The year winds down
My top ten VR posts of 2012

Jewish Renewal voices on the UN vote recognizing Palestine

Last week, OHALAH -- the association of Jewish Renewal clergy -- voted on a resolution regarding UN recognition of Palestine. The resolution is now posted on the OHALAH website: Majority Opinion Among OHALAH Members on the UN Vote Recognizing Palestine and its Aftermath.

I'm proud of our community on several levels. First: I know that this resolution was a challenge to draft. This resolution was drafted by several members of the organization's tikkun olam committee, where there is a wide diversity of political and spiritual stances when it comes to Israel. So reaching a resolution on which all of us on the committee could agree was a victory. Second: once we brought the resolution to the broader OHALAH community, there was a lot of discussion on our list-serv. The conversation there was impassioned but productive. From where I sit, that's a victory too.

And finally: we're putting forth a majority opinion which says some things which I haven't heard any of the other major Jewish organizational voices saying. Such as:

[W]e are aware that the recent recognition of Palestine by the UN General Assembly is a tremendously important and profound moment for the Palestinian people. We honor its importance to the Palestinian people, even though many of us greet the news with trepidation about what this will mean for Israel. Only time will tell whether or not this recognition will actually move the peace process forward. We pray that this is a moment when hearts can open, and steps can be taken to pursue peace, and we call on both Israel and the newly-recognized Palestine to do everything in their power to actively pursue a just, lasting and secure peace.

This is a beautiful articulation of how I felt about the recognition of Palestine by the UN General Assembly. I don't know what it means for the future, but I recognize and honor that it's a big deal for the Palestinian community. I hope that this gesture on the part of the UN will help to create a situation where both peoples can negotiate a just and lasting peace from a new vantage. And yes, I pray that this is a moment when hearts can open and steps can be taken to pursue peace. Absolutely. Amen!

I also like the fact that this statement grounds these hopes in text:

As our sages taught centuries ago, when they interpreted Psalms 34:14, "Seek peace, and pursue it": "So great is peace, that you must seek peace for your own place, and pursue it even in another place" (Leviticus Rabah 9:9). As we seek peace for our own place, for the home of the Jewish people, we also accept our obligation to pursue peace in another's place, for another people as well as for ourselves.

Therefore, we call upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct bilateral negotiations. We agree with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that "the only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations." Therefore, we support the United States using its influence to bring the parties together for such negotiations.

We urge the three major parties involved in this process to avoid actions which may be seen as being retaliatory, reactionary, punishing or threatening to the commencement of direct negotiations.

What moves me here is the interpretation of the Leviticus Rabbah quote: that "seek peace and pursue it" means not only to seek peace for one's own place, but also to pursue it even in another place. We can read that as: seek peace from one's own place, and pursue it from the Other's place. Our tradition calls us to place ourselves in the position of the Other -- for me as a Jew, that means to try to stand in a Palestinian's shoes -- and seek peace not only from my own standpoint, but also from theirs. This is powerful stuff. (And I give kavod to R' David Seidenberg, who brought this particular interpretation to the table.)

I'm gladdened to be part of a clergy association which can accept this statement as a majority opinion among our members. May our hopes for peace be realized, speedily and soon.