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Jewish American Voices for Peace
In the October
2008 issue of The Sun
Magazine, acclaimed Israeli author David Grossman says:
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1. From “How a Boy Became My Hero,” a portion of a piece called “Addressing the Taboo: The Jewish Capacity for Inflicting Pain”, by Osie Gabriel Adelfang
“…I must have been 14 that summer, at the Jerusalem Hilton Hotel pool with my 10-year-old cousin, Haim. As we dressed to leave the pool, I was still blown away that the little kid I'd never much noticed had gone along with my "let's sneak in without paying" scheme as though he did that kind of thing all the time. I threw a skirt and tank top over my swimsuit, and Haim put on shorts and a t-shirt, using his left hand to do the work that his right arm, injured at birth, could not do. I noticed, but did not comment, on the fact that he did not replace the yarmulke he had taken off to swim. I had a sudden thought, which I remember as clearly today as if I were still sitting on that plastic pool chair on that hot, dusty Jerusalem afternoon. The thought was: "He's going to be my favorite, forever. And he's going to be a rebel--and no way religious." Haim thinks this is a funny story, because he remembers the pool but does not remember the yarmulke incident (which ends badly, when his teacher from the ultra-religious private school he attends happens to board the bus and catches his bare head sitting next to an immodestly dressed 14-year-old girl, and he reaches that good left hand into his shorts pocket fast as lightning and throws the yarmulke on). He did not, himself, know he was going to end up living a secular life, or rebel in a truly meaningful way, until many years later.
When he gave up the yarmulke for good, he was serving as a tank commander in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Because of the arm, the military did not want to put him into combat when he was drafted. But the kid, a proud Israeli boy raised on the tradition of service and self-defense, wanted to serve where it counted. He wanted to protect his country. He fought the system, and hard, for his right to do so. He won. Haim served during the (first) Intifada, and by our next meeting, in 1996, he was not a boy at all, but a 26-year-old man. Over drinks, cigarettes, and calamari (in a Jerusalem bar! On Shabbat! How times change!), he told me about his service and about the Intifada. My body warmed by glasses of red wine, I felt my heart fill with pride and love for him as he talked about the growing peace movement. He was so passionate and optimistic. He told me the Intifada was like Israel's Viet Nam, that it had taught the country that occupation would not work, that the youth peace movement would make all the difference. He had already refused to serve his twice-yearly reserve duty in the territories, refused to shoot rubber bullets at children. I felt his enthusiasm for the near-end of the occupation, his belief in the coming peace. I remember that Jerusalem night brightly, too, his steady arm around me as we walked home through ancient streets, I remember thinking: "I was right about him, all those years ago!” Neither of us with the slightest idea of what was coming next.
2. From “Heresies in Pursuit of Peace: Thoughts on Israel/Palestine”, by Starhawk
In the ruins of Jenin, an old friend of mine is digging bodies out of the rubble where Israeli bulldozers flattened houses, burying people alive. Blackened, maggot riddened corpses, unearthed from the rubble, are displayed to anguished relatives for identification. A teenage girl unearths an infant's arm and wonders what to do with it. A Palestinian father cries over the dark smears of flesh that once were his two little daughters. Another Jewish friend leaves an anguished message on my cell phone: "I'm in downtown Washington DC. There's a huge, pro-Israel rally going on. I don't understand it. How can Jews support this? I know you must have something inspirational to say. Send me what you write."
She doesn't know that for weeks I've been trying unsuccessfully to write something about the situation. I'm overwhelmed with accounts of the atrocities. Yet I am also haunted by images of bodies shattered at a Seder meal, at a café, a Passover drenched in a new plague of blood. I'm frightened and saddened by the real resurgence of anti-Semitism, by swastikas carried in peace marches, synagogues attacked.
3. From “Tel Aviv to Al-Jalzoon Refugee Camp: 30 Miles but a World Away,” by Tomi Laine Clark
It took me five buses and four hours to get roughly 30 miles from Tel Aviv to the Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah. The first leg involved taking an Egged bus from the central train station in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. From the main bus station in Jerusalem, I took another bus to Jaffa Gate, just outside of the Old City. I knew I had to get to the Arab bus station near Damascus Gate, which I discovered was about halfway around the wall of the Old City. I walked, and as I did I noticed the passerby slowly begin to change form. In only a few minutes they were no longer short and t-shirt clad tourists or kipa-wearing Torah readers. They were women in long coats and scarves, pulling children along in the sweltering heat. They were dark-skinned men in polo shirts and leather sandals yelling boisterously at each other from across the street. They were sellers of trinkets and refreshments whose wares were simply stacked on the sidewalk and available for one or two shekels. Upon reaching Damascus Gate, I asked some men how to get on a bus to Ramallah. They responded with the utmost courtesy, giving me directions in excellent English and in great detail, down to how many meters I should walk. The bus station in East Jerusalem was markedly different from its counterparts in both Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. There was trash everywhere, there was no shade, and there was certainly no air-conditioned waiting area. Absent, too, was the neatly ordered queue I was used to. Here, one needed to flag down one’s bus as it exited the station. It slowed to a crawl, but did not stop. I grabbed the door, jumped on, and attempted to ask how much the fare was, but was waved away as the bus lurched forward out of the station.
We were not stopped at the machsom when we entered the West Bank, but I noticed a sign as we passed through that said, in Hebrew, “No Israelis Allowed.” The scenery abruptly changed. The ubiquitous monolith known as “the security barrier” was still there, but now it was covered with graffiti of the “Free Palestine” variety. Also visible was “Zionism is Racism” and “I am not a terrorist.” My favorite was the 20-meter-wide “CTRL + ALT + DELETE.” Rubble was everywhere, as was barbed wire, garbage, and a healthy peppering of the downtrodden. They were trying to sell things to their fellow Palestinians while they waited in lines.