Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew


tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

Israel bound

I want to write a post about how I’m going to Israel tomorrow, for work. But each time I’ve tried to start this post, the verb I’ve used hasn’t set the right tone. So I will not strive for poetics. Instead, I’ll say that I’m going, and will be back in New York on January 19th. See you on the other side.


Filed under: israel, judaism, palestine, politics, random, travels, war, work, wtf?

Israel, Palestine, and… Montreal?!

Cross-posted to Jewschool.

One of the many frustrations I have when it comes to Israel is the whole settlement situation. It is illegal to start a new settlement in Israel. Every week, new settlements are started, and the government allows the majority to remain. It’s illegal, but the government doesn’t stop it. Huh. Israeli law, international law, the Geneva Convention, and Oslo are often sited in support of stopping, and removing, the settlements. But, still, Israel does not move on it. In fact, we often hear that the Israeli government is building houses in the territories, er East Jerusalem. (Because if you call it Jerusalem, the media’s less likely to call out the illegality of it.)

But what happens when the legalities play out elsewhere? Like in the Superior Court in Montreal?

[T]he gist of the case is the assertion that Israel is violating the 4th Geneva Convention, which prohibits a state from transferring its population into territories it occupies. Canada has incorporated that provision into its domestic law and it applies to Green Park and Green Mount. … [T]he lands in question are under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Bil’in and are part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

And what’s the case against Green Park and Green Mount?

Green Park International and Green Mount International, acting as agents of the government of Israel, are violating a host of international laws that govern conflicts, as well as Quebec’s Charter of Rights.

Also being sued is Annette Laroche, sole director and officer of the two corporations. Two million dollars in punitive damages are sought, as well as an order to cease construction.

The court documents allege the defendants, “on their own behalf and as de facto agents of the State of Israel, are… aiding, abetting and assisting and conspiring with the State of Israel in carrying out an illegal purpose.” [Full article.]

This case will be complicated, certainly. Israel has thus far refused to try cases on the grounds of jurisdiction, but will Quebec? As Green Park and Green Mount are both Quebec-based companies, they have to abide by Quebecois, Canadian, and international law; it seems clear that they’re not.

I’d like to see this case go through the system. If the plaintiffs win, it would set precedent for other Palestinian towns to file similar legal cases. And could possibly also deter international (ie, not Israeli) companies from supporting (building or funding) the illegal settlements. I mean, could you imagine how great it would be if Palestinians actually had a legal way to sue American Jews who buy homes in the territories (er, “Jerusalem”) sight unseen (such as the new Nof Zion community)? Will Quebec be an open enough venue for a case like this, with such strong opinions on both/all sides, especially in light of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission‘s findings?

* * *

In other, only vaguely related news, a bank in Canada is being sued by Canadians who live in Israel. They claim this bank, Lebanese Canadian Bank (somehow related to Royal Bank of Canada, which isn’t being sued), knowingly dealt with Hezbollah. And Hezbollah’s to blame for the Lebanese war in 2006, during which the plaintiffs’ homes were damaged/destroyed. I’m not sure how this will play out. [Full article.]

(Is there something in the water, Montreal?)

Yes, those are muppets (Judge Gavel Doozer from “Fraggle Rock;” muggaphone player and Judge Marvin Suggs from “The Muppet Show”). Why not?)

Filed under: canada, israel, palestine, politics, war

Building Israel

According to the JTA, “Israel announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.”

According to the NYTimes, “Israel announced plans on Sunday to build hundreds of new homes in an area of the occupied West Bank the Israeli government considers part of Jerusalem, despite U.S. and Palestinian calls to halt settlement expansion.”

According to the BBC, “The Israeli government has announced plans to build nearly 900 new housing units in a part of East Jerusalem that is considered occupied territory.”

I look at the story, knowing where Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa are, and question the Israeli government’s slant that these housing projects are meant to “bolster” Jerusalem. Bolster is only the right word to use here, if they mean “build up Jewish settlements in Palestinian land so that if/when a two state solution is realised, all of this area will be considered Jewish and/or “greater Jerusalem” and will stay with Israel, not Palestine.”

Time and again, Israel has agreed to cease new settlements, stop building up existing ones. And yet they continue to do it anyway.

And people wonder why land ownership issues are so convoluted?

Filed under: israel, palestine, politics, wtf?

Modesty – or Arrr, Mateys!

This photo makes me smile.


I found it on TFOFR‘s flickr stream, with the comment “The only headcoverings allowed in the church are headscarves” on an accompanying photo. So I’d taken off my baseball cap, which I’d intentionally worn in lieu of a kippah that day in Bethlehem, and put on a friend’s scarf. I love that the solution was crossdressing, of sorts.

Filed under: friends, gender, palestine, photos, religion


I’ve updated the Winter in Jerusalem photo set to include more photos from the last snow “storm”, along with some from today’s.

And what do you do when it’s sleeting and hailing and snowing and thundering and raining and crazy wind blowing all in one night? Go to a friend’s for a MEAT date! (You too can have a MEAT date: find a friend with a fleishig kitchen, cook MEAT for your friends, maybe make some ‘smores over the stove for dessert, drink a bunch of wine, neglect your Hebrew studies, and dance to the 80’s-a-thon on the teevee.)

Finally, we have some photos from ulpan at Hebrew University. Most of them are of the views, as requested by several of you. If you look closely, you’ll see a desert, goats, MS, and Palestinian neighbourhoods.

Filed under: friends, good eats, israel, palestine, photos, school

The S.H.I.T. List

Inspired by reading a friend’s blog post, I decided to see how many folks I knew (where “know” means more than just “recognize the name,” and includes having talked with them at minimum) on the S.H.I.T. List: “Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening”. But after my count reached into the double digits, and I still in the first few letters of the alphabet, I realised there wasn’t any point. (Fun fact: 12% of the 2006 Everett Fellows are on this list.)

I’m actually quite disappointed that the angry, hateful, venomous compiler of this list doesn’t include a description for why each name is included. I mean, really, give some reasons! Back up your accusations! This site is pure hatred, lashon ha’ra, attacking individuals for who they are, not for their opinions. (I might disagree with someone over their politics/opinions, but I’ll focus on what they said, not their appearance, sexuality, etc.) I love how whenever someone’s from California, it automatically makes them a “freak” and merits the comment “where else?!” or “go figure!” And that “social justice” apparently means “anti-Israel.” Love it. Oh, and all rabbis are demoted to alleged “rabbi”s if this site disagrees with them. Amazing. If you translate Arabic you’re a traitor, a “judenrat” [warning: link has sound] for being a feminist or politically left.

Names are added to the list for many reasons, but the most common seems to be for signing pro-peace petitions. Or being a queer Jew/ a Jewish queer. Here are a few typical entries (I’ve removed both names, but otherwise have not edited them):

Last, First “RABBI” This rabbi watches over the flock at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck Great Neck NY. His interests include inter-religious and same-sex activities. No, Rabbi Davidson has not married outside his religion nor has does he now wear lingerie from Victoria’s Secret. But he did recently bless the union of his assistant, Rabbi Karen Binder, and her lesbian lover. This has upset many people… but not us at for we are truly moderate and humanistic [can’t you tell?]

Last, First “RABBI” Dresses like an a-hole because he IS an a-hole! Hey, [Name], join the freakin’ circus already! [Name] is a leader of the Jewish Renewal Movement, a deviation from Judaism more extreme than even the apostate Reform and Reconstructionist movements.

Last, First Founder of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood, CA, which serves a predominantly gay membership. Kol Ami holds discussions on spiritual issues affecting gay men, on the breast cancer incidence among Jewish lesbians, and once a month schedules an early Shabbat family service, to which some gay and lesbian congregants bring their children and others their parents. Rabbi Eger is a member of the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network.

Last, First Support [sic]the IDF soldiers who refuse military service in the Judea-Samaria and Gaza and join with them in their call to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Last, FirstThis Takoma Park, Maryland chick is president of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel [JPPI]. She has stated that “we are protesting because over the past week, Israel has killed dozens of Palestinians, including non-violent, unarmed protestors, razed more than one hundred homes, and left thousands homeless. Jews of conscience simply cannot remain silent while the Israeli army commits these atrocities.” Hey, just because you’re one sexy-looking hick, we mean chick, doesn’t give you the right to side with Israel’s enemies! Miss [Name] is also a supporter of Brit Tzedek. No surprise here.

Last, First This Oakland, CA, lesbian describes herself as “I’m a 33 year old, poly-queer femme mama.” We simply call her a sick dyke. In any case, “p.-q. f .mama” signed a one-sided petition for “U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East”… which was nothing less than a full-fledged “mugging” of Israel!

Respectful, isn’t it?

The petition that the Oakland woman (and many of the 7000+ others on the list) signed called for the following five points:

  • Require Israel to stop its brutal siege on Gaza and on Lebanon and call for an unconditional cease fire.
  • Require Israel to stop the expansion of the Israeli Wall of Separation, dismantle the completed sections, and completely withdraw from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Support the United Nations resolutions demanding that Israel uphold international law and support the sanctions against Israel necessary to enforce these resolutions.
  • End military and economic aid to Israel.
  • Support reparations for the Palestinian and Lebanese people for the death and destruction they have suffered and for aid towards the rebuilding of their countries.

That’s hardly a “horrible” thing to ask, nor is it akin to “mugging” Israel. Why shouldn’t Israel uphold international laws? Why should the US financially support militarization, war, and oppression of a people? This site is run by people who believe that any peace treaty would be “meaningless,” that “peace is impossible,” who conflate Muslims and Arabs, and seem to think there are only two polar opposite positions to take when it comes to Israel. Lovely.

Filed under: israel, palestine, wtf?

Bush's Concluding Words

And, to end the insanity of Bush’s visit to Jerusalem:

President Bush said the establishment of a Palestinian state was “long overdue” and called for an agreement within a year.

Bush delivered a summary statement Thursday after spending two days in Israel and the Palestinian areas meeting with Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders.

IMG_6869“The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue,” the U.S. leader said at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. “A peace agreement should happen and can happen by the end of this year.”

Bush reiterated calls for the parties to adhere to the “road map” peace process he launched in 2003, calling on the Palestinians to stop terrorist attacks and create a secure environment for Israel and Israel to end settlement expansion and remove illegal outposts.

He said the parties must address all the core issues. On borders he reiterated one of the principles of his 2004 letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saying “any peace agreement will require mutual adjustment to the 1949 line.” Bush also said the Palestinian refugee issue should be addressed by “new international mechanisms, including compensation.”

Bush said that the agreement “must establish Palestine as a homeland to the Palestinian people just as Israel is a homeland to the Jewish people.” He said a Palestinian state must be contiguous.

He spoke just before departing a final dinner at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s residence. The president leaves Friday for Kuwait after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and touring Christian holy sites in the north of Israel.

Clearly some people aren’t happy with this stance, as they want Israel to remain “whole” (how exactly is it currently “whole” when Gaza and the West Bank are under Palestinian control?) and, more specifically, don’t want to see Jerusalem divided (um, isn’t it already?). These posters went up Friday.

Filed under: america, israel, palestine, politics


I haven’t done a post like this in a while, but here we go again:

Filed under: canada, israel, judaism, palestine, politics, random, seasons

Bethlehem – 2.

As a follow up to my earlier post, I’d like to share a d’var torah written by Anne Lewis, one of the 9 lovely people I went to Bethlehem with. Luckily for me (and you, the readers), she was able to write out her thoughts – something I still have not done – and has permitted me to share it with you. (I’ve added the links for clarity and translation.)

January 4th, 2008
Shabbat Va’era

Patach Libeinu – Open our Hearts”

A red-head sky highlights the stones of Bethlehem’s huddled buildings. I stand on the roof of the Al-Rowwad Theatre Training and Cultural Center in the Aida Refugee camp with a group of American, Canadian and Australian Jews. After a day of listening to stories, my heart is cracked – open and hurting. AbdelFattah Abusrour is the last to speak. In addition to running the Al-Rowwad center that provides arts programming for children, Abed is a playwright, biology professor, painter and father of four. In a few minutes, we will board the mini bus to start back across the mammoth, four-mile gulf between this place and Baka, the neighborhood in Jerusalem I called home for two years. Abed sends us off with a quote from The Little Prince:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My eye catches a shard of the security barrier, jutting out like glass from skin. I think of the cup my friend Uzi crushed at his wedding a few nights before. The wall is wedged in front of the burial place of Rachel, the matriarch, who wept for an open womb. When the mini-bus first wove along the grafittied concrete, our tour guide, Elias Ghareeb told us, “Rachel was our first matriarch to die in childbirth. Before the Intifada, many women of Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths would come here to pray for children.” For the capacity to bring new life into the world.

George Sa’adeh is the headmaster of an interfaith school established by the Greek Orthodox Church. He is also the Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem. On one of the walls of his office hangs a heart cut from red felt. At the center, a girl in a plaid jumper poses for a school portrait against a digital background of wildflowers. Later he tells us that this girl is his daughter Christina. The week the Intifada broke out, George was driving to the store with his wife, Najua and his daughters Marian, fifteen, and Christina, twelve. Soldiers opened fire. He was shot nine times and Christina was shot in the head and neck. I see her picture on another wall, and around the room are images of Mary and Jesus, photographs of George shaking hands, a Palestinian flag. When he was younger, George studied in Los Angeles. Now, he is back in this barbed birthplace of a Messiah. He is a member of the Bereaved Parents Circle with other Israeli and Palestinian parents who have lost children to bullets and shrapnel. All of them are set on countering the horrific experiential education so many children receive on both sides of the wall – the lessons Marian could have locked into that day in the car. They will teach their children and their children’s children that human beings have the capacity to open our hearts to one another.

Most of the day, I am moved most by the normal human things, how Elias jokes about the gnarled roads and the impulsive drivers. He wears a golden band on his right hand, an engagement ring, which he will move to his left hand when he and Lena, his fiancé, get married in the summer. We meet Eilda Zaghmout, who works for the Holy Land Trust, an organization that trains individuals in non-violence. She wears silver eye shadow, red nail polish and has a degree in business from Amman. She has just learned she is pregnant with the first child of the next generation of her family. At Al-Rowad Cultural Center, Abed shows us videos of the teenage boys from the refugee camp doing traditional dabka dance. There, the walls are lined with photographs teenagers have taken of their lives. “Beautiful resistance,” he calls it. I am struck by how surviving with an intact soul and an open heart is subversive from all places around the Green Line.

In this week’s parsha, Va’era, we read over and over about Pharaoh’s heart. The fact that Pharaoh’s heart was stiffened or hardened is reiterated twenty times in the tanakh, sometimes in response to Pharaoh’s own will and other times at the hand of God. With a rigid heart, the stubborn ruler is unable to hear the words of Moshe.

The JPS Commentary elaborates on this theme in Exodus:

“It is to be noted that in the first five plagues Pharaoh’s obduracy is self-willed. It is only thereafter that it is attributed to divine causality. This is the biblical way of asserting that the king’s intransigence has by then become habitual and irreversible; his character has become his destiny. He is deprived of the possibility of relenting and is irresistibly impelled to his self-wrought doom.”

When humans willfully and continually numb our hearts, we risk permanent loss of our capacity to feel with them.

As I prepare for Shabbat in Jerusalem, my heart wells up with love for Israel and my gut, with safek, doubt, about her boundaries, both physical and moral. I worry about the hardening of hearts in the State of Israel and in our Diaspora Jewish communities. I worry that, shouldering the weight of generations of trauma, we have become stuck and frozen. Locking onto narratives of the way things always happen here – between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs – we are losing chances to re-evaluate realities, to hear new stories, to see human beings. I worry that we are obstructing our hearts and damaging our vision irreversibly.

But just as God follows Pharoah’s lead, paralyzing his heart once he has chosen to wall it off on his own, we learn that when we begin to open our hearts, God becomes our partner. In Parshat Netzavim, we are commanded “V’hashevota el’l’vavecha,” that we should take God’s commandments to heart (Deuteronomy, 30:1). If we do this, we are promised:

“Then the Lord your God will open (circumcise) your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the Lord with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

If we make the first move, God will help us tear down the barriers that block us from loving and living. God wills our teshuvah.

And so this Shabbat Va-era, I pray:

Elohei Hashamayim, help us to experience your presence on this earth, but Elohei Ha-aretz, help us to remember that you are more than land.Elohei Rachel, may our hearts peel open to those around us, that we may see what is essential, that we may live.

Annie, thank you for the strong words of prayer.

Filed under: israel, judaism, palestine, politics, war


I’m going to be struck by lightning.

I actually agree with George Dubbya Bush on something:

US President George W. Bush on Thursday called Israeli settlement expansion an “impediment” to the success of revived peace efforts and urged the Jewish state to follow through on its pledge to dismantle unauthorized settler outposts.

“I will talk about Israeli settlement expansion, about how that is, that can be, you know, an impediment to success,” he told Reuters in an interview. “The unauthorized outposts for example need to be dismantled, like the Israelis said they would do.”

[Read more.]

On the one hand, yay!, I’m glad he has this view of the illegal Israeli settlements and their detriment to the peace process. On the other hand, having the same opinion as Bush makes me feel oh-so-dirty.

Filed under: america, israel, palestine, politics, war