Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Rethinking Israel-Palestine

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Brant Rosen has been breaking new ground over the last week. Although there have been several Jewish clergy who have taken on Israel/Palestine issues, Rabbi Rosen's stand is significant because of his role as rabbi of a large congregation. He has succeeded in doing his work while maintaining the intricate web of relationships that sustain a community.
He was the first rabbi I saw to openly address the Palestinian nakba (the Palestinian experience of dispossession and exile as a direct consequence of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948) and publicly refusing to participate in the community-wide Israel Solidarity Day.

Rabbi Rosen is in the middle of a remarkable congregational trip to Israel/Palestine. Instead of the usual, Israeli-Jewish tour guide covering the standard Israeli Zionist narrative, his trip is led by a Jewish-Palestinian tourism agency. You can read a fascinating diary of Rabbi Rosen's Israel-Palestine trip on his blog Shalom Rav.

There are many local coexistence programs in Israel-Palestine. This is a wonderful way for American Jews to support these local efforts, and, at the same time to construct a new, Jewish-American narrative for  Israel that acknowledges Palestine. We can help realize the vision for coexistence in Israel-Palestine by supporting the pioneers and by rethinking our received beliefs on the history of Israel-Palestine.

When I moved to the States some 12 years ago people here were largely ignorant of the issues. In 2000, I addressed a skeptical Jewish audience trying to convince them of settler violence against Palestinians on the West Bank. We have come a long way since then.  But, at the same time, for American Jews, Israel is  still a very difficult topic. At a time when Jews are avoiding the divisive topic of Israel, Rabbi Rosen is engaging fully with the issues and opening up the conversation in the American Jewish community.

Yishar koach!
With Rabbi Brant Rosen (at a worker justice rally in Chicago in the summer)

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