It is Holiday time, and also the time of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. While Christians await the birth of the Prince of Peace, the Palestinian people await full recognition of their human rights and dignity by the State of Israel.
A little over 2000 years ago the Holy Family made its way from Nazareth to Bethlehem in preparation of that history-changing event. Had they taken the same route today they would have encountered a 25-foot tall concrete barrier wall, armed Israeli soldiers and massive steel gates that isolate and strangle the "little town of Bethlehem".
All this in the name of "security".
Here in Seattle, Washington, the Seattle Symphony will perform Handel's Messiah on December 15th. Veterans for Peace, Chapter 92, will be outside the concert hall distributing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" cards to people attending the 1:00PM performance.
The cards are a way to raise awareness about US foreign policy related to Israel and the plight of the Palestinian people. Israel has historically been the largest recipient of US foreign aid (most of which is essentially military aid), and is currently number two (just behind Afghanistan).
In this season of Peace I like to consider Rabbi Michael Lerner's views on the Israeli/Palestinian impasse.
Rabbi Lerner says that "the eyes of both Israelis and Palestinians are so glazed over with the immediacy of painful historical memories that they have not been able to envision new possibilities in their relationship that might bring both communities the peace they actually desire" (in Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East).
Lerner focuses not only on the psychology of the situation but also the spirituality (in terms of spiritual transformation) "that allows us to let go of the idea that security requires domination of the other and instead can embrace the idea that lasting security can be better achieved through generosity and caring for others. This is the Strategy of Generosity."
So what will it be - the Strategy of Domination or the Strategy of Generosity??? In his book Lerner demonstrates a thorough and sensitive understanding of the history of both the Israelis and Palestinians, while presenting a provocative, radical and compelling proposal for healing the Middle East. In understanding the history we can envision a (healing) path to the future.
For me this is a good book to be reading in the season of Advent. It is a book I highly recommend to anyone even remotely interested in the volatile situation surrounding Israel and Palestine. It would be a great gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday of this season.
May we all share the message of Peace this season and all seasons,
Note: If you happen to be in Seattle on December 15th, you can join VFP (in the spirit of peace) at Benaroya Hall, 3rd Avenue between University and Union to show solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people. Email fourinchorangehinge[at]gmail.com for more information.
Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East, by Rabbi Michael Lerner, is published by Tikkun Books and North Atlantic Books.
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