IWagePeace

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

Bruce, Erez, Mohammad and Adi in DC — October 1, 2013

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.

Bruce

Advertisements
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,

Bruce

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.

Bruce

— 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.

A Yom Kippur Message — September 14, 2013

A Yom Kippur Message

Martin Luther King Jr. said that before any peace action, it is vital that the community engaging in the work participate first in an action of confession and self purification. 

Peacemaking is not easy work.   Faced with the constant realities of war, injustice, terrorism, poverty and oppression, peacemakers experience constant disappointment with society and the failed efforts of those around us.  Dr. King knew instinctively that without first exploring and confessing our deepest motivations, prejudices, and hidden agendas, we will unwittingly, gradually, in the heat of the battle for peace and justice, fall trap to self righteousness, pride, arrogance, and hatred for those with whom we must be reconciled.  Without engaging in a right of self exploration, confession, and purification, the peacemaker becomes part of the problem, the opposite of their intent, unconsciously shedding poison outwardly while inwardly dying.

 Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday and a faith ritual open to us all, reminds us that before waging peace, we must  explore our motivations and allow ourselves to be disarmingly honest about our feelings of doubt, hatred, bias, and fury with others, honest about our failings, our discomfort with loving the stranger and caring for the “enemy,” weeping our lamentation, feeling sadness for our plight. 

Such confession, (which I know only in part, for how could I know it well?) whether alone, with our clan or community of faith, prepares us for our work, knowing that a humble and contrite heart is acceptable and indeed, the greatest tool for Waging Peace.  Come to the walk,

Shalom, Salaam, Peace and courage be with us all this Yom Kippur,

Bruce A. Barrett
Founder, IWagePeace.Org

Fasting 7/19/2013 — August 13, 2013

Fasting 7/19/2013

It is Ramadan, and I fasted today, all day, from sun rise to sun set, letting neither water nor food touch my lips. Then before ending my fast, an unsuspecting lad handed me bottled water which I reflexively sipped, (wait I’m fasting!) Irony: I was at Masjid Al Islam, surrounded by my Muslim brothers and sisters, all waiting for sunset and the taste of their first sip of water and first bit of food since dinner the night before. The child handed me the water as a kindness because I am not Muslim and even while they fast, they were attending to my comfort.

Why is fasting wonderful?

Hunger is not the hard part of a day long fast. My body is healthy. I do not feel faint or weak. I am able to complete all my tasks. I am hungry, but not starved. No, hunger does not make fasting difficult, but eating and drinking are habits of pleasure, and when we interrupt those habits, a spiritual emptiness grips us and pulls us back to the pleasures we know. How we respond to that spiritual void is the challenge and beauty of fasting.

Each moment during my fast, when I feel my empty stomach, I desire to fill the space with a sip of water, a bite of a donut, or a savory cup of coffee. This brings me pleasure. (I love eating, who doesn’t?) When I eat that donut, I feel pleasure. The question is, how will I feel pleasure without my donut? If I can find no other pleasure during the day, then fasting will be a torture and I will suffer greatly this day. But if I can find another pleasure, a joy hidden from me and a blessing once distracted behind donuts and coffee, then for me fasting will be a wonder of new experience.

What hidden pleasures will fill my stomach? None. My stomach remains empty. But when I turn away from the cup of water, I think upon my loved ones? When I refuse the donut, I notice the beauty of the sky, the sound of a human voice, the swelling of my lungs, the beating of my heart, and the wonder of God. I weep for those who suffer hunger, oppression and misery, vicariously bonding with them through my empty stomach, and then I hear the distant laughter of weddings, and I know the world is larger than anyone suspects. Suddenly I am filled with an unexpected pleasure, spiritual food reminding me that God is greater than us all and I am but a miraculous moment on this earth.

At sunset, we eat our first bit of solid food, a delicious plump date, sweet and warm, succulent and a tender gift of flavor. Together, we will wage peace this year. We will feed our hearts with spiritual food, we will gather together, Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, the religious and non-religious, and we will walk, speak, learn, grow, and build a peaceful and just world for us all. Is it difficult to go all day without food? More difficult, I think, is a day without the food we find between our meals.