One of the signs by Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends.


Sol Metz and Henry Herskovitz first traveled to Palestine in 2002.  Shocked at the treatment decent Palestinians were receiving at the hands of Zionist army, and impressed with the decency, courage and humanity of the Palestinian people, both men returned to Ann Arbor desirous of telling their stories.  Henry had meetings with Rabbi Rob Dobrusin of Beth Israel Congregation, Rabbi Bob Levy of Temple Beth Emeth, and Rabbi Aharon Goldstein of Chabad House.  All three Rabbis denied Henry access to their congregation at a time of their choosing. Frustrated, Henry gathered Jewish and non-Jewish activists in the Fall of 2003, and decided to take our message to the congregants. Beth Israel was selected (a) because their name literally means “House of Israel”, and (b) this was Henry’s synagogue of choice for 15 years attending Yom Kippur services. We continue to seek dialogue with the Jewish community of Ann Arbor.

The Israeli government is a government like any other and must be held accountable to international human rights standards.

Members of Jewish Witnesses and Friends for Peace take this opportunity to respond to the letter of December 15th, 2004, signed by 34 leaders of the local Jewish and Christian clergy, condemning our weekly non-violent vigils at Beth Israel Synagogue. We also respond to the Ann Arbor City Council resolution and the Ann Arbor News Editorial.

We hold vigils outside this synagogue because Beth Israel is a political institution as well as house of worship, using its faith to promote a nationalist political agenda: support of the State of Israel, and by extension, its actions: specifically, Israels brutal and illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands and the suffering of the Palestinian people.

We want to make it very clear that our condemning Israels use of state power is in no way attacking the Jewish people. The Israeli government is a government like any other and must be held accountable to international human rights standards.

Beth Israel Congregation Rabbi Robert Dobrusin, in his 2003 Yom Kippur sermon stated, insuring the survival of the Jewish State is among (our) greatest responsibilities. Referring to the Jewish foundational myths, he said that the two most vital places of myth (are) the State of Israel and the synagogue.

Ismar Schorsch writes in The Sacred Cluster: Core Values of Conservative Judaism, that the centrality of modern Israel is at the head of its core values. Conservative Jews…visit Israel and support financially every one of its worthy institutions. Israeli accomplishments on the battlefield and in the laboratory, in literature and politics, fill them with pride.

We believe Beth Israel cannot endorse this political agenda and also enjoy the rights of a religious group by claiming to be just practicing their faith. We call upon people to be faithful to the highest values of their religious traditions. This kind of nationalism is a betrayal of these values.

In 2004, The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly voted to investigate selected divestment in multinational Corporations operating in Israel. We commend this action.

Over the years, many of us have joined together with friends of the Jewish faith to publicly denounce the US governments support of repressive governments in South Africa and Latin America, and against the US wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Jewish Witnesses and Friends for Peace confronts both our Jewish and Christian friends to ask a difficult question of people, many of whose values we share:

Why aren’t you demanding an immediate end to Israel’s terrorist policies towards the Palestinian people, a people who are accorded no right to the land they have lived on and cultivated for centuries?

The Israeli military is the 4th largest in the world with tanks, jet fighters, helicopter gun ships, missiles, and nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Palestinian Authority has no army, only a paramilitary police force equipped with small arms. Palestinian irregulars have rocks, small arms and improvised explosives.

We know that Israel does not speak or act in the name of all Jews.  But we also know that Israel will not change unless pressure is brought to bear by American Jews to end US aid to Israel amounting to 14 million dollars a day. In addition, Jewish charities send $1 billion to Israel annuallyThe ability of Americans to make what amounts to tax-deducible contributions to a foreign government does not exist with any other country.

The Israeli military is the 4th largest in the world with tanks, jet fighters, helicopter gun ships, missiles, and nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The Palestinian Authority has no army, only a paramilitary police force equipped with small arms. Palestinian irregulars have rocks, small arms and improvised explosives.

Israel’s laws and restrictions control every aspect of Palestinian life. US economic aid funds Israel’s goal of permanent control of the Occupied Territories:

  • The roadblocks and checkpoints
  • The thousands of homes and farmlands destroyed
  • Over 200 settlements built on Palestinian land
  • The “Separation Barrier.”

All of this is done with the knowledge and full financial support of the United States and minimal disapproval from the European and Arab countries.

..because of their complicity in the Holocaust, Christians are reluctant to criticize Jews, and any Jews or Christians who do confront Israeli policy are shut out of the debate or called anti-Semitic.

We vigil to remind those who silently oppose the Occupation that their silence only perpetuates the violence. The noted Jewish scholar Marc Ellis, calls this silence the ecumenical deal in which the main energy of ecumenical gatherings of Jews and Christians is spent on diverting the question that hovers over all discussions of Jews and Christians: the oppression of the Palestinian people by Jewish Israelis. In his 1991 article, Beyond the Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Solidarity With the Palestinian People, he explains that because of their complicity in the Holocaust, Christians are reluctant to criticize Jews, and any Jews or Christians who do confront Israeli policy are shut out of the debate or called anti-Semitic.

Marc Ellis offers five statements that could form a more progressive Jewish position:

  1. What Jews have done to the Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 is wrong.
  2. In the process of conquering and displacing the Palestinian people, Jews have done what has been done to us over two millennia.
  3. In this process, Jews have become almost everything we loathe about our oppressors.
  4. It is only in confronting state power in Israel that Jews can move beyond victim or oppressor.
  5. The movement beyond victimization and oppression can only come through solidarity with those whom we Jews have displaced: the Palestinian people.

We believe it is illegal and immoral to displace millions of people, depriving them of their homes, their self-determination, their culture and dignity all for the benefit of a single ethnic group.

Therefore, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends vigil in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

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