Purim and pipelines
Throughout the ages, Jews have been faced with a question of what is true evil and how to act in the face of it. Purim is a holiday that commemorates a difficult time in history, when a nation, a people, a group of families and communities who were looking for freedom, but threatened with annihilation persevered. the holiday Purim falls every year in the early spring time in America and the rest of the northern hemisphere, where things are blooming, life is happening, birds are chirping, and snow is melting so the waters are flowing.
The over 3000-year-old people today referred to as Jews have a rich culture and history with many traditions. The saying goes a Jewish holiday is defined by: they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat. Purim to me is the epitome of this saying. Only on Purim we don’t just eat. We drink!
In the ancient book of Jewish law, the Talmud it is written a man is obligated on Purim to get so intoxicated he no longer knows the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman. The idea behind this tradition is that we should get so drunk no longer do we know the difference between good and evil. Another less known tradition of giving gifts exists. In a society that tells us we always need more the ultimate act of rebellion is giving tzedakah (often translated as charity). A lot is lost in this translation the root of the word tzedakah is tzedek or justice. When you give tzedakah what you are doing is giving justice.
The American ‘justice system’ is something that I am currently dealing with. On January 16th 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. day I was arrested during a civil disobedience action to prevent drilling for a pipeline under the Suwannee river in Florida.
At least eight Sabal Trail pipeline protesters were arrested Monday in Suwannee County at two construction sites…www.gainesville.com
The past two years I have spent working seasonally at Eden Village Camp. A Jewish organic farm and summer camp located in the Hudson Valley, of New York. Educating children about farming and survival skills as well as how to have a relationship with the creator. Last fall I was working at Eden Village Camp and was accepted to the University of Florida to study environmental management in agriculture and natural resources online. I continued to work part time at Eden Village Camp while pursuing my studies. One day I saw a video of security forces using dogs to attack people. These unarmed people I would later find out refer to themselves as water protectors and they were protecting an ancient burial site. A week later I found myself sleeping next to the site armed only with a camera and the belief in my heart that I could face this evil alongside these water protectors and persevere.
To me NODAPL was more than a movement, more than a protest, and much more than a hashtag. To me the camps at Standing Rock represented the vision behind the psalm that reads;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation neither shall they experience war anymore.
Tribes, bands, communities, nations, religions, and peoples from all over the world were represented at the camps. I had the honor and privilege to volunteer in the school that was set up in the camp. Using teaching skills I gained while working at Eden Village camp and knowledge I was learning in my university classes, students and I engaged in meaningful conversation about topics such as soil, land, bees, buffalo and of course WATER. After many days of experience of love, laughter, kindness, and tears, I chose to listen to my heart which I was now able to hear more clearly as it told me it was time to leave. After a week in Colorado with a good friend, I journeyed south to Gainesville Florida only to find another pipeline creeping through my home state.
In the spirit of standing rock, camps were formed in Florida along the path of Sabal Trail pipeline. A new group of water protectors from all over came together to say no to this pipeline. After a weekend of direct action against the pipeline leading to my arrest I wrote the following post on Facebook:
“I have been doing a lot of praying lately, a lot of speaking, and most importantly a lot of listening. I am finally ready to tell the world what happened to me a on Monday, January 16th 2017 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King JR. day. Yes, eight water protectors were arrested and yes I was one of them. But what happened was so much bigger than a protest. As two water protectors were connected in a way that stopped a massive truck carrying crucial pieces for a destructive pipeline, people sung songs, prayed and even read the I have a dream speech. As I was being handcuffed for allegedly trespassing after warning I said the Shema, an over 3,000-year-old prayer that has been said in the most difficult of times. As I was being taken into custody of the system I declared the oneness of all of creation, and for that I will never apologize. It has been an emotional week which can only be described as epic. I am ready now to answer questions, and speak about my experience. If there is one thing I want my friends, family, and world to know about what happened that day is the whole time we were in peaceful loving prayer. I have no hard feelings, no anger, no hate in my heart towards those who are simply doing their jobs. I have only hope, and love. Hope that one day our children’s children will play in the Florida springs together, drinking pure clean water, and standing together defending their families, friends, and earth from any injustices they see. I have this dream.”
Florida has a unique geology made up of carsed limestone causing the land in most of Florida to be prone to sinkholes. The 36-inch-wide steel pipe it is set to pump over one billion cubic feet of fracked gas a day through this fragile limestone. The corporations responsible for moving this gas refer to it as natural gas, all though the gas comes deep from the earth and there is nothing natural about the way it is extracted. Fracked gas is comprised of mostly methane and the extraction and transportation of it is extremely dangerous. It can either be transported through pipelines like the Sabal Trail Pipeline or as liquid natural gas LNG.
The companies behind STP claim that the gas is for domestic use of Floridians, however there is evidence that LNG facilities are being built near the route of the pipeline. The LNG would be exported to foreign countries. One reason this is so problematic is because of the use of a land seizure law known as eminent domain.
Eminent domain has been used to take land owners property who refuse to sign leases to corporations such as Sabal Trail Transmission, and Dakota Access. The justification for the use of this land seizure is that it is a public utility used for a public interest. This claim falls apart if the gas is being exported.
The book of Esther read every Purim says: Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them.”
In the united states there are people whose customs are different than the majority, a people who have been subject to laws of another government. I am talking about the people indigenous people of this continent. Referred to as Indians, assigned tribal names by the United States government these people have been subject to some of the worst atrocities known to humankind. The people native to this land have a deep appreciation for the earth shown through ceremony, ritual and prayer.
So now let us return to the question; what is good and what is evil, what is wrong and what is right. Remember Purim commemorates the near destruction of the people caused in part by a kings desire for money. Much in the same way the lives of the Jews were threatened because of a bribe someone made to a leader, our drinking waters are now threatened because of many bribes, lies, and deception.