“Is such the fast I desire?”

On Shabbat and holidays, when Jews gather to pray, in addition to reading a portion from the first five books of the Bible, we also read a section of the Prophets, a section chosen to complement the other reading, or to reflect the Shabbat/holiday in question, or both. Every Yom Kippur, we read the following, from the book of Isaiah. As I look at what Israel and so many of my people are doing right now, I feel a desperate need to trumpet these words directly into their hearts. But I imagine if God hasn’t been able to all these long years, I don’t stand much of a chance.

This is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free.

If you fast, I wish you an easy one, and if you don’t, that’s ok, too. Shana tova, a happy and good year, to us all — amen, amen.

Haftarah for Yom Kippur – Isaiah 57:14–58:14

Chapter 57

14 [The Lord] says:
Build up, build up a highway!
Clear the road!
Remove all obstacles
From the road of My people!
15 For thus said He who high aloft
Forever dwells, whose name is holy;
I dwell on high, in holiness;
Yet with the contrite and the lowly in spirit —
Reviving the spirits of the lowly,
Reviving the hearts of the contrite.
16 For I will not always contend,
I will not be angry forever:
Nay, I who make spirits flag,
Also create the breath of life.
17 For their sinful greed I was angry;
I struck them and turned away in My wrath.
Though stubborn, they follow the way of their hearts,
18 I note how they fare and will heal them:
I will guide them and mete out solace to them,
And to the mourners among them
19 heartening, comforting words:

It shall be well,
Well with the far and the near

— said the Lord —

And I will heal them.
20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea
Which cannot rest,
Whose waters toss up mire and mud.
21 There is no safety

— said my God —

For the wicked.

Chapter 58

1 Cry with full throat, without restraint;
Raise your voice like a ram’s horn!
Declare to My people their transgression,
To the House of Jacob their sin.

2 To be sure, they seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways.
Like a nation that does what is right,
That has not abandoned the laws of its God,
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
3 “Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?”
Because on your fast day
You see to your business
And oppress all your laborers!
4 Because you fast in strife and contention,
And you strike with a wicked fist!
your fasting today is not such
As to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast I desire,
A day for men to starve their bodies?
Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
A day when the Lord is favorable?
6 No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke.
7 It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.

8 Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly;
Your Vindicator shall march before you,
The Presence of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then, when you call, the Lord will answer;
When you cry, He will say: Here I am.
If you banish the yoke from your midst,
The menacing hand and evil speech,
10 And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the famished creature —
The shall your light shine in darkness,
And your gloom shall be like noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
He will slake your thirst in parched places
And give strength to your bones.
You shall be like a watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters do not fail.
12 Men from your midst shall rebuild ancient ruins,
you shall restore foundations laid long ago.
And you shall be called
“Repairer of fallen walls,
Restorer of lanes for habitation.”
13 If you refrian from trampling the sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If call the sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to yours affairs, nor strike bargains —
14 Then you can seek the favor of the Lord.
I will set you astride the heights of the earth,
And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob —
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

JPS translation

I am so sick of being Israeli.

I watched the Netanyahu and Abbas speeches unfold at the UN this past Friday through the veil of Twitter. Unable to bring myself to watch them directly — My eyes! My eyes! — I let people like me report to me in 140 character bursts what exactly was going on. One woman was tweeting quotes, others were reacting, several pointed out particularly egregious lies in Netanyahu’s speech, and I scrambled for documents to prove the depth of the lying. At one point I tweeted the following:

See? See?! Where is Joe Wilson when I need him? Bibi, you lie! RT @OriNir_APN Bibi quoting a false USA Today story. Shameful. #Israel

This morning, I read a piece by Israeli national treasure Akiva Eldar in HaAretz, Israel’s paper of record, entitled “Netanyahu’s speech of lies.” I read it, I tweeted it, I tweeted quotes from it, I tweeted a few of my immediate reactions to it, and then I tweeted this:


and just like anywhere else on the internet, ALL CAPS means I WAS YELLING. And I was yelling because it is the damn truth.


Upon tweeting said shouty tweet, there ensued an hour of furious Twitter flurry, with more than 30 people re-tweeting it, and a bunch asking me why I felt what I felt, and me responding, and people asking what Bibi’s lies were, and me responding, and people telling me how happy they were to finally find “a good Israeli,” and me responding (“I’m not the only good Israeli…!”), and my list of followers grew and grew, on and on, until I finally broke down and said

In for a penny, in for a pound: Dear all who like me now b/c I’m sick of being Israeli – I’m still a Zionist: http://bit.ly/eKO7CN#Israel

followed by

Because “If I support Palestinian nationalism, I cannot in good conscience tell my own people to drop theirs.” http://bit.ly/eKO7CN#Israel

and then


and suddenly the flurry stopped.

Of course I have no way of knowing that the flurry stopped because I’d outed myself as (gasp!) a Zionist, but it kind of felt that way. But it really doesn’t matter because the bottom line remains: I am sicksicksick of being Israeli.

I am sick of watching my home lurch from bad to worse — from the unavoidable xenophobia of any hounded and nationalistic people, to creeping-vine-xenophobia, the kind that the holds the whole house up at a certain point, having all but replaced whatever was once between the bricks. Israel had one good, shining year when it seemed it might be stepping forward rather than back, but 1993 came and went and here we are, worse off than we were before the Oslo Accords, because the Palestinian economy is more thoroughly wrecked, the Palestinian people more thoroughly occupied, Palestinian land more thoroughly gobbled up, and thousands of people (the vast majority of them Palestinian) more thoroughly dead. And to those who would say “Is America really any different?” (as some Twitter friends essentially have) I would say: Yes. In America, we go from bad to better — slowly, painfully, splutteringly, we move forward. Israel? Not so much. Have you seen the recent spate of anti-democratic laws passed in The Middle East’s Only Democracy ™? Or read up on why all those protesters were out on the streets for all those weeks? Not to mention the continual erosion, by design, of any and all hope for a genuine, mutally acceptable peace with the Palestinians? Bad to worse, bad to worser, bad to worsest (until the next worsest comes along).

And I am sick of the lies, and lies, and lies, and then more lies, and more to the point, the fact that I continually find myself living in what feels like an alternate reality because my Israeli government goes on and on telling whopper after whopper and my American government just lets it go. Watches as the lies slip and slide past, without so much as a “hey, are you sure? Maybe we should check the documents!” And I sit here with my masters degree and my books and my ability to think in a fashion that does not resemble a drunken bastard and time after time, find myself insisting that, no, really! You can’t make reality up! (Think of it this way: It’s like the climate change debate, on every front, every day, all day long. Forever).

I am sick and tired — exhausted, drained, and demoralized — by the endless, daily effort involved in just thinking about all this, and you know what? If I weren’t Israeli? I wouldn’t have to.

I don’t know if the plan has been to drive Israelis like me away (though driving Israelis like me away is certainly considered a bonus in some quarters), but damn. I am sick to tears of having to have anything to do with the sociopathy and psychopathy that characterize official Israel.

And I am sick to tears of being sick of it.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Writing/not writing about the Palestinian statehood bid + Good stuff: Liam Finn! Squee!

I had intended to write today about the speeches made this afternoon at the UN by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas — the whole Palestinian statehood bid thing — and I just can’t. After a quarter of a century of living, studying, reporting, researching, and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, my demoralization has reached a low that I never dreamed possible. I cannot do it.

I will say only this: The Palestinian statehood bid is an entirely legal, nonviolent attempt at a work-around to Israeli and American intransigence. Had we negotiated in good faith at any point since the 1993 Oslo Accords, or taken seriously the not-one-but-two Arab League offers for a comprehensive peace (2002 and 2007), or, I don’t know, treated the signed-and-sealed commitments of the 2003 Road Map to Peace as something more than a scrap of toilet paper — the US and Israel would not today find themselves faced with the Palestinian’s entirely legal, nonviolent attempt at a work-around.

Indeed, had my two countries responded to the threats of the work-around — discussed all over the globe for at least six months — with a serious offer for a renewed, genuine negotiation process (that is: not something that entails Israel saying “Come, talk! We just can’t be bothered to stop stealing your land in the meantime!”), we wouldn’t be dealing with the statehood bid. Abbas has said over and over that he would rather negotiate (“Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations”). But we didn’t. So: The entirely legal, nonviolent work-around to our intransigence.

Will it work? No. Because of our intransigence. And how will it all end? I don’t know, but some version of: Badly.

I do understand that there are a LOT of problems on the Palestinian side, not least their divided government, but you’d be surprised how much Israel and the US share the blame even for the Palestinians’ messes. That divided government, for instance: The US and Israel refused to deal with the democratically elected Hamas-led government in 2006, and encouraged the Abbas-led Fatah party to try to seize control violently, going so far as to provide weapons. Civil war ensued, Hamas beat the crap out of Fatah, and voila! Two dueling Palestines. How’s that working for everybody?

So, having already written far more than I had any stomach to write, I’m going to execute a 180, and pivot to a much, much more pleasant fact: The husband and I are going to see New Zealand singer-songwriter-one-man-band Liam Finn (son of Crowded House’s Neil Finn) in concert tonight…! OMG, you have no idea how head-bendingly talented he is! But if you watch the two clips below, you might get some wee idea. The first is a song that feels like a balm to me in times of loss, the other, an indication of just how head-bending the talent really is.



Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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