Chag Sameach: Dedicating Chanukah to Israelis and Palestinians Pursuing Peace
By Aliza Becker, Executive Director

As you light the candles of your menorah for Chanukah (which means "dedication" in Hebrew) we ask that each night you devote one of the eight flames to honoring Israelis and Palestinians whose bold actions inspire us as American Jews to work for a peaceful Israel and Palestine living side by side.

Light one candle for Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch), which was founded in response to repeated reports in the press about human rights abuses of Palestinians crossing army and border police checkpoints. The goals of the group, which is open exclusively to women, are threefold: 

1) To monitor the behavior of soldiers and police at checkpoints;
2) To ensure that the human and civil rights of Palestinians attempting to enter Israel are protected; and
3) To record and report the results of their observations to the widest possible audience, from decision-makers to the general public.

The group's quiet but assertive presence at 20 Israeli military checkpoints throughout the West
Bank and along its border with Israel pressures the security forces to be accountable to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.
 
Light one candle for Ir Amim (City of Peoples or Nations in Hebrew), which
was founded just this past year to actively and comprehensively address the issues that shape present and future Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem. Ir Amim is comprised of professionals and lay activists who are devoted to a city shared culturally, spiritually and politically by the two peoples. Ir Amim has played a central role in advocating against the government's E-1 plan that would "create a critical mass of facts on the ground that will render nearly impossible the creation of a sustainable Palestinian state with any semblance of geographic integrity." [Read more]

Light one candle for Ometz Le'sarev (Courage to Refuse), an organization of more than 600 Zionist reserve officers and soldiers who refuse to serve beyond the 1967 borders but "shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel's defense." In an October 2004 interview with an Israeli journalist from Haaretz, Prime Minister Sharon's top aide Dov Weisglass claimed that the disengagement plan was partly in response to "the letters of officers ...[refusing to serve in the territories]. These were not weird kids with green ponytails and a ring in their nose with a strong odor of grass... These were... Really our finest young people." (Haaretz, Oct. 8, 2004)  In September 2004 Ometz Le'sarev and one of its founders, David Zonshein, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. "Our candidacy is a victory for those who love Israel, and a victory for Zionist values and the Israeli spirit, which have championed an uncompromising battle defending the State of Israel alongside protecting human life, human rights and honor," Zonshein said. [Read more]

Light one candle for Achotia Mizrachi women's organization. Mizrachim are Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin who comprise around half of Israel's population. Many suffer from economic and racial discrimination. Until recently, Achoti's primary mandate was the economic struggles of Mizrachi women. However, because the current economic situation is integrally related to the political situation, the group has begun to play an active role in the peace movement, where Mizrachi voices are severely underrepresented. Achoti has begun active dialogue among Mizrachi women to think together about how to foster peace from a feminist-Mizrachi perspective in which the needs of all citizens are taken into consideration.

Light one candle for Heskem (Geneva Initiative-Israel), and their Palestinian counterpart, the Palestine Peace Coalition/Geneva Initiative (PPC-GI), which over the past year have steadfastly organized Israelis and Palestinians around the principles of the Geneva Accord, a detailed two-state model final status agreement. Together the groups have brought their message to tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians through house gatherings, conferences, town-hall meetings, educational seminars in high schools, joint Israeli-Palestinian youth meetings, an interactive Internet demonstration with 70,000 Israeli and Palestinian participants, participation in demonstrations, advertising, dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership and international leaders, organizing summer camps, etc. The Israeli and Palestinian offices of the Geneva Initiative have just launched a new campaign, "There is a Partner," in which Israeli and Palestinian officials, public figures, and leaders will address one another with a message of peace and historic reconciliation. 

Light one candle for Ta'ayush (which means "coexistence" in Arabic), a grassroots movement of Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel who work to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve full equality for all Israeli citizens. Ta'ayush's activities include sponsorship of projects such as a summer camp for the cave dwellers of the South Hebron Hills and the collection and delivery of food donations for impoverished Palestinian villages. They also often participate in demonstrations on issues such as home demolitions and the security barrier. In one of their most recent actions, Ta'ayush joined Ometz Le'sarev (Courage to Refuse) and Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) to help harvest olive groves on the West Bank where permit and security issues prevented the Palestinian farmers from doing so themselves. With very limited recourses and opportunities for earning a living, the olive harvest provides much needed income for many impoverished Palestinians.

Light one candle for Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), which gives voice to the Jewish tradition of human rights by promoting justice and freedom, while campaigning against discrimination and inhumane conduct. RHR believes human rights abuses are not compatible with the age-old Jewish tradition of humaneness and moral responsibility or the Biblical concern for "The stranger in your midst"--even in the face of the danger to public order and safety which the uprising represents. It is the only Israeli rabbinic organization comprised of Reform, Orthodox, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis and students. In the past year, Rabbi Arik Ascherman was arrested for standing in front of bulldozers in an effort to block the demolition of Palestinian homes. His next hearing will be in January 2005.
 
Light one candle for all of the Israelis and Palestinians who struggle valiantly each day to keep the light of peace burning and to your personal rededication to work for peace.


Suggestions for Chanukah: 

1. Give Chanukah gelt (a donation) to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom to help us continue with the important work of building a grassroots peace movement of American Jews to encourage our government to actively promote a negotiated resolution of the conflict.  Also, when you see family, friends and acquaintances over the holiday don’t hesitate to tell them about Brit Tzedek's important work. [Make a donation]
 
2. Give Chanukah gelt to support the important work of the Israeli and Palestinian groups to which we dedicate our candles.
 
3. Fry your latkes in fair trade Palestinian olive oil providing important sustenance to families who have seen their standard of living drop dramatically in recent years. 
 
If you would like to add to these ideas, please contact the Brit Tzedek Religious Affairs Committee at rac@btvshalom.org.


Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax:     (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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