Israel, Politics, Religion

Rabbinical Student Reports from Palestine

As the violence escalates, it’s important to turn to people on the ground to give us a sense of what daily life is like beyond the headlines. American Rabbinical Student Alissa Wise is in Palestine for the summer and you can read her updates at the aptly named Palestinian Talmud.
Here’s what Alissa had to say on Sunday after her visit to Mas’ha, a Palestinian village in the Northern West Bank near the green line:

In the village of Mas’ha, which has been severely devastated by the building of the Wall, the home of Hani and Munira is in a cage. Let me be perfectly clear: the house is surrounded on all four sides by either a razor wire fence or a large concrete Wall and is under constant surveillance by the Israeli army.
It was on April 23, 2003 that the bulldozers arrived to the village of Mas’ha to begin building the Wall. When they arrived they found a peace camp composed of the residents of Mas’ha as well as Israeli and international supporters. The peace camp lasted a few months; participants lived there, displayed an exhibition about the Wall, and obstructed the route of the Wall. Unfortunately, this peace camp did not succeed in stopping the construction of the Wall, which ended up eating up 98% of Mas’ha’s land between the fence and the Green Line, mostly olive tree groves.

To sign up for Alissa’s list send an e-mail to “palestiniantalmud-subscribe” at yahoogroups dot com

28 thoughts on “Rabbinical Student Reports from Palestine

  1. News Release: The Berlin Zeigeist Telegraph, 1941 – Noam Tchomskovich today blasted his fellow Jews for attempting to stop German friendship guards from entering their homes and leading them to safer quarters. “Wild rumours are circulating that Jews are being led away to their death, but if a few Jews are hurt, is that really important? Ve must focus on the big picture, the hurt and dismay our fellow German friendship guards must feel when they are brutalized by Jews – after all, the guards are just doing their job, if that means a few Jews die that is the price they must pay for being Jews”. Shmormna Thinkestein added his thoughts: “Jews must endure pain and death for the greater good of the motherland, they should never strike back – after all, a dead Jew is a good Jew, but a combative Jew is a nasty Jew who must be crushed immediately.” A hastily gathered group of Rabbis for Peace with the German Motherland, some of them brought back from what are sometimes referred to as “camps”, offered support to both Thinkerstein and Tchomskovich, saying – Jews should never fight back, never contest – that is our duty as Jews. More News at 11:00.

  2. “American Rabbinical Student Alissa Wise is in Palestine for the summer.”
    But they didn’t let women into Rabbinical schools in the 12th century.

  3. There is no Palestine. There was an Ottoman province that the British called Palestine because the Romans renamed Judea, Palestina, but there never has been a Palestine. The Palestinians could get a Palestine, but then, um, they’d have to, you know, compromise and make a real peace.

  4. guys, the point isn’t whether or not Israel may defend itself. The point is A) the human price resulting from said actions, which is very important to acknowledge, even if unavoidable. B) that it happens sometimes that Israel causes needless suffering.
    it hurt to write that last sentence, but that’s just the way it is.
    I’m too tired from a rough fast and a rough day to go into where I agree and disagree with which opinions; I just think this post added a very important element to the conversation.

  5. Why is it that the right never seems able to hold a dialogue, but is great at projecting rage?
    So, there were no female rabbis in the 12th century. There also weren’t airplanes, then, either. Or, antibiotics. Or elevators that stop on every floor on shabbat. Or, the State of Israel, for that matter.
    Someone put me on Alissa’s mailing list (probably one of the dozens of Israelis I marched with in Bil’in), and her writings are very touching.
    There was something quite ironic, about being with hundreds of Palestinian peace partners, but getting shot at by the IDF in Bil’in.
    Interestingly, I met no one who hated Jews (including internationals who weren’t Jewish), but people who hate kibush.

  6. “that it happens sometimes that Israel causes needless suffering.”
    When one country is attacked by another, they are allowed to defend themselves without taking extreme measures to protect the enemy’s civilian population. Reasonable measures are enough, and Israel goes “lifnim meshurat ha’din” in this area. This is especially true when the enemy does not fight in uniform, and hides among its own civilian population.

  7. No suicide bombers, no wall.
    No terrorist mafia running the country, no millions of dollars into Swiss Bank Accounts and to buy weapons, and no graft and slices of small businesses.
    Rule of law, independent judiciary, relatively uncorrupt police, stable monetary system, means more entrepreneurs, jobs, exports, means you don’t have to go to Israel for jobs. Also means more expats come back home and invest, means also foreign investment, also means local jobs. Israel doesn’t have Intel and Motorola plants and Warren Buffet investing in local industry and the most biotech startups in the world because that stuff just grew. Also more Israel-Palestine joint hitech projects (of which there are a few now). More tourism. Jews can visit holy sites in Palestine, maybe even live there under Palestinian rule without being killed.
    Stable middle class resulting from stable economic and civil society means more people with a stake in prosperity and cooperation with neighbors, and no tolerance for suicide bombers, and the confidence to tell their manipulators in the Arab bloc to take a hike. (Finally erasing Hamas and Hezbollah will help, also reduced gullability by Europeans to keep funding them.)
    Eventually it’s safe to tear down the wall, everyone is prosperous and happy.

  8. The US Constitution defines treason as: “Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
    Webster’s Dictionary: “assisting its enemies in war.”
    The State of Israel is at war with teh Palestinian Authority. To aide them or sovereigns of the PA against the State of Israel is treason.

  9. Rebecca whimpered:
    guys, the point isn’t whether or not Israel may defend itself. The point is A) the human price resulting from said actions, which is very important to acknowledge, even if unavoidable. B) that it happens sometimes that Israel causes needless suffering.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    (A) It is obscene to point exclusively to this isolated case as an example of “the human price” of the Arab-Israeli conflict – and doubly so this week.
    The opportunistic, politically motivated nature of this post is obvious – its attempt to divert attention from Arab aggression, and the self-inflicted nature of much of the “human suffering” – is clear.
    Who exactly do you think you are fooling with your “pay no attention to those terrorists behind the curtain” dodge – do you REALLY think the rest of us are so stupid as to turn away from our TVs and newspapers and, like, suddenly forget the events of the past 2 weeks?
    Sorry, folks – reality has taken the Leftist mantra of Pali victimhood and shredded it.
    The Rest of Us – those of us who have been more “reality based” than the Left, as it now turns out – are neither fools so easily duped by your obvious propaganda ploy, nor are we brutes unaware of the “human suffering” caused by war.
    Are YOU aware of the “human impact” of Arab terror attacks? Or is the suffering of Jews not part of your “human” equation?
    Get a F-ing clue…

  10. Ben-David, more Arabs are dead than Jews in this war, particularly in the Lebanon escalations. Two Israelis kidnapped, now eight Israeli soldiers dead, and 63 dead and 165 wounded Lebanese.
    What sayest thou to the reality of inequality in human suffering?
    Lebanese: 10
    Israelis: 63

  11. Kung Fu Jew –
    Try some of this math…
    If Britain, USA, France or Canada were attacked and their soldiers were taken hostage – from a sworn enemy – how many folks would die in that equation. My guess, more than the soldiers kidnapped. G-damn man, I’m glad some of the posters are on Jewshcool and not in the IDF.

  12. Had the Wall been built along the Green Line, it would have been a SECURITY Wall. Since, instead, it gerrymanders all over Palestinian territory, it’s basically a land grab wall, which lays the groundwork for more suicide bombers, who have nothing to lose.
    Move the route of the Wall. End the kibush. Let human beings engage in normal human activities of working, going to school, having a picnic on the beach, turning on the faucet to find clean water, not being ‘oops! Collateral damage!’ and you’ll see that the hatred is against oppression, not any particular religion.
    This is ‘reality-based.’

  13. Miriam…shhh. If this were about walls…why the attack from Gaza…from Lebanon? Haven’t we exited those areas en masse. Let Charles school ya:
    Money quote:
    “…occupation was a mere excuse to persuade gullible and historically ignorant Westerners to support the Arab cause against Israel. The issue is, and has always been, Israel’s existence. That is what is at stake.”

  14. New Math: Whoever has more casualties is the “good” guy. Ok, that makes the Germans the good guys in WWII, the South the good guys in the Civil War, etc. Folks, where have you gone to school?

  15. It’s probably not so much about walls as about getting kicked out of their homes by people claiming “we were here first!”
    Why shouldn’t they hate us? Ben Gurion understood that.

  16. Balaam’s Donkey is honest. The fact remains is that this conflict has always been about the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. I can agree to disagree with someone who states: “Israel in totality is illegal”. It takes balls to say that. They’re wrong, and we can debate why, but it’s honest. Most anti-Israel folks don’t have BD’s courage.

  17. they hate will dissipate and not lead to qassams from the WB if the wall is moved and the occupation is ended. most people do get pissed when you steal their land and put walls between them, their farms, their schools, & their hospitals. it’s human nature.

  18. I don’t know if you were being facetious or not, but I’m not actually anti-Israel. More of a post-Zionist these days.
    Wherever the country stands these days, it’s tough to deny some of the difficult ethical realities that came with the foundation of the state or not. I believe, whether I am right or not, that people losing their homes as a result of us reclaiming an ancestral homeland is a part of that hatred. I mean, good old-fashioned racism, indoctrination, religious what-have-you plays a role too.
    I can say all the same shit about America vis-a-vis the Native Americans. Those are the harsh realities of how this country came to be. It hurts less because its 400 years away. But acknowledging this shit doesn’t make me Anti-American; nor does pointing out how the world pretty much hates America today, too.
    I mean, I’m not sure why I still should be a proud American, or whether or not I ever have been, but that’s pretty much irrelevant.
    Whether or not Israel is legal, people still got screwed in the bargain at certain points. If someone loses his or her family’s home, that person will not care if the state was legal. He/she still lost a home.

  19. AE: Israel does not have a Constitution (and the idiot-boy-in-chief says that ours is ‘just an old piece of paper.’).
    Shtreimel: Both you, and your WaPO friend, Charles, seem to forgot something about Gaza — the kibush never ended, there. Yes, 5,000 settlers were removed from the open-air prison of 1.5 million Palestinians, but the only ‘freedom’ they had was to go to the beach (where, unfortunately, for some, bombs had been waiting patiently, for their return).
    If you really believe that before God made Jews and Arabs, he made adam, b’tselem elohim, do you really think that people hate us because of our Jewishness, not because their children are not allowed a future, and not because they are not safe in their homes?
    Don’t you find it a bit coincidental, that the bowels of hell have been perforated AFTER Bibi meets with the Dick Cheney, and Rummy? And after idiot-boy says he doesn’t want any withdrawal from the West Bank, because Hamas will take over?
    And doesn’t this horrific destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, remind you — just a bit — of a consequence of a certain Reichstag Fire?
    As one shoa survivor in Tel Aviv said to me (just a few days before Cpl. Shalit’s capture): ‘Never again’ means for EVERYONE.

  20. Miriam, if you’re suggesting something conspiratorial, it doesnt need to be there to explain current events.

  21. shtreimel wrote: “If Britain, USA, France or Canada were attacked and their soldiers were taken hostage – from a sworn enemy – how many folks would die in that equation. My guess, more than the soldiers kidnapped.”
    Actually Britain *was* bombed with 2000lb car bombs and *did* have many soldiers kidnapped by a certain group called the IRA. And Britain didn’t start bombing Irish towns with 500lb bombs. There *is* a difference between defense and counter-attack you know.

  22. “Yes, 5,000 settlers were removed from the open-air prison of 1.5 million Palestinians, but the only ‘freedom’ they had was to go to the beach (where, unfortunately, for some, bombs had been waiting patiently, for their return).”
    This whole spiel of the Palestinians in Gaza living in “open air cages” is so played out. You apparently did not see the same images of Palestinians moving back and forth across the border with Egypt. They were widely published in the press and on the Internet. And I’m sure you saw the footage of people tearing up those greenhouses. If people are in dire straits and food is such an issue, why did they gleefully destroy the gardens?
    Here is something inspiring:
    The Left should be supporting Israel in this war
    No socialist group in Britain is saying what needs to be said today about the crisis in the Middle East. All the groups on the organised Left are busy denouncing Israel for its “aggression” against Gaza and Lebanon. Many are expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. None are saying that Israel needs and deserves the support of the Left.
    But that is exactly what they should be saying.
    One doesn’t have to go back decades, as is the tradition in articles of this sort, to explain. Let’s just go back to the dawn of the twenty-first century. In Israel, the far Right has been defeated in elections. A coalition government including the Left is in power, and is committed to ending the conflict with the Arab world. In 2000, as a first step, it completely withdraws all Israeli forces from every last inch of Lebanese soil. Even the United Nations admits that the Israeli withdrawal is complete, and conforms with all UN resolutions. The Lebanese government is obligated to move its army up to the international border. It does not do so.
    [article continues]

  23. Chaim– you quoted my second point while referring to my first point. please read.
    Ben David– why the nastiness? I’ve seen other instances where I disagree with Israeli policy, not just this one. And I’ve met plenty of people who ignore Palestinian suffering (esp from comfortable america), as well as people “on the right” who are well aware of it. I’m horrified by suicide bombings, missile attacks, etc.– I’ve met people who’ve lost limbs, and have friends who’ve lost loved ones. So knock off that point. You don’t know me, nor where I’m coming from here.

  24. WEVS1,
    The Lee article you reference is compelling, and provides solid backing for your argument that supporting Israel in this conflict is the only position consonant with the Leftist commitment to democracy and opposition to theocracy and authoritarianism. I also believe – as argued in the article by Paul Berman you referenced in commenting on a separate post – that that Palestinian militarism is largely an ideologically driven expression of deformed religious fanaticism and extreme nationalism, having relatively little to do with the material conditions of economic deprivation in the Occupied Territories.
    Yet, the ideological basis of terrorism is precisely why there is, indeed, “no military solution” to the conflict (short of a war of extermination or wholesale ethnic cleansing, both consistently advocated by many of those on the right), and why the current campaign in Lebanon and Gaza – justified though they may be – remains strategically irrelevant. In other words: What does Israel do after the resolution of this conflict, or the four or five or six such incidents after that? The answer is that there is exactly one realistic solution to this continuing cycle of violence and retaliation, consisting of a withdrawal of Israeli forces essentially to the Green Line (except for limited sites vital to insuring genuine security concerns, not demographic superiority).
    Let me make acknowledge up front my belief that the Occupation is not the cause of Palestinian terrorism, and that a substantial portion of the Palestinian population continues to nourish fantasies of reclaiming of Israel by pushing the Jews into the Sea. Moreover, such a withdrawal may not even result, at first, in a cessation of suicide bombings and other terrorist activities. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO. The point is that an end to the occupation is precisely the condition the Palestinians have identified as the contingency they’d be willing to accept as the basis of a permanent peace. Accordingly, while anti-Semitism will hardly disappear, the capacity to leverage worldwide sympathy for the Palestinians will be profoundly diminished, if not eradicated altogether. Israel will, as with the present conflict, be free to defend itself from terrorist attacks and border incursions with impunity, depriving Arab despots across the Middle East of the ability to exploit such incidents to radicalize new generations of Muslims against Israel’s existence. One way or the other, Israel will enjoy the benefits of peace – or a reasonable facsimile thereof – through either the unilateral imposition of a legitimate security wall, or a negotiated solution with a Palestinian government willing to accept reality.
    As long as Israel insists on exercising dominion over millions of inhabitants to whom it has no intention of granting political self-determination or civil rights, perpetual warfare is an inevitability, with no long-term solution beyond the Right’s refrain of “They started it.” Meanwhile, time is not on Israel’s side. Israel is sure to be increasingly treated as a pariah state worldwide, while support for Israel is progressively marginalized even in the United States, much as it was for South Africa in the 1980’s
    On another topic, you recently argued that I was making unreasonable assumptions and attributing positions to you unfairly because of your disagreement with me on a separate topic. Quite simply, you were right; my response was more a product of my defensiveness than a reaction to the merits of your argument. The reason for that frustration, though, is a growing disgust with the fact that so many of these discussions reject even the most basic rules of civil discourse, embracing personal attacks and political smears rather than actual arguments employing facts and logic.
    This thread is a perfect illustration of the type of conduct that has sometimes turned discussions on this blog into cesspools of ignorance and futility. While some of those on the Right have offered actual arguments, others have accused those agreeing with the post of supporting Nazis, committing treason, and being self-hating Jews like Chomsky, or have engaged in the usual odious shtick of tossing off slimy insulations consisting of nothing more than punctuation and cretinous jargon. This bullshit has got to stop if there is any hope whatever of restoring some kind civility and value to these discussions. The only solution, it seems to me, is for those on both sides of an argument to police the remarks of those who share their views, and to censure those comments when they are libelous, irrelevant or simply cross the line of common decency.

  25. David, thanks for those lucid comments and your clarifications. I agree with most of what you wrote. However, I don’t think things are as clear-cut regarding the occupation. Let me try to explain.
    “The point is that an end to the occupation is precisely the condition the Palestinians have identified as the contingency they’d be willing to accept as the basis of a permanent peace.”
    First, how broadly or narrowly does one define occupation? I probably don’t need to tell you that for many Palestinians occupation = Israel. When the PLO, Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, etc. argue against “occupation”, they are arguing for the elimination of the “Zionist Entity”.
    Second, Hamas, who are the majority in the PA and who were voted in by a majority of the Palestinian people, is clear that it’s ideological purpose is not ending Israeli occupation, it’s establishing a new caliphate. We may view that as far-fetched but should pay attention to what these people say and write as well as their actions.
    In a review of Efraim Karsh’s “Islamic Imperalism: A History”, at the website DEMOCRATIYA ( Evan Daniel writes, “Unlike the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Hamas is neither the embodiment of pan-Arab aspirations nor of Palestinian self-determination. It is not a political movement for national liberation that contains an armed wing. Hamas has articulated the far broader goal of establishing a global Islamist empire. This is in line with it’s ideological parent organisation, ‘which viewed its violent opposition to Zionism from the 1930s and 1940s as an integral part of the Manichean struggle for the creation of a worldwide caliphate rather than the defence of the Palestinian Arabs’ national rights’ (p. 213-4). According to Karsh, for Hamas, the issue of Palestine is ‘neither an ordinary territorial dispute between two national movements not a struggle by an indigenous population against a foreign occupier. It is a holy war by the worldwide Islamic umma to present the loss of a part of the House of Islam to the infidels’ (p. 214).”
    David, you write:
    “The reason for that frustration, though, is a growing disgust with the fact that so many of these discussions reject even the most basic rules of civil discourse, embracing personal attacks and political smears rather than actual arguments employing facts and logic.”
    I could not agree more. Here’s to the promotion of civil discourse on the Internet, in our personal lives and in our politics.
    Take it easy, bro.

  26. WEVS1,
    Whatever disagreement there may be between us, it certainly isn’t on this point. I may have been less than clear, but I categorically reject the notion the Occupation is the root cause of Palestinian violence and militancy, and largely support the conventional arguments offered in opposition to that claim. Specifically, it is impossible to deny that the Palestinians were no less committed to terrorism when Jordan and Egypt controlled the territories. Moreover, there’s also no denying that Israel came very close to offering a genuine two-state deal compromise under Barak, the failure of which was principally attributable to intransigence and stupidly on the part of the Palestinians. In short, I believe the incidence of anti-Semitism among the Palestinians is virulent and pervasive, and that a substantial portion of the Palestinians populace is motivated by the hope of eradicating Israel in its entirety.
    That said, the Palestinians and virtually the entire Arab world have claimed for years that their only condition for peace is an end to the Occupation, and that their opposition to Israel’s existence per se is no more than a rhetorical formality. Accordingly, the Palestinians have become trapped by their own rhetoric, the principal consequences of which are twofold. One, it is unquestionably true that a substantial, if imprecisely defined, portion of the Palestinians have tired of the quixotic crusade against Israel’s existence, and would truly welcome a two-state solution based on territorial compromise. Even assuming this faction is too small to assure the cessation of violence and rejectionism as formal Palestinian policy, the capacity of any Palestinian government to maintain such a posture of unyielding opposition will have been fatally compromised. Even more importantly, Israel will be able to defend itself from such terrorism as may occur without the risk of worldwide political censure and economic isolation, or that of Arab dictators exploiting such incidents to radicalize all of Islam against “the Zionist entity.” In short, this is the only strategy that assures Israel the benefits of peace.
    At the same time, Israel must acknowledge that there is faction of the Israeli public and Jewish Diaspora that is no more supportive of territorial compromise or a two-state solution than the Palestinians, one with fundamentally different conception of the nature of a Jewish state and the Zionist principles on which it was founded. The Israeli government must forcefully confront those who would hold hostage the legitimate security interests of Israel – not to mention its soul – to the goal of building a petty Biblical empire in the West Bank.

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