I received this email from my friend and co-worker, Nikki. Her words and actions, and those of her friend Felicia, are very important, and I wanted to share them here.
Hello friends and family,
On Tuesday morning I participated in a "die in" with a group of young Jews at South Station. All of us were silent, dressed in black, and lying "dead" on the floor in front of the banners which read "Not all Jews support Israel's actions" and "Jews for human righs in Gaza and Lebanon".
The action was covered by the Boston Globe, the Herald, the Metro, Siglo21 and the CS Monitor. You can also see the photos of our action at this website.
We believe that the horrific massacres of women, children, and all civilians is contrary to the Jewish tradition. It was painful to stand and lie on the ground while people shouted their opposition to us - but it felt so important to publicly break the consensus of unequivocal support for Israel's actions. At one point a woman who looked like my ma caught my eye, and with tears in her eyes said "Thank you. I'm so proud of you."
I am including the peice that my dear friend Felicia wrote after the action. I hope you don't mind my sharing this with you, and I welcome dialogue. Please pass it on to anyone you feel may be interested.
L'chaim: Thoughts on Coming Back From the Dead
by Felicia Kazer
For me, celebrating life is at the core of all the teachings, traditions and rituals that I love about being Jewish. Sharing delicious meals with friends on Shabbat, lighting the menorah for 8 days in a row, dancing at my cousin Sam's bar mitzvah, studying text late into the night on Shavuot…these are the Jewish practices I treasure most and I know I'm not alone. Celebrating life is what Jews do best: apples and honey, costume parties at Purim time, heated discussions around the seder table. Judaism not only teaches us to celebrate life, it reminds us to do this every time we clink our glasses. Instead of "cheers" or "salud", we say "l'chaim" or "to life."
Why then are there Jews today who are deeply engaged in acts of murder? For a people who believe that life is a blessing, how is it possible that we are simultaneously sentencing innocent people to death? I see the pictures of the victims in Lebanon and my heart breaks. How can this be? I imagine the desperation of thousands of people trapped in Gaza without food, water or electricity. I can practically hear the cries from mothers and fathers as they pull their dead children from the debris left by the bombs that fell in Qana and Beirut. Did Jews really order those bombs to be dropped? Please tell me it's not true. I want no link to whomever is responsible for this madness. I want nothing in common with anyone capable of such atrocities. Tell me they're alien monsters from another planet or robots without hearts or brains. Perhaps Ehud Olmert is a monster, but he's also a Jew and this thought is what made me cry yesterday in my kitchen while listening to the news.
Today was the first day I have felt proud to be a Jew in a couple of weeks. Today I went to South Station in downtown Boston and participated in a "die in" with about 20 comrades. Dressed in all black we wore signs on our bodies that said, "Not all US Jews support Israel's Actions." We entered the station during one of the busiest times of the weekday, we unrolled our banners and died right there on the floor. Our message demanded, "Jews for Human Rights in Gaza and Lebanon". Once we were kicked out of South Station, we sang a nigun as we slowly moved outside. We repeated our action twice at two different busy locations outside the station. Throughout all three, we were silent and we were seen. Twenty dead bodies on the sidewalk silently screaming for attention.
Is this really what it takes for me to feel proud to be a Jew right now? Do I have to pretend to be dead in the middle of a crowd in order to distinguish myself from what is being presented in the press as a unified and unwavering Jewish support for Israel's actions? Sadly, it seems that this is exactly what's needed right now. Lying in the same position on a dirty concrete floor with thousands of commuters rushing by was uncomfortable and scary. However if this is what it takes to strike a cord because death, and not life, is what Jews in power are practicing, then I would pretend to be dead again tomorrow.
There are many complexities when it comes to Israel's security in the Middle East, but there are also many things that are very simple. There exists a human rights crisis right now. Israel is the second largest military power in the world and it is killing hundreds of innocent civilians in the name of defense. Yes, Israelis are dieing as well and I mourned these senseless deaths today with just as much grief. There is nothing forgivable about kidnapping soldiers and sending katyusha rockets to Northern Israel that kill civilians. However, there is no solution found in targeting Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and "turning back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years." This is what Israel's army chief of staff threatened and in the last 3 weeks this is exactly what has happened. Lebanon's major airport, highways, and ports have suffered billions of dollars worth of damage. Over 750 people, mostly women and children, have been killed and Lebanon will be grieving and rebuilding for years to come. I see pictures of Lebanese civilians bombarding the UN building with protests and it breaks my heart to see another generation of Muslims filled with hate and anger. Is this really the path to peace and security?
In accepting these horrific acts, it seems many of us Jews have forgotten our own tradition. I don't know how this happened. Our rituals are punctuated by a reminder to celebrate life and our greeting has the word "peace" embedded within it. What other reinforcements do we need? I was always taught that in Judaism, it's not enough to say it, it's the doing it that really counts. L'chaim and shalom.