I went to DC on such short notice because now is an emergency.
Let me repeat: Now is an emergency.
The sky is falling on Gaza right now. The Israeli Defense Force is unleashing the bombs. The US government is supplying many of those bombs and more and more money to purchase more bombs from the US military supply industry. The White Christian Nationalists and Christian Zionists are cheering this on and providing the political will/trap for the vast majority of even the most well meaning US politicians who have at worst cheered it on, and at best said meaningless words towards ending this war, this time. The exception, of course, are Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush – a Palestinian-American woman and a Black woman – who have waded into the water, praying the sea splits.
A group of organizers who are pro-human life at Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now created a container for anyone and everyone to do something about this emergency. For a Jewish response to the ongoing onslaught that threatens genocide on the people in Gaza. For a container to hold and help direct the grief Jews feel both about the atrocious Hamas attack on Simchat Torah and the collectively punishing retaliative response. They invited the world to attend what became the largest Jewish-led showing for Palestinian lives in recorded history.
As I said, this is an emergency.
We all respond to emergencies differently. The trauma specialists among us can tell you. Some flee. Some fight. Some appease. Some freeze. These are some of the survival responses of the part of our mind-body-soul that will override just about anything else to preserve life of the beholder. We must hold these parts of us with compassion – inside our own selves and inside of others.
But there is another part of our mind-body-soul. We hold the drive to preserve all life. All the lives. All of us. No “them.” It is this part that we must feed and nourish these days. That we must check in with. That we must listen to and act from, as much as we possibly can.
I could tell you about my time in DC. I could tell you that when I got to the church that provided us sanctuary to set up our action, they provided me food, drink, and dignity after a red-eye flight. I could tell you that as I davened/prayed in their sanctuary, the room filled with a beautiful, ready, inspired, and inspiring intergenerational mass of Jews and allies from all over the world, pre-organized into pods to protect and defend and support one another. I could tell you about the rabbi-pod I was in, with the two dozen amazing colleagues from all over the country — from elders to rabbinical students –– who on short notice had been asked to be at the center of the action. I could tell you about blowing shofar and leading songs from the center of the Cannon House Office Building’s iconic rotunda, surprising and overwhelming onlookers and security with our non-violent showing of prayer, plea, and unity. I could tell you about the 400+ of us who were arrested and held together in a warehouse for hours and hours without food and with very little water (admittedly more than the residents of Gaza are alloted). I could tell you about the cathartic moment of being released when all of the feelings from the day finally welled up in my chest and my throat and my cheeks and my eyes. I could tell you about all that. And I’d be happy to. Let’s talk.
But what I want to tell you about is this: just at the cathartic moment of being released, I noticed a dear rabbinic colleague being comforted by others, crying tears of pain and tragedy.
While we were being arrested and held for hours, the family of her dear friend had all been killed in Gaza by another Israeli bombing.
This is an emergency.
Please do whatever you can today – moving beyond the part of us that is designed to preserve our own individual life to the part of us that can be creatively and resiliently tapped to preserve all lives. The people in Gaza need us to act. The people of Gaza need us to act now.
This is an emergency.
And we can do something about it. And what we do about it can work.
Since beginning our showing to Congress, there has been a wave of change. While we were singing in the rotunda, WA-7 Representative Pramila Jayapal signed on to the Tlaib/Bush Ceasefire Now Resolution. The next day (Thursday) CA (Oakland area) Rep. Barbara Lee and TX (Houston area) Rep. Greg Casar both joined in as well. At the time of this newsletter, the list has grown to include eighteen House representatives. Let us multiply this eighteen – the Jewish number for life, chai – until ceasefire comes! And on the flight home, a friend shared the news that over 400 congressional staffers joined in calling for a ceasefire as well.
Of course coupled with this momentum is a US veto of the UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and an Oval Office speech from President Biden not calling for a ceasefire, despite calling to “not to be blinded by rage.” [sic] And so.
We must keep the momentum. We must create systems where some of us rest while others are pushing. And then switch. This is an emergency and our efforts are working. It is working and this is an emergency.
As some Kadima elders/long-timers, and board members said during calls this week to move Kadima toward principled action: this is not the time to critique language and theory. This is a time to act alongside anyone who is willing to say “ceasefire now!”
And as the psalms say:
מִֽי־הָ֭אִישׁ הֶחָפֵ֣ץ חַיִּ֑ים אֹהֵ֥ב יָ֝מִ֗ים לִרְא֥וֹת טֽוֹב׃
Mi ha-ish ha’chafetz chayim, oheiv yamim lir’ot tov
Who is the person who desires life, who cherishes years to experience creation? (Psalm 34:13)
May we act as though we desire life. May life be our motto. May we act as though we desire more time for all upon this earth to experience creation. May the answer to the psalmist’s question above prove to be you and prove to be me.
Jewish Voice for Peace: President Biden, call a ceasefire now and Tell Congress to support ceasefire
MPower Action: Ceasefire in Gaza Now! petition
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: Ongoing list of ceasefire protests across the US and Canada AND Action Toolkit
Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s office: Sign to support immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine
Synagogues Rising: Get your synagogue to sign on for ceasefire joining the 22 nationwide already signed on, including two in Seattle
PS - If you would like to read R’ David thoughts on this week’s torah portion, Noah, entitled “Doing the Best, and All We Can,” here is a teaser:
…the rabbis’ conclusion may surprise you: after two and a half years of discussing this issue, they indeed conclude that it would have been better if humans had not been created. But, that is not where they end the conversation. Since we were created, they say, we should examine our actions and, some say, be precise. Intentional. I understand this as an ask to rise to our absolute best-we-can as much as we can…Read more here