We don't need to agree on everthing to work for peace and justice

June 22,2017 Throwback Thursday — June 23, 2017

June 22,2017 Throwback Thursday

Power, Peacemaking, and Good Food

(October 2015)

At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday evening we lost power at my house.  Muhammad said “the oven is not on.”  He, Maya, and Suli had spent the entire afternoon cooking a Mediterranean feast for our fundraiser.   “Why spend hundreds of dollars on a caterer, when we can cook and they will taste something they never could have anywhere in the world but in Palestine and Israel?”  We purchased $132 of tomatoes, parsley, bulgur wheat, rice, two chickens, eggplant, onions, garlic, yogurt, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, oil, cauliflower, cucumber, squash, and tahini and away they cooked.

Combatants For Peace builds relationships by sharing meals and personal stories of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Sulaiman, as a 14 year old living in the West Bank, became entrenched in violent responses to the occupation.  “At 14, you don’t think things through,” he explained.  “I was angry at what I saw and experienced with the occupation and I wanted revenge.”  From rock throwing to Molotov cocktails, he attacked Israeli soldiers with knives in an attempt to capture their weapons.   As a political prisoner, he learned the art of non-violent action, his last hunger strike lasting two weeks.  He found these coordinated non-violent actions improved prison conditions.  He studied Hebrew, English, world history, and Gandhi, Dr. King, and Nelson Mandela.  When he left prison, he was morally committed to nonviolence and one of a handful of Palestinians who reached out to meet Israeli soldiers and founded Combatants For Peace.  “It is obvious to anyone who wants to see it that there is no military solution to this problem, not for the Israelis and not for the Palestinians.”

Maya grew up in a kibbutz near the Galilee.  She grew up a liberal who believed in a two state solution, but she had never met a Palestinian and rarely questioned the policies of the occupation.  She served in the Israeli military and protected her people.  She met her first Palestinian while attending an olive harvest in the West Bank with Combatants For Peace.  “He was a nice gentleman, he introduced himself, and then he told me he distributed ice-cream in Jerusalem and I was so disturbed at meeting him that I had to get out of there; so I went to the bus and stayed in my seat for the rest of the event.”  She later attended another olive harvest and was shocked when settlers attacked them, brutally beating one of their members.   “It felt strange,” she recalled, “finding that the Israeli forces were not defending me, but were on the other side, throwing tear gas at us.  We were peacefully harvesting olives, nothing more.”  Last year Maya was the organizer of the alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv, a Combatants For Peace event open to the public and attended by five-thousand Arabs and Israelis gathering to remember the fallen from both sides of the conflict.

At my home, far away from the violence, we prepared our small fund raiser for the Combatants For Peace.  They, who bring Israelis to harvest olives with Palestinian farmers, they who bring Palestinians to meet Israelis without bringing their guns or searching them at check points, they who create peaceful protests against home demolitions and road blocks, they who use giant puppets and theatre in front of armed combatants, and they who change the dynamics of the conversation by bringing people to see and hear and act in creative ways beneficial to both sides: “It is not a zero sum game,” says Sulaiman Khatib.


At 5:40 p.m., my wonderful wife Therese and I put out some candles and the power was restored.  At 5:45 the first guests arrived.  We served small glasses of freshly brewed beer and cider courtesy of our renowned brewmaster Jeff Browning and our guests watched a 7 min film about the Combatants For Peace.  Moving upstairs, we enjoyed conversation and a seven course home cooked Middle Eastern buffet.  The food was extraordinary, over forty people were fed, we have pledged or received gifts in support of the Combatants for Peace work, and we grew a little bit closer to one another.

Thank you for supporting this wonderful event.  Thank you for changing the conversation and sharing your wealth, your hope, and your friendship with our friends, the peacemakers, Combatants For Peace.


Stand in Solidarity: US Satellite Events, The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony April 30, 2017: — April 21, 2017

Stand in Solidarity: US Satellite Events, The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony April 30, 2017:

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians participate every year in this special event in Tel-Aviv produced and led by Combatants for Peace with the collaboration of the Parents Circle. Americans can mark this important day with them in their communities, by acknowledging the loss of life on both sides and to say that memorializing is not enough — we must act to end the circle of violence.

On Sunday, April 30th 2017, communities around the world will be holding satellite Memorial Day Ceremony events to stand in solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians who are seeking peace together.  Inquire or RSVP to attend an event in the US below:

New York City, NY

14th St. Y

344 E. 14th St., New York, NY 10003

April 30th at 6:30 PM EDT

Contact: Ilyssa Weingarden


Washington, D.C.

DC Jewish Community Center

1529 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036

April 30th at 6:00 PM EDT

Contact: Tali Herskowitz


Oakland, CA

First Congregational Church of Oakland (United Church of Christ)

2501 Harrison St., Oakland, CA 94612

April 30th at 6:00 PM PDT

Fort Collins, CO

Harmony Library

4616 S. Shields St., Fort Collins, CO 80526

April 30th at 12:15 PM MT

Contact: Elissa Tivona


Medford, MA (Tufts University)

Venue: TBD

April 30th at 7:30 PM EDT

Contact: Aviva Herr-Welber



Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day 2017 —

Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day 2017


This year, on April 30, 2017, Combatants for Peace will hold the Israeli-Palestinian memorial day for the 11th time. Each year the numbers grow as more and more Israelis and Palestinians leave despair behind and join together in an evening of remembrance and hope. The ceremony is funded entirely by donations. Please support them now with your donation and share news of this years ceremony with your friends.

The Combatants For Peace Joint Israeli Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony — May 5, 2014
Israeli, Palestinian speakers spread message of peace — October 10, 2013
Bruce, Erez, Mohammad, Adi and Khadir on WNPR’s “Where We Live” — October 4, 2013
Monday, September 30th In Washington DC — October 1, 2013
Bruce, Erez, Mohammad and Adi in DC —

Bruce, Erez, Mohammad and Adi in DC

Erez Krispin, Mohammad Owedah & Adi Greenfeld
Erez, Mohammad and Adi

Adi Greenfeld of Combatants for Peace has an American accent. While standing in the J-Street conference registration line, a Freshman from Oberlin, hearing Adi speak and noticing “Israel” on her name tag asked when she moved to Israel and where in the U.S. she was born. Adi then teased us by shifting to a thick Israeli accent, which, she said, she could use in a pinch if our friends at home refused to believe she is Israeli, or perhaps, I thought, if I wanted to hear from someone sounding like the daughter of Henry Kissinger.

Mohamed has a charming smile, warm heart, and an alarming humor. “I am the sexiest Palestinian in Israel” he announced. “How else to explain how I convinced the airport security to change my ticket to match the Hebrew spelling of my name on my Israeli travel documents?” We purchased Mohamed’s ticket by spelling his name “Owaida” as it appears on his Jordanian passport with the U.S. visa. The Jordanian document translates the Arabic spelling to the English word “Owaida”, while the Israeli document translates the Hebrew to the English “Oweida.” Leaving Israel requires that his ticket read in English the same as his Israeli travel document. The travel agent told us we must cancel the old ticket and buy a new one at a transfer cost of $240. We were all pleased when the “sexiest” Palestinian was able to effect the transfer at no charge.

Erez remains the warm core of the team. His warm voice floats now between the chirping of the crickets. I hear them now, chatting in Hebrew on my Aunts porch in Fairfax Virginia. A day at the Jay street conference completed. They laugh, exchange stories, all very pleased with the day.

Erez Krispin, Stav Shapir, Anat Saragusti and Mohammad Owedah
Erez Krispin, Stav Shapir, Anat Saragusti,Mohammad Owedah

I was very pleased with the quality of the J Street event. This is an extremely thoughtful community of Jews working for two states side by side, safe and secure, viable, at peace and in relationship. Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J-Street, was very clear in his key note address that the Palestinian state must, among other things, be viable, include a capital in Jerusalem, be based on the boarders of 1967 with land swaps, find an equitable solution for the Palestinian refugees around the world, disband many settlements, and have systems for ensuring Israeli security. His theme “Our time to lead” inspired the many Jews attending to make this a reality by taking action now. I was thrilled then to attend break out sessions with thinkers, politicians, members of the Knesset, press, human rights groups, and activist groups wrestling through many obstacles and inspiring actions to bring the politicians to bring peace and justice to the region. Among the strongly represented groups: Peace Now, B’Tselem, One Voice, Just Vision, numerous members of the Knesset from Lukud, Labor, Yesh Atid, Hatnush, and the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. We even heard a key note address from director Dror Moreh, of the film “Gatekeepers.” The politicians were here to answer tough questions from a Jewish audience that wanted Israel to do more than give peace lip service to peace. No one here wanted to destroy Israel, but neither would they tolerate the continued occupation of the West Bank. Arguments were made on security, humanitarian, legal, moral, and religious grounds. They were not in a casual mood, but a sober, steady, firm determination to make peace and justice a reality through careful study and action.

ErezSpeaking_DCOne constant theme was the need for Israelis to meet Palestinians. All were aware that “normalizing” the situation was unacceptable, but that Israelis were so uninformed of the realities, that direct visits to The West Bank were critical. My largest criticism was that few Palestinians were at the conference.

Tonight, at a break out meeting of about a hundred attendees, Erez, Adi, and Mohammed shared their personal stories. All I Wage Peace supporters can be proud that you brought them to Washington to the J- Street conference. We spent the night sharing, arranging for later visits and contact with congregations. Thank you for making this possible.

Tomorrow we have more sessions, visits to the hill, and some media interviews. Have a blessed night; I will see you at the walk.


Questions and Answers — September 28, 2013

Questions and Answers

Sharing or not sharing Jerusalem, sharing water and natural resources, finding security for Israel, finding security for Palestine, imagining two states or imagining one state, pondering the status of the Palestinian refugees, the status of the settlements, the location of the security wall around Israel, the Israeli soldier, Tomar Hazen who was recently kidnapped and murdered, thousands of prisoners held with or without trial, the Israeli presence in the West Bank, the legal system in the territories, the word “occupation,” the word “terrorist,”  stories from long ago and not so long ago, olive harvests, pogroms, bombings, blame, a Jewish state, a secular state, a Muslim state, a Palestinian State, and a state of war…,*

This is why we pray.  This is why we walk.  This is why we must come together, in the face of controversy consuming, swirling around us, we draw close to one another in faith, hope, and good will, hearing each other  promising publically , in so much as it is in our power, to respect, honor, and protect one another in the United States, in Israel, and in Palestine.  This is why we pray.  This is why we walk and take the unity pledge. We cannot be idle.

The walk will not answer the tough questions; but it is part of living the solutions.  On Sunday, October 6th, we will gather as family, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other faiths with our non-religious family as well.  We will walk with our peace partners, the Combatants For Peace;  brothers and a sisters who live amidst the controversy, fear, and suffering and however imperfectly, share their experiences honestly, lovingly, and respectfully, at times disagreeing, but always taking action for peace and justice for all their people, here in the United States, in Israel, and in Palestine.  We can do no less than they: Come to the IWagePeace Walk, on October 6th, 2:00 Sharp, on the New Haven Green.  (I suggest arriving at 1:30 so you can park and hear the Nation Drum Squad.)

Come dressed modestly, covering arms and knees, as we will visit our brothers and sisters at the Mosque.  Come thoughtfully, even prayerfully, as we will walk inside Christ Church. Come expecting family, as our Jewish brothers and sisters, our cousins in faith, will welcome us with open arms. The walk prepares us for solutions to the problems burning in our hearts.  We know the questions that matter; please come to the walk, a spiritual discipline  preparing us for the answers.

Salaam, Shalom, and Peace,


Learn More About the Walk at www.IWagePeaceWalk.Org 

* An earlier version included the phrase “those from whom Christians and Muslims are descended.” Muslims and Christians are not “descended” from our Jewish family. This phrase was referring to the chronology that the prophet Moses came before the prophet Jesus came before the prophet Mohammed. I have removed the phrase to avoid confusion. I apologize for the error.

Forgive me for neglecting important issues, for offending or phrasing poorly.  I attempted only to identify a number of key issues or topics of pain or controversy,  not listed in any particular order, and this is not an exhaustive list.  It is meant to help us realize the importance of our communal response.


— September 19, 2013

Yesterday morning I received two biography’s, one from Mohamed Awaida and the other from Khdair Najjar, both Palestinian members of Combatants For Peace, both coming to the walk on October 6th.

From childhood, they grew up under Israeli military control of the land they call home, Khdair in Yitma, near Nablus, and Mohammed in Silwan near the Western Wall.  From childhood, they learned about Jews and Israelis through their peers and through contact with armed Israeli soldiers governing much of their lives, soldiers ordered to protect Israel and Israeli settlers against those whom the Israelis called “terrorists.”  In the fog of war, experiencing violence and threats of violence amidst the inevitable conflict between military and civilian control, they joined Palestinian resistance  organizations, trying various ways to end the Israeli presence in their home, trying to “end the occupation” of their land, but never actually meeting Israelis as equals until they joined Combatants For Peace.

I also received biographies of two Israelis, Erez Krispin and Adi Greenfeld, both Israeli Jews, soldiers and patriots under orders to protect Israel against the Palestinian “enemy.”  Just as the Palestinian’s learned to see the Israelis as “occupiers” they grew up seeing Palestinian’s as “terrorists.”  Adi, stationed in Tel Aviv, never drew close to the territories and never saw how the Palestinians lived each day, how agonizing was the situation.  Erez, an officer serving in the West Bank and Gaza, knew Palestinians only from  taking such action as he was ordered or taught by his peers, trying to weaken Palestinian will and break their resistance to Israeli control.  It took time and courage for them to visit the West Bank unarmed and meet the Palestinians face to face, as equals.  It took time to learn the situation from their point of view, and it took time and courage for Mohammed and Khdair to meet Israelis, face to face as equals, and it took time to find ways that they could work together to end the “situation” they inherited.

We must take time on October 6th at 2:00 p.m. when Khdair, Mohammed, Erez, and Adi will walk through New Haven as brothers and sisters in a common cause for justice and peace for both their people.  Please join them, welcome them, draw inspiration from their story and their work. Come to the walk on Sunday, October 6th, 2:00 p.m. at  the New Haven Green, invite them to your house of worship, and the following week come and hear them at Milford City Hall on October 13th at 4:00 pm.  Let them see Muslim, Christian, Jew, and others, walk with them side by side, pledging ourselves, in so much as it is in our power, to defend and protect them in the United States, Israel, and Palestine.  Come to the walk.