.Israeli recon company in full combat gear prepare for a night raid in the West Bank | cc: wikipedia
Rabbi Arik Ascherman uses the weekly parasha in order to show us that the out of ordinary situation in a daily situation in the Israeli reality. The out of ordinary is expressed by increasing violence of the security forces in the territories and continues with the increasing poverty. Rabbi Ascherman asks us to wake up and see both sides of the coin.
Last week, i received an emotional telephone call at 11:30 at night from our Palestinian field worker, Zacharia. A few minutes earlier he had been leaving the village of Sinjil on his way home. Soldiers exited a home they had been searching, told him to turn around and return to the village, aimed their guns at him, and through a stun bomb at his car after he had already turned around. He felt that his life had been in danger. Other Palestinians reported that the soldiers also threatened a woman and her young child. They said that the jeeps continued into the village, ordering stores to close (During Ramadan, stores are open at all hours.), and even ordering those gathered at a mourner’s tent to disperse. We have been demanding explanations ever since. One senior officer acknowledged that there was more army activity in the area as a result of the recent tensions. (Settlers had been actively trying to stop an authorized tree and coordinated planting project on lands the State acknowledges to be private Palestinian land. Unidentified individuals also planted trees in an area which had been taken over by settlers. The Legal Advisor for the OT had already ruled that this was private Palestinian land and the trespassers must be removed, but it hasn’t happened yet.) However, when this officer checked, he was told that there hadn’t been any unusual activity reported by the soldiers on the evening in question.
Unfortunately, its true. There was nothing unusual that night. There was a time when in “Parashat HaShavua” we tried to report on human rights violations (and successes) that we were aware of, even if we weren’t directly involved. I strongly recommend that you sign up to receive the little stories that my friend Amos Gvirtz sends out once or twice a week, “Don’t say we didn’t know.” You can reach him at email@example.com.
Even were we to renew our reports on the “big issues” like violence, takeovers of land and property, prevention of access, denial of water, prevention of freedom of movement, etc., we wouldn’t get to incidents like what happened to Zachaia. We only knew about this because it was Zacharia, our field worker who I very well connected with other Israeli organizations as well, and knows who to turn to. These kinds of events are the daily norm in the Occupied Territories for untold numbers of average Palestinians, because we Israelis have the power to do so and don’t think twice about it. We continue to say that we have the most moral army in the world, “What would other armies do if they were in a situation like ours.” There is of course a kernel of truth to this, but the question is whether our standard is what other armies do or the Divine Truth that all human beings are created in God’s Image. We therefore learn in this week’s Torah portion :Judge justly the orphan and the widow, and love the stranger and give him/her clothing. Love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10: 18-19.)
Believe me. Even if the incidents of that night were not noted in the battalion situation room, the were duly noted. Firstly, we learn in Pirkei Avot in the name of Rabi, “Consider three things and you will not sin. Know what is above you: A Seeing Eye, a Hearing Ear, and all your deeds are written in a ledger. (Pirkei Avot 2:1). But deeds are not only written down in the heavens. A Palestinian once told me that he bought his 7 year old son a bicycle. Shortly after that soldiers busted into their home for a “routine” search, and destroyed the bike in the process. His son refused to throw the bike away, although it could not be repaired. From that day on, the only thing he was interested in buying when he went to a toy store was guns.
Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the Occupation.
Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the povery
Moving to internal Israeli social justice issues, we now have to suffer raised regressive taxes and social welfare cuts. RHR’s newest rabbi, Sigal Asher, wrote about this in “Mako” and the link is here in Parashat HaShavua. She talks about the latest decrees in terms of Jewish values. For each of the few stories that make it into the news, here also there are untold thousands who live in a “routine” nightmare daily reality. Here also, every blow is recorded in the heavens, and burned into the consciousness and souls of the children who go to bed hungry at night.
I am always amazed at the fact that every one of the us is an expert when it comes to security and what goes on in the OT. However, we live in awe of economists, and feel incapable of saying anything. We don’t understand economics, will never understand finance, and must obey the “experts.” I always say that we must look at the macro and the micro. I am not sure that we should accept the government;s decisions about the size of the national deficit, etc., However, I am willing to leave those questions to experts. However, beyond the questions of the balance between income and expenses, there are questions of values that we must not abscond from our responsibility to offer an opinion. Should we impose taxes that primarily affect the weak and the poor, and/or should raise the taxes of those making millions? Should we cut from the funds going to settlements, cultural activities and/or welfare? What is the best way to ensure justice for the orphan, the widow and the stranger? Obviously the tycoons want to influence these decisions according to their interests, with threats that if they don’t get their way they will take their money elsewhere. However, our Torah portion also helps us understand why many others, beyond the fact that they are afraid to say anything about economics, are quiet. Moses warns, ” Be careful, lest you eat and be satisfied, and dwell in nice homes…your heard may become pompous and you may forget Adonai your God. …You may say to yourself, “Through my talent and skill I have accomplished all of this.’” Deuteronomy 8: 12, 14, 17) It is human nature throughout the world that those who have the good fortune to succeed say, “If I did it, so can they.” This is another factor leading to active or tacit support for our move from a social welfare economy to a neo-liberal philosophy that says it is wrong for the state to support the weak (or weakened) members of our society.
If we have a place for all of the “routine” incidents and the “nothing unusual” stories of individuals in our hearts, even though we can not possibly know each and every one of them, then perhaps doing justly will become the routine, and we will be able to fulfill for all the residents of this Land our Torah portion’s vision cited in the Prayer after Meals, “You will eat and be satisfied and bless Adonai your God for the good Land that God has given you.” (Deut. 8:10)