Vwalt, brian2
Vwalt, brian2

Rabbis Fast for Gaza can be good for Israel, too

One of the Torah’s first moral teachings is that all human beings are created in the image of God. The meaning of this teaching is clear: all people are intrinsically worthy of respect and dignity. Thus, whenever we diminish the humanity of another, we diminish the image of God in our world.

Rabbi Brant Rosen

The Torah regularly calls on us to care for the “other” because we know from our own people’s experience what it means to be the “other.” And on Yom Kippur, the words of Isaiah will remind us of the fast we’re meant to seek: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?”

It’s never easy to “undo heavy burdens” for others. It’s only human to consider our own needs — particularly if the burdens in question are laid upon an enemy with whom we’ve been locked in violence for decades.

But that’s what we, the rabbis of Ta’anit Tzedek–Jewish Fast for Gaza, are asking our fellow Jews to do. We have turned to our community to say that the yoke on Gaza — the Israeli blockade — must be broken. We have thus called for a monthly communal fast to break the silence of the Jewish community on Gaza, to call upon Israel to lift the blockade and to pursue peace vigorously with all relevant Palestinian parties.

Indeed, Israel’s blockade of Gaza has led to widespread suffering in the Gaza strip, including the increasing malnutrition of children, denial of medical care, and of basic goods and services. Numerous human rights groups have found that 60 percent of Gazans don’t have continuous access to water; homes and hospitals alike face near-daily power outages, often for 10 hours at a time (while 10 percent of Gazans have no electricity whatsoever).

Rabbi Brian Walt

It was recently suggested in the Jerusalem Post that our concern for the suffering in Gaza indicates that we’re unconcerned about Israeli suffering, particularly in the south, where hundreds of rockets have fallen. We were called anti-Israel, “borderline anti-Semitic” — we’ve even been accused of standing by when Jewish blood is spilled. Overall, it was claimed that we can’t love Israel if we seek justice for the Palestinians.

Let us be clear: We oppose this Israeli policy, not the State of Israel. But we reject this “either-or,” zero-sum view of the conflict. We believe that the denial of food and other basic necessities is not only an affront to our moral teachings, but only serves to further anger and alienate the Palestinian people, adding to a cycle of hatred that further endangers the lives of Israelis.

But beyond accusations of Jew-hatred, it was also suggested that we don’t really know the whole truth about the blockade.

In fact, we’ve examined many sources, including the reports of such important Israeli human rights organizations as B’Tselem, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights. Eight such organizations recently produced a video decrying the blockade, “Lift the Closure, Give Life a Chance.” We were honored when the Association for Civil Rights in Israel chose to endorse Ta’anit Tzedek.

Those who disagree with the findings of these internationally respected Israeli organizations should argue the substance of those findings rather than question the loyalties of those who question Israeli policy.

We started the project with just a minyan of rabbis; today we’re pleased that more then 70 rabbis are involved. We know that there are also many more rabbis who support the cause but fear that going public with their sentiments could put their jobs in jeopardy.

We’ll continue to break the silence and insist that the suffering caused by the blockade must be addressed in our community — not by name-calling, but by a serious discussion of the facts and the moral implications for us as Jews.

For more information, visit www.fastforgaza.net.

Rabbi Brant Rosen
and Rabbi Brian Walt are the founders and directors of Ta’anit Tzedek–Jewish Fast for Gaza.