Culture, Global, Israel, Justice, Politics

Jewish student rally against the "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem

North American students in Jerusalem recently gathered near the future site of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.  You can read about the Supreme Court decision to allow the construction to continue here.
The Mamilla Cemetary was once a very large historic Muslim cemetary that over the years shrunk.  For many years, the plot in question served as a multi-story parking lot.   Construction is well under way and the chances of reversing it seem slim.  However, it is still important that our voices be heard–not just here, in Jerusalem, but at the home of the Simon Wiesenthal center, in Los Angeles, as well.  More can be read about the demonstration here. One of the speakers mentioned that the Jerusalem municipality has spent millions of shekels building ceramic ‘teumah pipes’ intended to capture and redirect ritual uncleanliness and transport it.  The point being, if so much money and effort can be spent on cemeteries for something like a ‘teumah pipe’ surely another way could be found.
The following is a guest post by Adam Greenwald, a student in his third year at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.

Michael Walzer ends his famous book, “Exodus and Revolution,” with a three sentence credo:

  1. Wherever you are, it’s probably Egypt.
  2. There is a better place, a Promised Land.
  3. The only way to this Promised Land is through the wilderness—there is no way to get there except by joining together and marching.

This year, I am a rabbinical student living in Jerusalem. It’s my first time living in this “Promised Land,” and I struggle daily with how to reconcile my vision of what Israel could and should be, with the stark and often broken reality that is so clearly laid before my eyes.

That said, I believe with all my heart in Walzer’s third statement– the gap between the real and the ideal is not unbridgeable, it just requires people to find allies and set out on the path. It was in that pre-Pesach spirit that last week, 70 rabbinical students, Jewish educators, activists and never-before-been activists joined together in Kikar Ha-Chatulot in Jerusalem to raise our voices against the construction of a so-called “Museum of Tolerance” on top of a Muslim cemetery.

The rally was passionate and energizing– not particularly raucous compared with similar demonstrations I remember from my college days– but full of plenty of good chanting and sign-waving. One after another speakers– Bradley Burston of Haaretz , Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Center, former Jerusalem City Councilmember Meir Margalit, and co-director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information Hanna Siniora– thanked us for breaking out of the apathy that tends to hang thick on Americans living abroad and challenging an unjust status quo.

Pesach commemorates our ancestor’s decision to take the ultimate risk– to join hands and voices against oppression and walk together towards a Promised Land. This year, my Pesach began when I looked out at friends, teachers, and strangers– all united  on behalf of peace, tolerance, and respecting the dignity of families that we may never meet. Israel is not yet the Promised Land that we hope it could be– but this demonstration, like many others like it, was a small step toward a dream that we affirm can someday be real. L’shana ha’ba’ah b’Y’rushalayim b’shalom!

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