in your mouth and in your heart

8 01 2009

i haven’t written about gaza. i haven’t really talked about it with most people either. i’ve had bursts of anger that only my partner and one dear friend have witnessed, but for the most part, i’ve been silent.

which, really, is pretty f-ed up. because it’s not my family that’s been ghettoized (this time) for too long, and it’s not my family that’s had bombs raining down from the heavens (this time) and because it’s being done in my name. IN. MY. NAME. to protect the jewish people (that’s me). to protect be’er sheva (that’s been one of my homes). to protect the negev (that swath of desert i love so fiercely). to defend the rights of my friends and loved ones to exist in a land that we all want to claim but that none of us can ever own and that has known more innocent blood than any spread of this good, nurturing, life-giving earth ever should.

so i know i shouldn’t be silent. i know i should be decrying these actions because i do, so heartily, disagree with what the israeli government is doing. i should be reminding people that this is wrong. unequivocally wrong. and the only way in which we convince ourselves that this is okay is to make those lives in palestine count for less. to convince ourselves that those tears and mothers and daughters and sons don’t matter is to believe that they are less human than the mourners and families in ashkelon. really, sit with that for a minute. have you come to believe that their lives matter less? have you really convinced yourself that they are less deserving of joy and tears and freedom and opportunity and warm food and laughter than yourself – because they had the luck to be born 10 kilometers from you? i can not abide that. i can not accept that valuation of human life. i can not stand by that dehumanization.

but saying that is potentially terrifyingly lonely. so much joy in my life has come from the communities and warmth of the jewish people. so many of my friends have asked me to join them at rallies, or in facebook groups, or to add my name to lists that say that i always support israel. and the thing is, i don’t. not even close. but turning my back on that feels like turning my back on those that i love.

and then i remember how that shouldn’t matter. how this is a blog post, and a blog post and a few angry friends (who, if by now, haven’t figured out my radical politics, probably weren’t particularly good friends to begin with) are nothing compared to the death and destruction that has been enveloping the lives of the people of gaza for longer than this particular assault has been raging.

people are dying. innocent people are dying. and you can claim that it’s hamas’ fault, and that they use civilians as shields, and that may all be true – but the people of gaza are locked in one of the most densely populated regions of this planet, and how the hell is anyone supposed to get enough space from their neighbor to breathe, much less bear the burden of proof that they were not engaged in ilicit terrorist actions?

i can’t even speak in proper sentences, or use capitalization, because i can’t even give myself time to think or i get scared again. i’m afraid to write, to speak, to say what i know is right. to condemn the actions of my own when they have gone terribly off course. what we are doing is wrong. and i say we because i know that as long as i am a jew and israel exists, israel will not abandon me – and so i am accountable for the actions of the country that could always, one day, be my own. because this is being done in my name and at the hands of people i’ve laughed with, shared challah with, prayed with, danced with, and loved.

but we are doing is wrong, and it has to end. there is no justification for actions like this. people are dying, and their blood is on our hands.

our traditions teach us that we are always, above all else, to choose life. to save a single life is to have saved the world, and to destroy a single life is to have destroyed the whole world. and i say traditions very intentionally. this teaching is found in the torah, but it is also an important teaching of islam.

From the parsha Nitzavim (נצבים) in Deuteronomy 30:14-19

(14) כי–קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו

(15) ראה נתתי לפניך היום את–החיים ואת–הטוב ואת–המות וא–הרץ

(19) העדתי בכם היום את–השמים ואת–הארץ החים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים

(14) The thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it

(15) See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity.

(19) I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.

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4 responses

9 01 2009
Tracy Rosen

You describe how I feel. Not only how I feel, but what has been brewing, broiling, boiling, at my centre.
For real.

9 01 2009
sublimefemme

Have you read Joan Nestle on the Israeli occupation of Palestine?
http://joannestle.blogspot.com/

9 01 2009
jepaikin

Generally, Amen.
Now get up and do something!

12 01 2009
The siege of Gaza, of people, needs to end.

[…] I am Jewish I am intrinsically tied to a Jewish state? I can not be tied to what is going on now, in my name, in Israel and in Gaza. In order to keep my head high, in order to continue teaching with […]

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