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Palestine, A Conversation (Part IV)

We continue our conversation with Rev. Sari Ateek and Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky as we delve into the issues of Israel-Palestine. The conversation is drawn from our Interwoven Congregations Quarterly issue first published on March 4th. We are posting this conversation in our blog in 5 parts, one each day this week. If you wish, you can read the whole issue here. Thank you for  reading with an open heart.

Peace, salaam, shalom,      -  Rev. Pat Jackson

Part IV: What ROLE do you see for faith leaders and faith communities?

Pat:  Final question.  What role do you see for faith leaders and congregations at this moment and in the months to come?

Abbi:  The role for faith leaders and our congregations, as I've learned from several Christian pastors over the last few months, is to just keep showing up with a prophetic voice.  And I think that's what we need to do.   I look at my role right now,  because I don't have a congregation, as being in as many 1-to-1 conversations, small conversations, as I can.  Because the only way this work gets done is actually by sitting down and talking.  There's no magic program that's going to fix it.  It's just continuing to show up and hear each other.  And when the next big thing comes, maybe we'll all be a little less afraid to just knock on the door and say “Hey, how are you?  I brought cookies and, well, we're all    going to sit through this mess together.”

Sari:  The most prophetic thing that we can do as faith leaders is for all of us to say “Stop.  Stop killing.”  Wherever it is, we have to say “Stop!”  Some people call that a ceasefire, but apparently ceasefire is a term that no one wants to use.  I see Jesus as having come and said “Cease fire!  Stop launching things at each other.  Stop.”  That is the most human thing that one can do - to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone else, even if  we disagree politically, and say that the one thing we can agree on is no killing.  We have to respect the dignity of every human being and the right to life.   I am not saying “ceasefire” because I want Hamas to have a chance to rally and attack Israelis again. I'm saying “ceasefire” because that is the only place you can start with anything.  So for me, I am not willing to engage with anyone – ANYONE -- even a Palestinian, who thinks that the right next step is to continue to attack.  I will only engage if we can agree that killing needs to stop.  Neither security nor freedom are good enough reasons to kill,      because that's not how you ultimately get those things.  So, that's the first step. 

The other thing I think, is that we have to be unwavering in not teaching partisanship in terms of humanity.  I will talk about injustice, oppression, where there are victims, and where there are    perpetrators.  But I refuse to globalize.  I’ll never say “Therefore, this whole group is by nature a   victim.”  We have to teach people how to think critically about exactly what Abbi said -- you can hold both spaces at the same time.  You can grieve here.  And grieving here doesn't mean you're not grieving there.  You can hold those two spaces, because the sooner we start humanizing, the   closer we are to actually working towards something that is a little bit more constructive than what's happening now. The only reason for the escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine is because people are demonizing one another.  We need to humanize radically.  And sometimes, just like with Black Lives Matter, you have to overemphasize the humanity of one group among your own constituents who are inclined to think of one group as more human than another. You have to go out of your way to overemphasize the humanity of the other, so that there can be some equity in the way that we see them.  That's what I think our prophetic work is.

Pat:  A closing thought for you Abbi?

Abbi:  I just want to acknowledge that this is not an easy conversation.  This personally was hard for me and this was good for me, to be in complex conversation this morning.  So thank you.

Sari:  Thank you Abbi.  [End of interview]



Tomorrow, Part V: "A Land Asunder" -- a closing prayer 

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