A Note from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Host of the First Freedom Seder in 1969
“At last, a generation has arisen strong enough and numerous enough to carry that vision through varied organizations into the voting booth and onto the streets.”
For many Jews, including myself [an astonishing moment] came on Sunday afternoon. On Internet live feed, it was possible to watch at least 1000 Jews demonstrating at the AIPAC national convention against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands —about to reach its 50th anniversary this summer.
The demonstration was organized by IfNotNow, and it was filled with chants and songs in English and Hebrew —many of them spiritually rooted. For example, “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” means “A world of love will yet be built.”
And “Aish tamid tukad al hamizbayach, lo tichbeh” (a chant created by Rabbi Shefa Gold from a phrase in Leviticus 6:6) means, “An eternal fire shall be kept burning on the sacred altar; it shall not go out.” The demonstrating chanters meant their burning Jewish passion for justice, for Palestinians as well as for Israelis.
For me, watching this brought tears of joy. I remembered coming back from the summer of 1969, living in Israel and visiting Palestinians living on the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem under a two-year-old Occupation who wanted only their own state, not subjugation to or domination over Israel or Jordan.
I came back to bring together about 30 American Jews and Christians to place an ad in the Village Voice – for who could afford the New York Times? — to call for a peace settlement between Israel and a new Palestinian state. In those days, there were no Israeli settlers on the West Bank, and the Occupation was mild. But as a historian, let alone as a Jew, I knew that no occupation remains mild for very long.
For decades, we blew gently on those sparks to grow a movement. Breira (“Alternative”) came and went, New Jewish Agenda came and went, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (“Covenant of Justice and Peace”) came and went.
And now, at last, a generation has arisen strong enough and numerous enough to carry that vision through varied organizations into the voting booth and onto the streets.
Watching, I recited the ancient Jewish prayer, “Sheh-hekhianu! — Praised be the Breathing Spirit of the world Who has filled us with life, lifted us up, and carried us to this very moment!”
Other writings on the unity of the “spiritual” and the “political” in the struggle to advance a Judaism committed to heal and transform the world, not only to heal and renew the Jewish people, can be found on The Shalom Center’s website, especially here. To receive the weekly email Shalom Report, click here.