Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Reading for Yom Ha’atzmaut

April 27, 2012

While President Shimon Peres celebrated Israel’s birthday with a warning to her enemies, Israeli and Palestinian children were busy working through their differences.


Everest: A Climb for Peace

January 21, 2012

After two years of talk, we’re finally bringing the film Everest: A Climb for Peace to OWU.

Mark your calendars for January 31st at 7PM (Corns Hall Room 312)

Past Hillel Vice President Sally Elkind-Goldstein brought this film to our attention upon returning from a college leadership convention.  It “chronicles the spectacular journey of 9 ‘peace climbers’ from different faiths and cultures as they climb to the summit of the tallest mountain in the world.”  Since the focus of the film is on a pair of climbers one of whom is Israeli the other Palestinian, we thought it would be an excellent piece to bring to campus.  Sometimes we struggle to talk about the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.  This film will give us a glimpse of what is possible when people from these groups work together for a common goal.

A discussion of the film will follow.  And, filmmaker Lance Trumbull might even join us via Skype!

A Life for 1,027 Lives?

November 18, 2011

I spent my entire time on the elliptical machine at the gym yesterday working through a VERY detailed report on the history behind the trade of Gilad Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian soliders which was published in this past Sunday’s Magazine section of The New York Times.  I highly recommend it.  It’s left me with a lot of questions about the value of one life over another, our expectations of soliders, and leadership in Israel.  I’d love to hear what you all think about it.

Defending Israel @ OWU

May 31, 2011

Oftentimes, in the past when students talked to me about hosting Israel-related events on campus, I’ve gotten nervous.  In my short time at OWU, I’ve been confronted a few times with anti-Israel rhetoric and I never know quite how to respond.  I’m do not unilaterally support Israel.  At times, her government has betrayed her reputation, and ours on the worldwide stage.  At other times, the world has betrayed her, leaving her to drown in the tumult of political and moral tides.

My mother is staunch supporter of Israel.  She recently sent me this article about Defending Israel on (College) Campuses.  I hope some of you will read it and we can discuss it, and a pro-Israel program in the fall.  I think I’m ready.

Jared’s Report from J Street

March 28, 2011

Better late than never… Here’s OWU Hillel Vice President Jared Shaner’s report from the J Street Conference a few weeks ago.  – OUWJew

“In reporting about my time at the Jstreet: Giving Voices to our Values conference, I want to share a couple of my most intimate and memorable moments and invite anyone who reads this to see me there next year.  I suppose it’s important to share a bit on the mission of Jstreet; it can be summed up pretty easily, peace, they seek to urge a two-state solution to the fighting that has waged for years between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The first term that comes to mind when I recall my time in DC is simply awe-inspiring. Words simply do not express the degree to which I was overwhelmed by many of the events and people that I met there.  From the first moment I arrived, I was taken aback by the magnitude of the event; imagine a line of over 2,000 people all waiting to register.  I’d never seen such a gathering of people interested in Israel in my life.  It was in this line that  I met the first person that impacted me in my travels.  Her name was Sandie and the was a 63 year old D.C native who, for the next hour, told me she and her entire family’s life story.  For most people, this might be not qualify as an “awe inspiring” moment but for someone admittedly ignorant to the Jewish struggle and for that matter much of what is going on in the world, it was a truly enlightening hour.  It was at this moment that I realized that I would be spending the next two days aside some of the greatest and most respected minds within the Jewish community and for that matter the world.

I think the experience as a whole can be summarized through the speakers on Saturday evening, all of whom were distinguished invitees, all three of whom were honored for their tireless efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.  These people all had one thing in common; they were all extremely well educated (attended Ivy League institutions) and they also all faced extreme adversity from others for the work that they have been doing in hopes of bringing peace to the Gaza Strip.  However, when Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish left the stage, I had butterflies in my stomach and tears in my eyes. Dr. Abuelaish is a Palestinian Harvard graduate who founded the Daughters for Life Foundation, an organization that he founded after a mortar shell struck the playroom of his home and killed all three of his daughters and his niece.  What was so impactful about this man and what brought tears to my eyes wasn’t necessarily the fact that he lost his daughters but rather his passion for bringing “justice”, not through retaliation on the Israeli soldiers that accidentally killed civilians, but rather through bringing peace to the two people so that “he can look his daughters in their eyes as a strong man and tell them that the evil is all gone.”  It was Dr. Abuelaish’s words that set the pace for my next day at the conference in which I could hardly pull myself away from the various talks offered.  In fact, I even attended optional talks during the lunch hour instead of exploring the city; truly never would’ve expected myself to make such a move going into the conference, given I was almost more excited by the opportunity to get away in Washington than I was for the conference itself.

The coming day and my last day was to say the least, a bit overwhelming.  Following the morning plenary session, there were nearly thirty different sessions that ran concurrently throughout the day and featured the likes of Roger Cohen (a New York Times journalist) and the Israeli Congress known as the Knesset.  I found all these options for sessions to be overwhelming especially since I had little background knowledge to base my decision off.   So I did what any other curious teenager would, I attended the two sessions marked as “closed to the press” under the presumption that these sessions would be highly controversial.  What I came to found were two of the most interesting sessions; although not necessarily controversial at their core.

The first session was a meeting of nearly all of the Rabbis in attendance who sat down in a public forum to discuss the difficulties of discussing the Israeli struggle without sounding biased towards personal biases.  The solution pinned down nearly after 2 hours seemed a bit cheap in that I probably could have derived the decision “simply allow the congregation to shared their opinion” within 5 minutes of minimal thought.  However, it was not this “groundbreaking” decision that I found to be the value in this session.  What I found enlightening was listening to all these men and women with years of experience, talk about the difficulties and adversity that they have faced when trying to face this issue of what stance to take on the conflicts in the Middle East.  I find it mind boggling that some of these Rabbis had been judged, disrespected, and in some cases punished for their opinion that at sometimes Israel is simply in the wrong and needs to concede some points of their argument in order to finally bring an end to the brutal fighting.

I wandered over to my second session, a roundtable discussion of the Kennesset (equivalent to Congress in the United States).  In this case, I think the “closed to the press” distinction came due to the danger that the members faced by attending the conference; apparently an Israeli law is in the works that would make discussing the Palestinian conflict illegal.  What I found most interesting about this group was the fact that they openly expressed the fact that they believe there’s no need for the conflict to continue and that many within Israel are of similar minds.  However, the issue lies in the fact that those in power don’t see it this way and rather kill every Palestinian for not much else reason besides for the fact that this is the way it’s been for years.  Oh yeah and one other small issue, apparently there is a great degree of corruption and therefore many are making profits from the fighting continuing.

If there’s one thing that is definite, it is that the fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis needs to end as soon as possible; the price of life is just too high for a childish argument over a small plot of land.  While I realize people hold their own personal views on how this fighting should reach an end, I side with Jstreet that the only route is through a two-state solution.”


J Street’s “Giving Voice to Value”

February 24, 2011

This weekend, J Street, a lobbying group which bills itself as “pro-Israel and pro-Peace” will host its second international gathering “Giving Voice to Values.”  The group says this conference will provide opportunities to explore the convergence of Jewish and democratic values.  They invite participants to come “learn, challenge and question and advocate” in sessions with titles like, “A Continued Quest for Statehood: A Palestinian View” and “Creating the Space: Pro-Israel and Pro-Peae in Congress.”

OWU Junior and Hillel Vice President Jared Shaner will be among 500 students attending the conference.  Jared was selected to receive travel and lodging funding from J Street.  We’re covering his reduced admission.  In return, Jared will be filling us in on what he learns during his time in Washington, listening to talks by and rubbing elbows with:

Reporters from major new publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post;

Scholars from various think tanks including The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Center for American Progress, Appleseeds Internationl, and the Peres Center for Peace;

Members of the Israeli Knesset, U.S. Advisors on Middle Eastern Affairs, and Israeli and Palestinian Activists.

The full program is available at

The Anatomy of Hate – In the Middle East

April 7, 2010

Tonight, at 7PM, many of us at Ohio Wesleyan will learn more about the sociological origins of hatred as we watch the “The Anatomy of Hate: A Dialogue for Hope.”  Following the film, we’ll have an opportunity to speak with the director, Mike Ramsdell.  I expect a large audience for the event which is co-sponsored by Student Union on Black Awareness; LGBTIQ Resource Center; President’s Commission on Racial and Cultural Diversity; Office of Multicultural Student Affairs; Office of the Chaplain; Women’s Resource Center; House of Peace and Justice; Amnesty International; B’nai B’rith Hillel; Tauheed; STAND; PRIDE and the Sociology/Anthropology Department.

The film has received a lot of advanced publicity on campus due to the potential visit of members of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an anti-homosexual hate group featured in the film.  Whether or not representatives of this organization visit Delaware tonight, they seem to have gotten students talking about the rights of homosexuals and those that do not recognize those rights.  Michael Moore’s response to the WBC (1999), like his other films, is an interesting piece of activist filmmaking, but leaves one wondering whether the minds of these fanatics can ever be changed.

In a statement on, Ramsdell suggests the origins of hate are entangled within our cultural institutions which promote ideologies of inclusion and exclusion.  Indeed, many people renounce religion as the cause of all wars.  Certainly the url for the Westboro Baptist Church,, illustrates how the idea of God has been used to foster hatred.  As Jews at a small Methodist-chartered university in the Midwest, we know what it is like to feel set apart from the dominant culture.  Fortunately, however, few of us have directly experienced hate speech or action.

One space in which we do experience a challenge, and a subject the film explores, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We have trouble talking about this issue on campus, afraid that if we speak out, as Jews, in support for Israel’s right to exist we will be labeled as blind Zionists with no compassion for the suffering of Palestinian refugees.  We have trouble taking sides.  We have trouble not taking sides.  This morning I read an article about non-violent Palestinian protests to Israeli occupation in the New York Times.  I have to admit, it gave me hope that peace is possible.  The Prime Minister’s words about building the infrastructure to give people a sense of hope, makes sense to me.  I look forward to seeing where this movement leads, and how the Israelis respond to it.

I also look forward to seeing how The Anatomy of Hate portrays both sides of this long-standing conflict.  I recently watched The Promises Film Project (2001).  The maker of this film focuses on the children involved in this conflict.  I know from preview clips I’ve watched that Ramsdell also spoke with Israeli and Palestinian children.  They are indeed the future of the Middle East.  What words do they use to describe one another?  Where do these concepts come from?   I expect to learn something about this tonight.

Shabbat Yisrael

February 8, 2010

This Friday we’ll be celebrating Shabbat together at Ohio Wesleyan.  After services, we’ll be sharing a meal and hearing from students about their travels to Israel.  Coincidentally, in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (Sentences) the Jews are presented with a list of rules they must follow to earn access to the land of milk and honey.

Unlike in biblical times, these students may not be aware of, let alone fulfill the mandates: “Six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce.  But in the seventh year you shall release it and abandon it; the poor of your people shall eat it, and what they leave over, the beasts of the field shall eat;” or, “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.”  It’s unlikely these were requirements for the summer teen tours and intensive study programs they attended.  Those who traveled with Taglit Birthright didn’t even have to pay for their trips.  That program, offers 10 day free trips (for a fee, you can extend your stay to do volunteer work or more extensive travels) to Israel for Jews between the ages of 18-26.

I was not eligible for Birthright because I traveled to Israel on two educational trips with my peers in high school.  However, I had a few friends who went on Birthright trips after college.  They saw the trip both for what it was, a once in a lifetime opportunity for a free international adventure, and what it could be, a chance to meet and network with other Jewish young adults, specifically potential life partners.  For some, Birthright was their first extended time spent exclusively with other Jews, learning about their religious and cultural heritage, and engaging questions about their Jewish identity.  Studies have shown that these may be more lasting benefits than being in Israel itself.

When I first announced Shabbat Yisrael, I received an email from a (Jewish) faculty member concerned that I was promoting Birthright.  She fears that Birthright promotes a Zionist ideology and asked that I consider other ways to present perspectives on Jewishness and it’s relation to Israel.  I explained, as readers of this blog already know, that I am not a unilateral supporter of Israel.  I believe, however, that traveling to Israel and having an opportunity to see first hand both the good (the history, beautiful landscapes, kibbutzim) and the bad (the wall, settlements, guns everywhere) is essential to seeing the Israeli-Palestian situation as a real-life situation.  For that reason alone, I think Birthright is a great opportunity.  True, one of the primary missions of the program is to engage Jews from around the world with their brothers and sisters in the Israel.  But, this does not necessarily imply blind acceptance of the IDF stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I trust that we will hear various perspectives about students’ travels to Israel.  Some will speak simply to being in a land set aside for Jewish people, a place where Hebrew is spoken and businesses are closed on Saturdays rather than Sundays.  Others will speak about the soliders they met, people their own age who are required to serve their country before heading off to college.  And some will speak of the tragic conflict that keeps everyone’s eyes and ears always open for suspicious packages and people.  We will grow from hearing all sides of their stories.

Jewish & Environmentalist? Then Tu B’Shvat’s the holiday for YOU!

January 21, 2010

“Tree Cake” by Moomin Bus Rider on

After the joyous clamor of the holidays are over, winter is not the best time of year to live in Central Ohio.  It’s cold and gray 90% of the time.  The trees are all bare (which I think has a certain appeal but it gets a bit depressing looking at all those giant skeletons for months on end).  The birds are mostly down south.  It may be counter-intuitive, but now may be the best time to think about the power of nature to regenerate herself each spring; before the crocuses peek out from the frozen ground, before the birds start building new nests, and before we start replanting our vegetable gardens.

Tu B’Shvat, literally the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, is the New Year for Trees.  Specifically, the holiday makes reference to trees in Israel.  The date reminds farmers it is time to reset their tithing calculators and set new fruit aside for the hungry.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for us all to consider the role trees play in our lives.  Noone summed this up more succinctly, for people of all ages, than Shel Silverstein in The Giving Tree.

Tu B’Shvat is not only a time to reflect on what trees can do for us, but how they are like us.   Like trees, we need soil, air, water, and sunlight to survive.  Like trees, we have roots, trunks, branches, fruit and seeds.  In what directions will you stretch your roots and branches this year?  What seeds will you sow?  What fruit will you bear?

You might remember raising money to plant trees in JNF forests in Hebrew School around this time of year.  Another great way to celebrate Tu B’Shvat is by participating in a Tu B’Shvat seder.  This is a chance to sing songs, eat fruits and nuts from a wide variety of trees, and reflect on the change of seasons and our relationship to Mother Nature.  This year, consider joining members of OWU Hillel and The Little Minyan (A Reconstructionist Congregation in Columbus) for a Tu B’Shvat seder at the Sheltherhouse in Antrim Park in Columbus on Saturday, January 30th from noon-2pm.  Ride Shares are available.  Contact Jodi at for more information.

In the meantime, you can read lots more about Tu B’Shvat herehere, and elsewhere throughout the world wide web – which, I suppose, is a kind of tree of life in itself.

Israel 2010?

January 6, 2010

Last week, one of my favorite Public Radio shows, This American Life, featured predictions for 2010.  Shalom Auslander was a contributor and I always love his pieces on that show.  He writes/reads from a Jewish perspective in a familiar feeling humorous, and sardonic tone.  His contribution to the Ten Commandments episode is one I keep on my ipod at all times.  But this past week it was another Jewish author’s contribution that caught my attention.

Etgar Keret is an Israeli author known for his contemporary Israeli perspective and, more recently, his work for film and television.  I knew his work before I knew of him through the surreal film Wristcutters: A Love Story.  The straightforward, matter-of-factness with which this story is told – a man commits suicide and then travels through a bizarre afterlife world with other characters who took their own lives – shows Keter’s ability to set a scenario, place characters within it, and see what happens.

On This American Life, Keter interviewed his mother about what 2010 will bring for the state of Israel.

City of Jerusalem from the Nuremberg Chronicle

In the past she had accurately predicted events in their family and their friends.  She didn’t hesitate in predicting that Israel will face problems.  “Unfortunately,” she told him, “we are going back to bad times.  It will be a third Intifada, the streets won’t be so free like they are, we won’t be able to walk in the evening because you don’t know what will hit you, because all the crazy people from both sides will show their hand.  It will be very difficult to live in this country.” Sadly, it seems her predictions are already coming to fruition in the first week of the new year.

First, cross-border fighting in Gaza led to one Palestinian death and other injuries.  Yesterday, the Israel government approved a building project that will create more houses for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, the place Palestinians hope to establish their capital.  People on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian argument see this as a dangerous move, one that will likely upset peace process negotiations.  J Street denounced the act as intentionally provocative, and tend to agree.  It seems to me that if Israel wants the support of the world – Jewish and otherwise – it must cease settlement development.

The fact that American real estate mogul Irving Moskowitz is leading the project should have been a red flag to the Israelis to keep out.  Because even if they secretly agree with Mokowitz’s goal of making East Jerusalem more Jewish, they should realize that such actions will make it nearly impossible for the Obama administration, and other world leaders, to support their position.  I support Israelis right to exist.  I don’t support her right to make stupid political and moral decisions.

I hope that the weeks to come will bring better news from the Middle East.  I hope that this time around, Keter’s mother’s predictions are wrong.