On the evening of Tuesday, May 6th sirens will sound across Israel calling the nation to a moment of collective reflection and sorrow for Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day. As the sun sets on Wednesday Yom Ha'atzma'ut begins, and Israelis will begin their 60th Independence Day celebrations.

Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet has developed peace-oriented resources for this important anniversary year in a new guide,"Pointing the Way to Peace and Security: A Resource for Rabbis and Cantors on Israel's 60th Birthday."  It includes reflections by prominent rabbis, suggested synagogue-related peace activities, a bibliography of recommended reading, a timeline of "defining moments" in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and stories from an Israeli and Palestinian who were personally involved in the events of May, 1948. You can download a PDF of the booklet or order a printed copy. Selected highlights are below.

Israel at Sixty by Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf

We learn from Pirke Avot (5.24) that 60 is a time for maturity (ziknah).  Israel, having weathered youth and adolescence, now faces the perils and opportunities of age.  Ziknah requires patience, compromise, and empathy.  It's a time finally to relinquish messianic dreams and narcissistic pretensions.  Peace, fairness, and realism must supplant our wide-eyed naive former expectations.  It is a time to evaluate the past and face the future with honesty and courage.   Read more.

Yom Hazikaron:  The Silver Platter Revisited by Rabbi Brant Rosen

There can be no doubt that the stakes of the current "partition effort" are unbearably high. If Israel does not find the wherewithal to forge a two state solution with the Palestinians, the tragic sacrifices of the past sixty years can only give way to one of two scenarios: the end of Israel as a Jewish state or a Jewish apartheid state living in perpetual conflict with a majority Palestinian population. Do any of us really believe that either scenario would honor the sacrifice of those who died defending the dream of Jewish independence? Read more.

Yom Ha'atzmaut: On the Road at 60 by Rabbi Toba Spitzer

As a marker on a much longer road, we also need to have the faith that 60 is not the beginning of the end.  None of us can know where the current situation will lead.  Perhaps, with our leadership, the American Jewish community will become a powerful force pressuring the U.S. government to work actively to bring about a viable two-state solution, a solution that will provide for a lasting, just and secure peace for all the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine. Perhaps Israel will continue to evolve, and will someday fulfill in new ways its democratic and Jewish commitments. Perhaps, another 100 years down the road, we can imagine a cosmopolitan Israeli nation at the heart of a revitalized, dynamic and democratic Middle East. The founders of the state of Israel had the chutzpah to dream big, and to act on those dreams.  We are asked to dream no less big, and to also have the courage of our convictions--with the benefit of hindsight, and the experience of the past 60 years, to guide our dreams and our actions. Read more.

Rina Eilon: An Israeli’s Memories of 1948
I remember that an aristocratic Arab couple came to Jerusalem from Jaffa and warned my mother that when [the British left], the Arabs would attack and the Jews would lose the war and be killed.  They offered to take me with them to Jaffa to protect my life.  Knowing that so many Jews had just been murdered in the Holocaust, they wanted to help me survive.  Read more.

Rashid Irsheid: A Palestinian’s Memories of 1948

All the consul generals came, the Americans, the French, the Italians, including Ben Gurion.  The consular corps said, “You know, we have to talk to the Arabs.”  So they decided to call the Arab headquarters in the Old City of Jerusalem.  And [Ben Gurion] said, “We need someone who speaks Arabic.”  So the Polish consul said, “I have my employee Rashid.  He speaks Arabic, and English, and Hebrew, and Polish.”  And Ben Gurion said, “OK. Call them and tell them we request a ceasefire.”   Read more.

Resources for Israel's 60th Anniversary

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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