Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quebec City, Har Nof, Charleston, Oak Creek, Hebron, Birmingham....

Quebec City... Charleston ... Oak Creek ... Har Nof ... Hebron ... Birmingham ... 
The word 'sanctuary' implies a place of safety, a place where one can stand or kneel before God in prayer and fully inhabit one's vulnerability. But we also know that houses of worship can be targets of hatred and murderous violence. I remember my reaction upon learning about the massacre or worshippers in the synagogue in Har Nof in 2014 -- and I imagine that Muslims throughout the United States and Canada are feeling something similar now to what I felt, some painful mix of grief and fear and indignation and concern, as I made unsuccessful efforts to cleanse my mind of images of blood and violence in what is supposed to be a place of peace and tranquility. The horrific murders in the masjid in Quebec City yesterday should shake every person of every faith -- because of the precious lives that were lost, and because we know that this massacre could have taken place in our own houses of worship.
Our synagogue leadership is meeting with the Hoboken Police Department tomorrow, as we do periodically, as part of our process of keeping our synagogue safe, with the knowledge that there are those who would do harm to our community if given the opportunity. Certainly the leaders of masjids throughout the United States and Canada are having similar meetings to assure their safety at this time when it is clear that there are haters who would do them harm. I feel so fortunate to know that the Hoboken Police Department would come to our aid if we were in need; they have our back -- as should always be the relationship between law enforcement and law-abiding citizens and residents. (And I know that there are so many Muslims in the United States who equally deserve to feel protected by government and law enforcement and yet they feel, through no fault of their own, that that relationship is antagonistic. I pray that over time, that relationship between communities and law enforcement gets better and better, not worse and worse.)
At the Shalom Hartman Institute Conference on Jews and Muslims earlier this month, I got to learn from Haroon Moghul, who gave voice to his experience as an American Muslim a few days before the new administration. How much and how little has changed in a few days... in the brief interview below from earlier today, he expresses what it is like to be an American Muslim today, and why and how he remains hopeful despite all the fear and anger and grief.
In memory of those who were murdered in Quebec City, and in all houses of worship, may we work to fulfill these verses about the security to which we all aspire:
ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד
I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and nothing will make you tremble. (Lev. 26.6)
וישבו איש תחת גפנו ותחת תאינתו ואין מחריד
Then everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and nothing will make them tremble. (Micah 4:4)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts on the Inauguration

I have started blogging at the Times of Israel web site -- you can find my thoughts on the US Presidential Inauguration there, at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/kings-and-presidents-bowing-and-standing/

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Some thoughts on the West Bank ... from 1986

Israel's policies regarding settlements in the West Bank aka Judea and Samaria are in the news even more than usual -- with the United Nations Security Council resolution two weeks ago, Secretary  of State Kerry's address last week, and the nomination of a US ambassador to Israel who stakes out a position to the right of Prime Minister Netanyahu by stating his principled opposition to a Palestinian state. 

One of the more entertaining books about Israeli society of the 1970s and 1980s is Zeev Chafets's book "Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men: Inside the New Israel," published in 1986 (and with used copies now available for nearly free). I remember enjoying this book when I was in high school.  I recently took a look at it and was sad to be reminded that more than 30 years and so many lives later, not much has changed regarding the major outlines of the conversation about Israeli policies regarding the future of the West Bank. The choices remain more or less those that are described in this piece (except, of course, that all the population numbers have steadily increased). People who think this is an easy problem to solve probably don't fully understand it.  This piece reminds us why the status quo has endured for so long, as all other possibilities have such strong negatives.  And yet the difficulty of the situation notwithstanding, everyone has been paying a terrible price for the endurance of the status quo for so long. 

Zeev Chafets, "Heroes and Hustlers, Hard Hats and Holy Men: Inside the New Israel," 1986