Home Digital Content Library Pray for Peace, Letter from the TI Clergy, 5/13/21

Pray for Peace, Letter from the TI Clergy, 5/13/21

Some of the best moments in Jerusalem are not scenes of the diverse mosaic of peoples who populate its streets, it is the sounds of prayer, of calls to worship a God known by different names of varied traditions yet whose presence in the universe somehow connects us all.
And yet, these past days have been terrifying with the screeches of sirens, the Iron Dome capture of missiles in the sky voiding their destructive force, children and parents crying, violence erupting in communities that have worked tirelessly to build bridges, and the groans of impatience that there could ever be an accord shriek against the sounds of peace disturbed and broken for Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis.
Terrorists, extremists, militants, and hardliners see only one path forward. As the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, wrote in a piece earlier this week, “attacks perpetuating the cycle of violence delay peace and increase bloodshed.” Too many lives have already been lost and we pray for a ceasefire and an end to thinking conflicts are solved by missiles, stones, or guns. We pray no one should have to live in fear even as we recognize that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself.
To live in Jerusalem, in particular, is to live with complexity. Matti Friedman who resides in Jerusalem and writes for Tablet Magazine offered this observation:
“Being an observer in Jerusalem always means gauging two opposing forces: the one pulling the city apart, and the glue keeping it together. The former gets plenty of attention from observers, and the latter almost none, but both are always in play in this city of nearly a million people. The glue is on display in malls and taxis and hospitals, the places of no interest to journalists or politicians, where Jews and Arabs of different ideological stripes interact carefully in their daily lives to a greater extent than ever before, moving things forward to a future that’s unknowable but could be better. That has been the trend here in the past few years. But it’s the other force, the destructive one, that we’re seeing now.”
And it brings great suffering. Our colleague, Rabbi Hadas Ron Zariz, founding member of Hamidrasha in the North of Israel, wrote:
“I have been on the phone with my son in the army, worried about the war. My family is in shelters in Tel Aviv. The roads near my kibbutz are closed because of the demonstrations. It feels like everything we worked for, to live together, (I have Arabic friends, students…) everything is falling apart.
“And I’m also thinking about the suffering in Gaza. And, tomorrow, I’m going to stand with other friends to protest against the violence and pray for peace. The signs for the demonstrations tomorrow will say – יהודים וערבים מסרבים להיות אויבים – Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies. (You know, it sounds better in Hebrew.)”
She, like so many others, lives in the midst of this destruction of tranquility and safety, but at the same time knows that it takes the hard work of peace to build relationships with one another as fragile as that may be.
This week we open the book of Numbers, called this name in English because it begins with a census. The language of the text provides a clear message in the way it directs the counting: each person should lift their head. This means that each individual counts. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks commented that it is another reminder by our tradition of the value of each person, separate and unique, that makes up the whole.
War and violence thrive on animosity and unfettered nationalism. Peace and reconciliation thrive when we recognize the humanity of each person.
We pray that the leaders will lead and bring peace again and sounds of prayer will replace the cries of violence. These calls to worship connect us all. Here and everywhere.
Rabbi Elaine Zecher
Cantor Alicia Stillman
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson
Rabbi Jen Gubitz
Rabbi Dan Slipakoff