabbi Rosen attempted to organize a public  rabbinic response to the war, but the effort was unsuccessful.

It has been so inspiring to join him now as  co-coordinator of the  first public rabbinic response to Israel’s immoral  collective punishment of all the residents of Gaza.

I hope you join the campaign.

Please share this widely with friends, colleagues, press contacts and people in your community who may be interested.

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9 Responses to “Rabbis Declare Fast for Gaza”

  1. louis frankenthaler said

    To Brian and Brant: Good for you! For I remember being in many Jewish settings over the years, where leaders may have been progressive, liberal and even radical as far as issues of justice were concerned. Yet when it came to Israel the tone changed, the language was transformed and for some reason they spoke in the discourse of dissonance… as if there human selves were somehow disconnected from their Jewish selves.

  2. [...] response to the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, my dear friend and colleague Rabbi Brian Walt and I have organized a new initiative, Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for [...]

  3. louis frankenthaler said

    On the Israeli enforced malnutrition of Gaza see this piece by PHR-Israel Director, Hadas Ziv,
    http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1099179.html

    She writes “Can the experts please explain: Why does the Health Ministry recommendation for the diet of Israeli infants and toddlers – “soft fruit such as bananas and avocado, cooked chicken and beef, and cheese cubes” – not apply to Palestinian children? These particular items are all strictly forbidden from entering Gaza, while rice and a limited selection of meat and produce are the only food items in fact allowed to enter.”

    • rabbibrian said

      Thank you,Louis for your comment and for the amazing work you do in Israel at the Public Committee against Torture in Israel.
      Many American Jews deeply committed to justice in America and around the world, create a “Separation Barrier/Mechitza” when it comes to issues of human right, justice and peace in Israel. Israel claims to the be the State of the Jewish people, there is no concern of greater importance on the mainstream American Jewish community than support for Israel, America provides billions of dollars of aid to Israel (just yesterday I noticed in an email from the RAC that one of the major action items of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was to support $30 billion of aid to Israel over the next years) and many progressive American Jews and progressive Jewish organizations deliberately avoid working on Israel.
      In our tradition there is a principle of “aniyey ir’cha kodmim”, the poor of your own city should be your first priority. The willingness of American Jewry to focus on issues of justice far away while ignoring Israel is a violation of this sacred and important principle. Where is the integrity in focussing on human rights violations done by others far away when you avoid the oppression that is done your name?
      I hope this Shabbat is one of peace and joy for you in Jerusalem.
      Shabbat Shalom!

  4. KRGallen said

    I am not a Jew; and I don’t know that much about Jews or Rabbis. But I do know something about Isreal; what they have done to the Gazan’s is horrible, on a Nazi-level scale of barbarity. It must take alot of guts to go against one’s “tribe” in opposing these policies, especially where the “outsider” victim could one day grow and turn violently back against the helper. It take real moral guts and clarity to take such a stand. But I think it is the right one, the only historically viable one. I was raised Catholic, far from the “fundamentalist” “Christian Zionists” that are cheek by jaw with the Isreali militarist fascists. I don’t know if there is a Catholic position on this issue, but I suspect most U.S.A. Catholics would cheer on your efforts. I hope it makes a difference.

  5. Emily said

    Mynon-Jewish friends who have come to hate Isreal b/c of its treatment of Palistinians and the U.S. for paying for its army will be glad to hear of your work.

  6. Bill Flastic said

    The Fast for Gaza sounds like a wonderful idea. I intend to join just as soon as the Gazans organize a “Fast for Israel” to commemorate all the Israelis that have been killed since 1948.

    Count me as waiting.

  7. Laurence Seeff said

    Dear Rabbi Walt,

    After reading about “Ta’anit Tzedek’ – Jewish Fast for Gaza, on various websites, your own included (fastforgaza.net) , I would like to commend you and your followers on your strong commitment “letaken olam bemalchut sha-dai” – to rectify the world and to render it under the sovereignty of G d.

    Your website provides impressive quotes from Leviticus, Avot and Isaiah which justify your cause and portray the moral driving force behind your commitment to humanitarian causes.
    As a citizen of Israel for the last 23 years, more than half my life, I would like nothing more than to see your cause and website succeed and bring welcomed peace to this troubled region. I am so thrilled that I will refer to the cause as “ours”, right away!

    I would however, like to make some humble suggestions and correct some small errors, with your kind permission, of course.

    1. Two very important quotes from the scriptures that I feel you have left out:
    a. “Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
    when you see the naked, to clothe him,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:7)
    b. “Your city’s poor take priority” – (Talmud Bavli, Baba Metzia Page 71 A)

    The first basically means “Charity starts at home” and the second, well, just reiterates the first. You quoted Isaiah 58:6 but apparently stopped there. The following teeny verse (Isaiah 58:7), might have helped put things back into the correct context, especially the bit about, “your own flesh and blood”.

    This might subtlety throw some of the spirit of our cause off-balance, so please carefully consider this change. It might also contradict our first Torah quote “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being spilled” (Leviticus 19:16), because we may have misinterpreted “neighbor’s blood” as “Palestinian blood”. I have actually personally seen my neighbor’s blood being spilled by Palestinian terrorists militants, not to mention the innocent blood spills while serving in the Israeli defense force.

    2. If we find it of utmost importance to show our motives as purely humanitarian, i.e. apolitical or attention-seeking, may I suggest the following:

    a. Add some history – Our first goal “to lift the blockade on Gaza”, obviously implying Israel’s blockade (although not specifically mentioned) seems like a commendable goal. To accurately portray the situation, we should refrain from implied criticism of Israel and add a note or two explaining the reasons that the crossings are closed to certain goods (like pipes which seem to land up being made into rockets). If we really want to develop this point fairly, we will need to stop implying a humanitarian crisis, because no such crisis exists. Civilian goods and services do enter Gaza, by the way, lots of them are confiscated by Hamas to be sold or used for their own good. (Oh, we forgot to mention too, that it was Egypt that closed the Gaza border before Israel did).

    This might also make the message we so adamantly want to portray, a little feeble but this is very important.

    b. Add some operable alternatives – If Israel’s security is important to us and our cause (especially in light of Hamas’s charter, repeated calls and attempts to destroy Israel), we might need to supply some workable alternatives to the current situation. A unilateral end to restrictions will have us back where we were a few years ago. It did not work then, so I find it hard to accept that it will work now. What are our alternatives? As the current text stands, it looks like Israel is busy thinking up and implementing hardships on civilians populations only, and our fast is a call to just stop cruelty.

    I don’t think that portraying Israel in a bad light with half-truths, at best, makes our cause or website credible, even if our prefixes are “Rabbi” or we have one anti-Zionist education professor as a guru.

    I think I should change “we” and “our” to “you” and ” your”. (I just need to be cautious).

    c. All your tweets seem to quote anti-Israel biased sources – the BBC, the Red Cross, UN and so on. (I can provide you with relevant reliable sources if you wish). Perhaps listing the countless humanitarian gestures Israel does grant the Palestinians, might just show a more balanced approach and halt the spread of Anti-Israel/Zionist/Semitic propaganda that you seem to have eagerly digested. You may like to inform your readers that there are always Palestinians in Israeli hospitals that are receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment. This might even encourage the less ignorant and more informed to join your cause.

    The following is an excellent source that covers the above paragraphs and sheds light on what is really happening without biased media distortion:

    http://www.zionism-israel.com

    Before I forget, please allow me to point you to Honest Reporting too. They seem to be able to rectify some of the media injustices by pointing out lots of hogwash that lace reports that the BBC, Guardian, N.Y and Los Angeles Times etc. serve their readers:

    http://www.honestreporting.com

    So far, it might look that your cause and website might be undergoing a slight shift in narrative. Although this is not my intention and as your homepage quotes “On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace” (Avot 1:18), it must certainly be imperative to do justice, speak the truth and promote peace, in that same order, right? By the way, Ma’an, the Palestinian website that embraces you so dearly, associates pictures of Ultra-Orthodox Jews with your cause. A brief background check shows that this is erroneous. You should be doing justice to your cause and their credibility by correcting this. I wish you best of luck in this endeavor to uphold justice and truth. Please inform me of the developments since I cannot fathom the thought that my new cause is already being smeared by certain elements.

    d. Add some other humanitarian tragedies – Why don’t you add some really acute humanitarian tragedies in which people are literally dying of starvation and literally being butchered? We could fast for all of them at once. I can think of Darfur, for one.
    This troubles me too since it takes the focus away from the Palestinians. This might be devastating to the cause. Hmmm…

    Perhaps returning the focus is a good idea, but without bashing Israel so much. Perhaps working to show how the Palestinian “leadership” has systematically and perpetually led their people astray and educates martyrdom by suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, may help promote peace.

    I apologize; I think I have gotten a little lost in trying to understand your goals. If you implement at least some of my suggestions, your humanitarian cause for Gaza, and your website might become a mumble-jumble and turn into a support Israel website instead of an Israel basher. I hope this falls in line with your Jewish roots, education and the sense of security that Israel provides for Jews anywhere in the world. If it doesn’t, then you might conclude that your website and cause are made of thin air or does not hold water with any sane individual.

    Since you have gotten this far, I really need to ask a personal question to hasten my pending registration and support. Are you both really so learned and experienced in Israeli politics, Israeli and Palestinian history, security, Middle East geopolitical issues, to arrogantly stand on moral high ground from the USA, and criticize Israel? Have you considered what “Israel’s security” entails, the thousands of generals, academics and politicians seeking answers to the conflict, billions of man-hours in development, patrols, security discussions, plans, maintenance, technology etc? If you can produce some credible background in the above, I won’t hesitate to join and will even fast twice a month.

    You should also be aware of the torah teaching not to put a stumbling block before the blind. In lieu of this, please feel free to fulfill this mitzvah and distribute this letter amongst your followers. I am terribly afraid that you are not going to need to remove a (one) stumbling block, but over 300 and something of them. Please do not deter, as we know: “It is not your duty to complete the work” (Avot B), however I always tell my kids “it is your duty to clean up your mess”.

    So, what have we, what have you done? You have pulled a card with the fashionable buzzword “humanitarian” from your back pocket and have used it to slap almost every Israeli and Jew with it. I could continue onto your ulterior motives, but will suffice with the above, for now. You might fast for your cause, and earn some points from those that don’t think twice before ….uh….fasting, but you are also pulling a fast one on your misguided followers.

    “If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother” (Deuteronomy 15:11).
    (Please don’t interpret “brother” as “Palestinian” – they are cousins, and there is lots to do in Israel amongst the needy).

    With justice, truth and peace…

    Laurence Seeff
    Israel

  8. Rabbi said

    It is far more than sad what you do because for each fast for Gaza, you should fas a hundred times for the Jews in Israel. Did you fast for them once, I doubt it. I think you are just another attantion seeker, even if it hurts Jews or Israel. I want you to go to Ashkelon and fast for my cousin and I know you won’t. I am very sorry but you are a travesty and tragedy to Jews and Judaism.
    Shimon Madai

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