I am writing this note which I have meant to write since returning from the human rights mission to Israel and Palestine that I co-led in October; a trip organized by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. It was an amazing trip in many ways, and a sorrowful one too, as we saw the painful places where human rights are damaged if not discarded. I urge you to go on next year's trip, which will take place in mid-November.
Among many other things, we saw the destruction that is wrought by too many Israeli settlers. We stood on the charred ground that had been a thriving olive grove only days before, before settlers set fire to it, as they also poison and cut down other trees and groves, seemingly just because they are owned and run by Palestinians. We stood with cave dwellers in the south Hebron Hills and a day later they and Israeli advocate Ezra Nawi were attacked by armed and masked "bandit" settlers. We visited Hebron, where streets are empty of life except in the area of the Cave, because Palestinian shops have been locked and so have many homes, and where the main street near the Cave is divided by a cement barrier; Palestinians walk on one side, Israelis, Americans, on the other, watched by a soldier.
Israel has many real security needs. But I have come to know that the ways in which the occupation of the West Bank is enforced go way beyond those needs to the realm of harsh discrimination and ready violence, aided by a complicity military and government.
This is all preface to my main point to you: I have changed my mind about the purchase of products made in the Jewish West Bank. All the rabbis I spoke to in Israel, who were not only RHR rabbis, are not buying West Bank products. I have decided to join them. Therefore, I will no longer oppose those who refuse to buy Ahava products.
The list produced by Gush Shalom is attached, if you want to think about this as well.
I have no interest in embarrassing any of you, my colleagues. I will not be standing in front of Ricky's urging a boycott. But I have come to think I must support it.
Thanks for "listening." I leave Monday for a month's sabbatical, so will have little chance to talk to any of you before going. I would be happy to talk when I return, if you like.
I wish you all a happy and hopeful new year.
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives www.kolotchayeinu.org
Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives is a Jewish congregation in Brooklyn, where doubt can be an act of faith and all hands are needed to build our community. We are creative, serious seekers who pray joyfully, wrestle with tradition, pursue justice and refuse to be satisfied with the world as it is. As individuals of varying sexual orientations, gender identities, races, family arrangements, and Jewish identities and backgrounds, we share a commitment to the search for meaningful expressions of our Judaism in today's uncertain world.