Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Some of my thinking re moving beyond the State of Israel

Friends, readers, I wrote this today in response to a long thoughtful post by a valued Reconstructionist rabbinic colleague on the internal discussion list of our rabbinic association which focused at length on the BDS movement prompted by the recent BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania.  I want to share it with you as a way to share some of my thinking.  I invite your response.  I'd love to hear from you.  One way to share your response with others beside myself is to post it to my Facebook page.  -- David

Andrew, I appreciate your willingness to hang in here and keep discussing.  You probably have more willingness to do that than I do at this point.  I apologize for not responding more fully.  I do want to respond to one point you wrote: 

". . . the ultimate goal of BDS, a goal explained by Abunimah, Mermelstein and Shapira, is to dismantle the Jewish State of Israel and replace it with a new, “democratic”, pluralistic society – a society that is not a Jewish homeland.  This would be the death of Zionism and a horrific loss for the Jewish people."

I think you're right that their goal is to replace the JEWISH State of Israel with a more democratic, non-ethnic state.  However, that's not the goal of the BDS movement, which is all about ending the Israeli occupation and the suffering it causes.  More fundamentally, I think you make two major, important mistakes.  First, you are also wrong to equate a "state" with a "homeland".  Second, you are wrong in believing that would be the "death" of Zionism and a horrific loss for the Jewish people. 

The homeland of the Jewish people is that land, that place, that we call the Land of Israel, or (as it was widely known among Jews as well) Palestine or even the Land of Canaan.  That is our homeland regardless of which government rules it or what state is organized on it.  There are plenty of people with homelands which are not states.  There are states which are not congruent with anyone's particular homeland.  Homeland does not equal state.

Second, Zionism is not dependent on a Jewish state.  Zionism is about Jews living freely in the Land of Israel in a thriving Jewish culture.  It does not necessarily require the mechanisms of a state.  Until well into the Holocaust years, even the World Zionist Congress never had a majority of delegates supporting the establishment of a Jewish state as a goal.  (See "Biltmore Conference".)  A state became necessary because of historical circumstances.  It is not a sine qua non of Zionism.

I believe we all would be better off if we hold out as our goal getting past the ethnic state which has been and will continue to be the cause of so very much conflict and suffering -- as well as the distortion and debasement of Judaism.  I used to love the State of Israel and thought that it needed to exist.  I no long think that.  In fact, I want our shared vision and goal to be enabling Jews to live in the Jewish homeland in a way that enables everyone there to be fulfilled as equal citizens of whatever state is organized by those people there to meet their common needs, i.e. not a "Jewish" state.  I think there clearly was an historical need for a Jewish state in 1948.  Regretfully, that need continues into this present time.  However, as we envision a future and strive toward it, I think we need to set our vision higher than that.  "אם תרצו אין זו אגדה."  I also think that the more we Jews are clear about that, the more our Palestinian (and other) neighbours and partners in that land will be able to sincerely embrace that goal as well.

David Mivasair

Monday, February 06, 2012

Wednesday night Spirit Circle at First United Church, a large "homeless" shelter in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside -- come join us

Dear friends,

   Wednesday evenings at the First United Church – Vancouver’s largest “homeless” shelter -- have been lovely – sharing sacred space together, opening our hearts, raising our spirits, singing, talking, listening.  We’re planning to gather again this week.

   We’ll gather at 7 at the First United Church, 320 East Hastings, in the Downtown Eastside.  We’ll settle into seats in a circle in the dining hall near the totem pole.

   We’ll light a candle.  I’ll lead a simple wordless chant.  It’ll settle us down, bring us together and make a wide open space for Spirit to fill.  Rev. Sally McShane, the minister of First United, will offer a scriptural reading and some words of reflection and prayer.  And then, we plan to sing a very beautiful hymn familiar to many of us, Sally’s absolute favourite, to the melody of “Ode to Joy”.  (That says a lot about Sally.)

   After more singing, we’ll turn our attention to each other in a talking circle, sharing our own thinking and feeling about ourselves as the possible core of a newly living, vital congregation at First United.  This week’s question is going to be why some people say they are “spiritual” but not “religious” – and how we see ourselves in that regard.

   We’ll close with a song of blessing and farewell at 8:30 – and stay to informally mingle, talk, hang out and get to know each other a bit until about 9 when we need to free up the room for the folks who will be sleeping there.

   I hope this is helpful.  If you have questions, suggestions or comments, please feel free to call or write to me.


Rabbi David Mivasair, MSW
Chaplain, First United Church

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