As summertime usually brings vacation and swimming, juicy summer fruit and the stretch of long, sweetly lazy days, as a young person, I always found it to be such a bummer that in the Jewish calendar, the three weeks from the 17th of the month of Tammuz until the 9th of Av (this year, from July 9th to July 30th) marks a period of Jewish mourning, beginning and ending with days of fasting.
The 17th of Tammuz marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE, Apostamos burned the Torah, and an idol was placed in the Temple courtyard. The Three Weeks follows the process of invasion, destruction and slaughter that reaches its climax on the 9th of Av, marking the destruction of the Temple and of the entire city of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the exile of the Jewish people. Other tragedies come to be associated with the 9th of Av, marking it as the deepest day of national mourning on the Jewish calendar.
This year, I hear important possibilities in the practices of the Three Weeks to awaken attention, learning and action. Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has set the date of July 1st to begin unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. Our Sages teach, “Those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see its joy” (Talmud Taanit 30b). The fate and future of a Jewish home in Israel is inseparably linked with the fate and future of a Palestinian home in Palestine. What is your vision of a joyous Jerusalem, of a just and joyous Israel and Palestine? I am sharing one of the letters I have signed, along with almost 800 Jewish clergy speaking out against annexation. I encourage us to engage in mourning for the historic destruction of Jerusalem as a catalyst for interrupting and reversing current destruction. One opportunity for action can be found here.
A Letter from Jewish Clergy Calling on the Israeli Government to Abandon Plans for Annexing the West Bank
This letter was written and is endorsed by the ten member groups of the Progressive Israel Network.
As rabbis, cantors, and seminary students who deeply love Israel and care about its future, we urge all members of the Jewish community to call on the Israeli government to abandon plans for annexing all or part of the West Bank as early as this summer.
We hold fast to the vision, laid out in the state’s Declaration of Independence, that Israel will be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Annexing all or part of the West Bank would mean turning Palestinians living there into non-citizen residents of Israel, without the legal rights or voting rights of citizens.
This would be a catastrophic mistake. Unilateral annexation by Israel would:
- Demonstrate that Israel’s current government no longer seeks a two-state solution. Annexation would leave a series of disconnected Palestinian enclaves without real independence, freedom of movement, or civil rights. It would leave Palestinians without hope of genuine statehood and self-determination.
- Place Israel in flagrant violation of international laws and undermine Israel’s status as a democracy, with the Palestinians under annexation becoming permanent second-class inhabitants living under a different system of rights and laws than the Jewish Israelis who will enjoy the rights of full citizenship.
- Likely lead to an end of Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel.
- Further isolate Israel in the world and strengthen Israeli and Palestinian extremists.
- Endanger Israel’s enduring peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.
- Profoundly weaken the bi-partisan consensus of support that Israel has enjoyed in the US for decades.
Unilateral annexation violates human rights, weakens democracy, and makes Israelis and Palestinians less secure. It gambles with long-established peace agreements in exchange for enacting a messianist and ultra-nationalist fantasy that violates Jewish values of dignity for every human being, legal equality for all people, and the commitment to pursuing peace. Such a move will also drive more and more young people in Jewish communities away from Israel, as the most visible expressions of Zionism become ever more divorced from the principles of democracy and neighborliness expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
We urge all who care about the future of Israel as a democratic state, the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and the safety and security of all people in the region, to lift up their voices now in opposition to unilateral annexation, and in support of the pursuit of a negotiated two-state solution that respects the legitimate national rights and aspirations of both peoples.