Posts Tagged ‘J Street’

Walls, stones and what is sacred

January 22, 2012

I’m a writer and I swim in words. But occasionally, there is an image that expresses things better than any words I could write.

When I was in Israel back in November, I took several photographs of the stones of the Western Wall because I loved all the textures and colors. It’s a classic image; I thought it might be useful sometime for this blog.

Then, as I wrote about in an earlier post, we walked a few hundred steps outside the Old City to the disputed Arab neighborhood of Silwan. And this is what I saw:

Photo by Ilana DeBare

Photo by Ilana DeBare

When I squinted my eyes, those images blurred and became the same — both patchworks of textured white stone.

One was the Wall, the most sacred site in Judaism. The other was a workaday Palestinian neighborhood.

The Torah portion for my Bat Mitzvah service almost a year ago concerned construction of the Tabernacle, and I talked about how places — official “sacred” places, places in wild nature, other kinds of places and settings — can help us get in touch with the spiritual part of ourselves.

But physical places can also become idols, false gods.

I understand how, for many people, the Western Wall is a sacred place. But what those photos say to me is that living communities — the people in them, no matter the nationality or religion — are equally sacred.

To me, the people of Israel and Palestine will always be worth more than any particular place. No stone wall is worth a human life, no matter how many thousands of years of Jewish history it embodies. No olive tree is worth a human life, no matter how many generations of Palestinian family tradition it represents.

That’s the basis of the land-for-peace concept, the basis of a two-state solution. Both Israelis and Palestinians must give up some places that are precious to them in order to save lives that are ultimately more precious.

With right-wingers like Netanyahu and Lieberman running the Israeli government, and the rejectionists of Hamas tying the hands of Palestinian moderates, that solution seems almost impossibly distant these days.

But governments can change — maybe Israel’s will. And perhaps a more open Israeli government will spark a parallel openness among Palestinians. What we can do, in the meantime, is keep reminding ourselves and our leaders that human lives are more sacred than any walls, trees or stones. That’s why I support groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

There! It just took me 379 words to deliver this preachy message.

When really, all it takes is looking at those two images.

I’m Ilana, and I have an online addiction

September 15, 2010

Let’s pretend, just for today, that this blog is a meeting of a twelve-step program: 

“I’m Ilana, and I have an online addiction.”  

It’s not buying used watches on Ebay. It’s not Farmville (been there, done that). It’s not watching Stupid Cat Trick videos on YouTube. 

I fear I’ve become addicted to making online political contributions. 

Here we are entering the thick of the election season. And things have not been looking good for us blue-state,  pro-choice, pro-environment, liberal Democrat types. Every day brings another headline about how Republican candidates are raising unprecedented amounts of corporate money. Or how almost one out of five Americans persist in bizarrely believing that President Obama is a Muslim. Or how polls show independent voters supporting Republican over Democratic Congressional candidates by a 13-point margin, the biggest such tilt since 1981.

And so what do I do when emails show up in my box asking for money for Democrats? 

I click and give. 

It’s so easy, sitting here at my computer all day while trying to revise my novel. I don’t have to write a check, don’t have to address an envelope. Just click. 

I guess some people have this problem with buying consumer stuff online. They get emails from Amazon, or Zappos, or Lands’ End offering all sorts of deals and they click and buy. Me, I delete all those offers. 

Instead I click and spend: 

  • $100 today to reelect Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. (Feingold in trouble? What are we coming to?)
  • $200 on Monday to help J Street reelect three pro-Israel, pro-peace Democrats.
  • $200 last week to to support a bunch of progressive Congressional candidates.  

This is on top of money I gave to the Barbara Boxer campaign last spring to take my daughter to a fundraiser featuring Obama

Yikes! Enough already! Sam and Becca may not get any Chanukah presents this year at the rate I’m going. 

Thinking about it, maybe this is a bit of pent-up demand. I wasn’t allowed to make political contributions all those years that I was a newspaper reporter. So now I’m going overboard at a chance to put my money where my mouth is. 

And rationally, I know I’m probably panicking more than I should. The upside of all the frightening news about the Republican resurgence is that it may energize Democrats and the left. Hopefully there are a ton of people like me right now who are making $50, $100, or even $10,000 contributions, and who will get themselves and their friends to the polling booths in November.

And maybe all these extreme Tea Party types who are taking over the GOP will alienate moderate voters. The Democrats will keep their majority in the Senate, lose less than they fear in the House, and we can move forward with things like fighting climate change, fostering renewable energy, regulating the finance industry in a way that serves consumers, and encouraging a culture of religious and social tolerance in the U.S.  

Then I can check myself into a rehab for recovering online-political-contribution addicts.


Meanwhile, I click.