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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

In one highly-packed week from January 12-19, a Brit Tzedek/Meretz-USA delegation will meet with members of Knesset, top Palestinian leaders, and a variety of peace activists among other activities. Steve Masters, president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and staffer Anna Freedman will write regular journal entries. We will also provide links to the trip blog of Rabbi Brant Rosen, a member of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet from Evanston, IL.


Gaza Crisis Letter
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 24, 2008

Here’s a letter I recently sent off to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times:

To the editor,

I recently traveled with a Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories. We met with academics, peace activists, and politicians, including Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayad. [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]

 


Adding the Goat
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 19, 2008

Some highlights of our final day of the Meretz/Brit Tzedek V’Shalom Israel Symposium

In the morning we visited and spoke with some members of Alon Shvut, a West Bank settlement in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Afterwards we were given a tour of the Arab villages and new Jewish settlements/outposts in the region by Hagit Ofrat (above) who works for the settlement-watch division of Peace Now. [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]

 

 


An Afternoon in Ramallah
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 17, 2008

Today was devoted to meetings with various leaders of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Our group met first with Hanan Ashrawi, the well-known Palestinian leader, negotiator and academic - and currently a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. (That’s her above, on the right, together with me and fellow trip member Susie Coliver).

Ashrawi greeted us warmly but told us we were visiting during a very difficult time for the community. As we had been told by many Israelis and Palestinians previously, we heard grave disappointment from her that the promises made post-Annapolis are not matched by the reality on the ground, and most troubling, that there is an increasing skepticism among Palestinians over the viability of a two-state solution. [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]


The peace process, the Roadmap and Dr. Ashrawi
Anna Freedman
January 17, 2008

Today we had the privilege of meeting with Palestinian activist, scholar, and politician Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. I have always admired Dr. Ashrawi, especially for her work in the field of academia. As a young woman, she studied under Edward Said, one of the most famous and prolific postcolonialist theorists of the later twentieth century, and has been described as his protoge.

Our meeting with Dr. Ashrawi was extremely engaging, and became emotionally charged toward the end. Her delivery was frank and honest, and she did not shy away from saying things that were difficult for the group to hear. [Read More]


Where Peace and Politics Collide
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 16, 2008

Today we spent the entire day at the Knesset, and an incredible day it was. We met with a number of prominent MKs, including opposition leader Bibi Netanyahu and ended up having a nearly one hour meeting with Prime Minister Olmert himself.

As it turned out, this was a politically eventful and important day in Israel. As had been rumored for the past few weeks, MK Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of the ultra-nationalist Beitenu party announced this morning that his party was pulling out of the government’s coalition, taking eleven seats with him. And as if this wasn’t enough for a Prime Minister who is pursing a delicate new peace process, Olmert is nervously awaiting the release of the second phase of the Winograd Report, which is expected to come down hard upon him for his handling of the 2006 Lebanon war and quite possibility force his resignation. [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]


Machsom Watch at Rachel's Passage
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 15, 2008

Amazing presentations today - we heard about the latest prospects for peace from Gadi Baltiansky, the Director General of “Education for Peace, Ltd” (the Israeli NGO that actively promotes the Geneva Initiative); during lunch we heard an unflinching and incisive presentation from prominent Ha’aretz columnist Akiva Eldar (his book about the settlers’ movement “Lords of the Land” is must reading); and this evening we enjoyed a stimulating, thought provoking presentation by Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, an influential, award-winning joint Israeli-Palestinian think tank. Our heads are spinning from these incredible presentations, and needless to say there is much to say about what we’ve heard (I encourage you to check out the Brit Tzedek trip blog for more). [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]


Achieving a two-state resolution
By Anna Freedman
January 15, 2008

It was really a thrill to have lunch with Akiva Eldar today. Much like Gadi Baltiansky, general director of Education for Peace, Ltd., who we heard speak this morning, he projected a rather unvarnished, realist view of the next three years as they pertain to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The overarching themes reflected in both speakers’ presentations were that 1) the idea of a Jewish state is finished if we don’t reach a two-state solution within the next 36 months, and 2) the likelihood of reaching a final status peace agreement in 2008, 2009, or even 2010 is relatively low.  One reason Eldar gave for this bleak view of the future of final status peace negotiations was his perception of the “tiny little peace camp” in Israel - while most Israelis and Palestinians support a comprehensive two-state resolution to the conflict, they remain a silent majority in the matter. [Read More]

 


Time is Fading for the 2 state solution
By Steve Masters
January 15, 2008

Today we met with 3 deep thinkers – Gadi Baltiansky who directs the Israeli arm of the Geneva Initiative, Akiva Eldar, an award winning journalist who writes for Ha’aretz and Gershon Baskin, the Israeli co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI).

No surprise that the topic for each was the future of the 2 state solution and the prospects for successful peace negotiations. [Read More]

 

 


Life in Limbo Land
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 14, 2008

Our first stop today was Givat Haviva, the venerable school founded by the Kibbutz Artzi movement. GH is located in the north of Israel, in the middle of Wadi Ara (or the so-called “Little Triangle”) – one of the most densely populated Arab sections in the country. The school is a pioneering institution in the field of coexistence; its Jewish-Arab Center for Peace sponsors a variety of different educational programs including High School Youth workshops and Arabic-language/culture classes for Israeli soldiers. [Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]

 

 


Borderlines and Ghost Towns
By Rabbi Brant Rosen
January 13, 2008

Our first full day of our Meretz-Brit Tzedek Symposium - and it’s been a full day. The morning was spent with a tour of significant areas of East Jerusalem by Danny Seidman, a prominent human rights lawyer who is one of Israel’s foremost experts on the legal ramifications of Jerusalem’s East-West divide. He is also a consultant to Im Amim, an important Israeli NGO that actively engages on issues impacting on Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem and on the political future of the city. Among the many sites we visited was Har Homa (see pic above) - a massive 2,000 unit settlement built on land expropriated by Israel. The site was first developed in 1998 and was became infamous more recently when, only five days after the Annapolis conference, Israel’s Housing Ministry announced it would take public bids on 307 new units - an outrageous set of developments that almost killed the Annapolis peace process right out of the starting gate.[Read More on Rabbi Rosen's blog]


Breaking my Heart
By Steve Masters
January 13, 2008

On Sunday afternoon we toured Hevron with the group Breaking the Silence.

Yehuda Shaul, a religious Israeli Jew who served as a commander in a Nahal brigade in Hevron for 3 years and who founded Breaking the Silence after his army service ended, was our tour guide.

Our tour focused on the city center of Hevron in what is known as H-2. [Read More]

 

 


An Agreement within a Year
By Steve Masters
January 13, 2008

This morning I attended the opening plenary of the Geneva Initiative's conference entitled: "An Agreement within a Year". The basic idea behind the conference is to create a road map for implementing the parties' joint declaration at Annapolis to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. I heard Yossi Beilin speak passionately as the first keynote speaker.Here's background on their campaign - 

http://www.geneva-accord.org/staff.aspx?docID=2593&FolderID=222&lang=en

Beilin's major points were as follows:

What did Bush say? I am a friend of Israel and I am at your service. If you don't want to reach an agreement, I won't push you. If you want to reach an agreement, this is the window of opportunity. You know me, you trust me, an agreement is pretty clear cut - along the lines of what I've outlined since 2005, so I'm willing to assist. If you want me to push, propel, insist, I'll do so.  [Read More]

 


On the Ground
By Anna Freedman
January 12, 2008

This general sentiment was reflected the following evening by political analyst Naomi Chazan, at the opening banquet of the symposium, who criticized the relative inaction of the last month since the conclusion of Annapolis. Nevertheless, Chazan was very positive about Bush’s visit as representing involvement of the international community in the peace negotiation process, which she defined as one of several critical keys to the success of the road map.

Chazan brought up several other interesting revelations about the current state of affairs of the Israeli government. She said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s main preoccupation of late is the upcoming release of the Winograd Commision on last summer’s war with Lebanon at the end of the month. The focus of the Winograd Commision is on the last 60 hours of the war, during which Olmert went against UN Res. 1701, which was essentially a call from the international community for a ceasefire, and sanctioned a strike by Israeli ground troops that resulted in the deaths of several soldiers. This event was highly traumatic to the Israeli people, and Chazan expects the aftermath of the Commission’s release to be potentially damning for Olmert, and may even result in his resignation. [Read More]


Real Effect on the Process
By Anna Freedman
January 11, 2008

My first glimpse of Israel outside of the airport was through the window of a taxi, driven by a delightful (and generous) man called Tedi. As we sped down the blessedly empty (due to the fact it was already Shabbat by the time I finally left the airport) Route 1 toward Jerusalem, I asked him for his honest opinion on the recent visit to the country paid by President Bush and his entourage. Tedi expressed passionate frustration with the event, telling me that Bush’s visit had shut down the airport twice, for several hours each time, and made the roads into and around Jerusalem’s downtown completely impassible for professional and private drivers alike. Once in the city, he drove me by the King David Hotel where Bush had stayed during his visit, and pointed out the ring of white security tents circling the entire perimeter of the hotel’s grounds.

The purpose of Bush’s visit was to jumpstart Israeli and Palestinian adherence to their promise to start negotiations that was brokered at Annapolis after some initial procrastination on the part of Israel. According to Tedi, many Israelis were skeptical about Bush’s visit, wondering if it would have any real effect on the process other than being a grandiose photo opportunity and display of U.S. good intentions.


The Coming Week
By Steve Masters
January 11, 2008

Greetings everyone,
 
It is with great pleasure that Anna and I write you all this message, for in less than 24 hours, we all will be coming together in Jerusalem for a symposium that promises to challenge, inform, and strengthen us as we work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. During the symposium, we have much to look forward to, including an ambitious itinerary, a comfortable stay in the Dan Panorama Hotel, Jerusalem, and opportunities for community building as well.
 
The timing couldn't be better.  Just yesterday, President Bush announced in a press conference, "the establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it. And it will enhance the stability of the region, and it will contribute to the security of the people of Israel." As American Jews working for peace, the thinking of Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the ground takes on even greater importance.
 
We look forward to meeting and traveling with you in the coming week.
 
Warm regards,
 
Steve Masters, President

 

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