Within the litmus test that is the “pro-Israel” paradigm, even young devout Jews dedicating their lives to religious study and community are often attacked for being hostile to Israel, as became clear when an American Rabbi living in Israel wrote an essay last summer accusing young rabbis of being “anti-Israel.” A group of Jewish students, professionals, rabbis and activists who have lived in Israel and seen the reality in the West Bank are challenging common (mis)conceptions of Jewish connection to the land.
This Saturday, the week of Parshat Hayei Sarah (weekly Torah portion), thousands of Jews will travel to Hebron to affirm Jewish ownership of the ancient city. Citing the portion’s description of Abraham buying what is considered to be current-day Hebron, the settler movement will use the Torah portion as a proof text for their heavily-armed presence in the middle of a Palestinian city. This week, members of a group called Project Hayei Sarah will stand up in communities around the US and Israel to offer different interpretations of Parshat Hayei Sarah, of Jewish values and of the situation in Hebron.
Project Hayei Sarah is a grassroots initiative, started in 2009 by students studying in Jerusalem who visited Hebron with Breaking the Silence or Encounter. Its nearly 50 members are young Jewish leaders who are struggling to reconcile the Jewish values they have learned through Torah and the grisly reality on the ground in Hebron, in which Palestinian residents are subjected to separation, humiliation and military occupation. As part of their efforts to reclaim the parsha and challenge the political situation, Project Hayei Sarah members and friends have shared thoughts on the Torah portion and the situation in Hebron in a series of video blogs. Here are a just a few. More will be posted in the coming days: