Sunday, April 26, 2009

Israeli Independence Day, April 29

On Saturday night we went to a concert at Temple Micah, a benefit for Open House, organized by Rabbi Adam Morris. Last summer Rabbi Morris traveled to Israel with a group of high school students who had been studying the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. He and his family have strong ties to Israel, but this trip was different.

He discovered on this trip that his story - the story of his family's ties to Israel and their hopes and dreams for the future - was not the story of all of the residents of Israel. As he met Palestinians who told a different story, his own story was forever changed. He discovered that his own story needed to be retold.

He was also inspired by his meeting with Dalia Landau, whose story is told in the book, The Lemon Tree. In 1948, after her family came to Israel from Bulgaria, they moved into the house in al-Ramle, the house with the lemon tree in the back yard. They were told the Arab owners had abandoned the house. Then in 1965 she met Bashir, whose family had been forced to leave the house in 1948. Her journey of understanding is the story of "The Lemon Tree." She eventually founded Open House, a center created to bring Jews, Christians and Muslims together, to hear one another's stories.

As Rabbi Morris prepared, with the rest of his community, to celebrate Israeli Independence Day on April 29, he realized that he needed to find a way to celebrate that honored his new understanding of Israel's existence. He wrote about his ambivalence and his decision to plan this concert to benefit Open House:

"This year I am planning to do something with this ambivalence! I havedrawn such great inspiration from Dalia Landau<> and Open House<> - the community center she opened inRamla, Israel to promote co-existence and tolerance between Israeli Jewsand Palestinians. So, at the beginning of the week of IsraeliIndependence Day (April 25th @ 7:30pm), Temple Micah will be hosting aconcert to benefit Open House. Our resident musicians, David Ross and Hal Aqua will lead the concert band in an evening of music of peace,hope and justice."

Rabbi Morris's Yom Kippur sermon in the fall of 2008, is a letter to his two children, telling them what he learned, his message to them about his experience in Israel. He concludes: "the moment that we who were strangers in Egypt, forget how to treat the stranger; the moment that we who have been abused by those in power, become abusers to those over whom we have power; the moment that we create within another human being an inkling of the humiliation, subjugation or despair that Jews have known through the course of history than we betray the very essence of what we are called to be as Jews."

And so, as the Jewish community celebrates Israeli Independence Day, Rabbi Morris encourages Jews to travel with him the journey of getting to know the other. The concert on Saturday was a beginning.

Read some of his journey on his blog:

The lyrics of one of the songs we heard Saturday night, "Two Thousand Years," by singer/songwriter David Ross, speak eloquently to the struggle of the Jewish community:

In the beginning, there was the cold and the night,
Prophets and angels gave us the fire and the light.
Man was triumphant, armed with the faith and the will,
That even the darkest ages couldn’t kill.

Too many kingdoms; too many flags on the field.
So many battles, so many wounds to be healed.
Time is relentless, only true love perseveres.
It’s been a long time and now I’m with you,
After two thousand years.

This is our moment, here at the crossroads of time.
We hope our children carry our dreams down the line.
They are the vintage—what kind of life will they live?
Is this a curse or a blessing that we give?

Sometimes I wonder, why are we so blind to fate?
Without compassion, there can be no end to hate;
No end to sorrow, caused by the same endless fears.
Why can’t we learn from all we’ve been through,
After two thousand years?

There will be miracles, after the last war is won.
Science and poetry rule in the new world to come.
Prophets and angels, gave us the power to see,
What an amazing future there will be.

And in the evening, after the fire and the light,
One thing is certain: nothing can hold back the night.
Time is relentless, and as the past disappears,
We’re on the verge of all things new.
We are two thousand years.

Tuesday, May 5, 7 pm, in Denver, we will be discussing Dalia Landau's story, the "Lemon Tree." If you'd like to join us, please email me:

JERUSALEM, April 26, 2009 (AFP) - Israel will seal off the occupied West Bank for three days beginning at midnight on Sunday ahead of its annual Independence Day celebrations, the army said.

The Palestinian territory will be sealed until midnight on Wednesday, an army spokesman told AFP.

During that time, entry into Israel from the occupied West Bank will be severely limited to urgent humanitarian cases and journalists, he said.

Since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, Israel has usually sealed off the West Bank ahead of major holidays, saying the move is necessary to prevent attacks.

The Jewish state marks its 61st anniversary on Wednesday, in accordance with the Jewish calendar.
Copyright (c) 2009 Agence France Presse: