December 19, 2014

Jewish-Arab Kindergarten in Israel



I first published this post on January 11, 2008.

The backstory
From Jerusalem, Judith Green's email inspired me to make this video.
Forget all the dark things in the news about the ME [Middle East]. This recording of my friend's nephew Shlomi's little girls outshines them all. Shir and Shaked attend the Jewish-Arab kindergarten in Beersheba [in Israel's Negev desert]. Shlomi recorded them singing in Arabic, Hebrew, and English the classic English-language nursery song Put your hands on your head while he played the keyboard. I am attaching a sound file that you can put on your blog, with proper recognition of the artists! 

Remembering Asher Green

I dedicate this post and video Asher Green's memory (his mother, Judith, sent me the email and sound file). Asher's multiple talents and adventurous spirit led him to study at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City. He had also studied stage design in London, and film and art in Jerusalem. Asher was planning to volunteer in Southeast Asia as part of a project to teach street children restaurant skills. He had hoped to open a similar program in Jerusalem for low-income Israeli and Palestinian teens.

אשר בן יהודית וג'ף. יהי זכרו ברוך
Asher ben Yehudit v'Jeff. Yehi zichro barukh.
Asher, son of Judith and Jeff. May his memory be a blessing.

Related Post
An Israeli Arab "Profile in Courage": Marwan Amer

October 23, 2014

In Tel Aviv: At my friends' wedding, both grooms are Orthodox Jews


Mazal tov to Oz Vadee and Aron Bilek — adored and adorable, loved and loving newlyweds. Tonight in Tel Aviv, they exchanged rings and Tallitot/prayer shawls, and smashed underfoot two glasses — a custom that in our joy, we remember to help repair brokenness in the world. 

Blessings traditional and groundbreaking were offered as the couple's happiness radiated among hundreds of cheering and clapping exuberant family and friends at the elegant East Tel Aviv venue. In the photo, Member of Parliament Ruth Calderon reads aloud the Ketuba/marriage certificate, the couple's innovative retooling of the ancient document, here attesting to the marriage of two Orthodox Jewish men according to "Am Yisrael/the Jewish people!"

October 07, 2014

Ceremony recognizes new IDF Intelligence Officers, (sweet cousin) Ohad Zohar among them

At the ceremony recognizing new IDF Intelligence Officers,
the woman leading the marching band holds high her baton.

Mazal tov, cousin Ohad Zohar on completing the IDF Military Intelligence Officer's Course! Proud of you and privileged to attend the graduation ceremony at the Glilot military base.

While you got a stripe today, I wore stripes!


At the IDF induction ceremony exactly two years ago at the Tzrifin military base, I wore my floppy lavender hat under the blazing sun.


May you continue to go from strength to strength!

Related post (includes links to three more)

August 06, 2014

From southern Israel to Tel Aviv: green and fresh straight from the field


"Thank you very much for your support in these times. We'll be happy to supply you with our organic vegetables straight from the field in better days as well. — Meshek Damari" [an organic farm in southern Israel about a mile north of Gaza]

Meshek Damari, neighboring Kibbutz Zikim, and the region experienced steady rocket attacks the past month endangering lives and hurting businesses. The farmers are thinking out of the box and expanding their market to the country's center. Tel Aviv residents responded to their FB message, buying fresh produce delivered straight to the door.

One of two boxes Dudu delivered to me last night;
one for me and one for Yehudit my neighbor


July 13, 2014

In South Tel Aviv: the shelter of humans

With Philmon Haile in his South Tel Aviv kiosk
I sought shelter from the flaming heat of rockets, missiles, summer temperatures, and vile speech. Visiting my friend Philmon Haile, an Eritrean asylum seeker, in his South Tel Aviv kiosk (cigarettes, phone cards, popcorn kernels, costume jewelry, condoms, sugar, earbuds, shampoo) brought compassionate, gentle, human warmth. And updates, laughter, and a meeting with the lovely Helena Woldu. (A Californian Celtics fan, the Eritrean-American is doing research for her University of Maryland bachelor's degree.) Sitting in front of the sweetest golden cocker spaniel on the bus home extended the warmth. 

While composing this post, sirens wailed, sending me to cover till hearing the distant boom sounds of  the Iron Dome antimissile system intercepting missiles. All clear, till ?

Related posts

May 16, 2014

Listening to "Voices of Eritrean Refugees"

Last night, above a vegan restaurant in South Tel Aviv, I watched a real-life horror documentary in a gallery packed with Israelis, internationals, torture victims, the film director, and local aid organization workers. If every person would watch the prize-winning "Sound of Torture" maybe — just maybe we might shift from blaming terror victims to bringing to justice dictators, traffickers, and extortionists, and holding responsible individuals, governments, and organizations worldwide for stopping the living hell. In the film, I witnessed how cellphones are lifelines between rescuers and captive-hostages, and that rescuers suffer traumas, too.

You hit a dog in Sweden, and you go to jail for six months. And here I listen to people being tortured every hour. And the whole word is watching, doing nothing.  (Meron Estefanos, Swedish-Eritrean radio broadcaster)

May 06, 2014

Today, Israel is 66 years young

The Israeli flag flutters on mountain-like cranes

Dear Tamar . . . It is said that you have to pray always. If you don't have time than you have to write the prayers on the flag and hang on top of the mountain. Every time the flag flutters the prayer is spoken itself. This will bring peace and happiness to all the souls both departed and alive, your community, your neighbour, and your country.
With much respect, Tulasi Ghimirey (June 25, 2010)

Happy Independence Day! !יום עצמאות שמח

May 05, 2014

On Memorial Day in Israel, I remember Noam Mayerson, of blessed memory

Noam flanked by his younger brothers,
Yoni and Hilly, building a sukkah

I first published this post on May 9, 2011.

In Jewish time, each day begins at sunset. Last night, on the eve of Yom Hazikaron [Memorial Day] a one-minute siren sounded at 8 p.m. across Israel. This blast called the nation to stop activity and stand to remember and honor Israel's soldiers who fell in battle and civilian victims of terror. National flags were lowered to half-mast and so began a full day of personal and national meditation, reflection, and remembrance ceremonies. A second siren blast will sound at 11 a.m. this morning.

On August 7, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, St. Sgt. Noam Yaakov Mayerson, was killed when Hezbollah terrorists opened fire on an IDF unit in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil. Noam, the third child of five children of my beloved cousins Gila and Chaim, was age 23.

The son of an American-born (Dayton, Ohio) father and an Israeli-born mother, Noam grew up in Jerusalem, studied in the yeshiva high school in Mitzpe Ramon, and later attended the hesder yeshiva in Eilat. Noam and Sara Ra’anan were to have been married September 10, 2006.

Chaim, his father, on learning that his son was killed:

Noam was a G-d-fearing person. The main thing for him was fear of Heaven, love of the Jewish nation and of the Land of Israel. He wanted to work in education or the rabbinate. He was full of energy, and he had a lot of friends.

Rabbi Hillel Rotkoff, one of Noam’s teachers at the hesder yeshiva:

He was a fantastic boy – a tour guide who loved the land. He loved the history of the Jewish nation, the nation that came back to its land, and the Torah he learned here. He had great faith and internal strength. [Of Noam’s commitment to protect his homeland:] He didn’t shy away from anything. Giving his life for the land was not just a slogan for him, but a way of life. And unfortunately, he did it.

Noam Mayerson is buried in Jerusalem in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl. Besides his parents, Noam is survived by his sister, Shira, and three brothers: Yehoshua, Hillel, and Yonatan. He also leaves a large and loving family and community, including nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, and students.

To honor Noam's life and carry forward the work he started and did not merit completing, his parents, teachers, rabbis, and educators joined in developing Darchey Noam. In July 2013, this nonprofit published under the same name a comprehensive online guide (Hebrew) to the land of Israel incorporating Noam's educational vision and the experiential activities he created. A unique feature of the guide is its invitation to study Torah with a hands-on direct encounter with the physical, spiritual, and historical aspects of the land of Israel.

נעם בן גילה וחיים. יהי זכרו ברוך
Noam ben Gila vChaim. Yehi zichro baruch.
Noam, son of Gila and Chaim. May his memory be a blessing.

My related posts

April 28, 2014

In Tel Aviv: Holocaust (Shoah) Remembrance Day

With Romanian-born Leah at the Beit Avot (Home for the Aged).
The SS murdered Leah's parents in front of her eyes.
A Christian neighbor, hearing the screams and gunshots
dashed into the house, grabbed the 9-year-old child survivor
insisting she was hers,  and hid Leah in a crawl space 3 years.

Note: I first published this post on Yom Hashoah 2009.

Today, the 27th day of the Hebrew month Nisan, at 10 A.M., a two-minute air raid siren wailed nationwide. Each year, on this day, we are called to stop in our tracks mid-sentence, exit vehicles, and stand silent honoring the six million Jews the Nazi genocide wiped out — one-third of world Jewry, among them 1.5 million children. Special Yom Hashoah ceremonies follow at the Knesset (Parliament), the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, and in schools, organizations, and institutions nationwide.

At the corner of Tel Aviv's Allenby and Yavne Streets, in the public Beit Avot (Home for the Aged), I joined the residents, most of them Shoah survivors, for their powerful program.

Watch the video (5:21 minutes).




My related posts

April 21, 2014

Fire of the Holy Spirit: an Easter interfaith dialog

Eritrean Mass at St. Anthony Parish Church, Jaffa, Israel

Since moving full time to Israel in 2012, on Christmas and Easter I miss being with my Christian friends who graciously had shared with me their holy times and festivals (as I did with them times in the Jewish calendar). Earlier this winter, I attended an Eritrean friend's wedding in St. Anthony Parish [Catholic] Church in Jaffa. And last Christmas Day, I went to Immanuel [Lutheran] Church in Jaffa; yesterday, Easter Sunday, I returned there. Sitting in the churches, listening to the melodies, Bible readings, creed or confession of faith, I am transported back to those services in Atlanta, and I am comforted in missing my friends. 

I first published this post on April 8, 2007.

"You must be Stephanie's friend," Angela introduced herself after the Easter Sunday service in Monroe, Georgia. "It's great to meet you. Welcome to St. Anna's Catholic Church. Do you have questions about the church or anything else?" "As a matter of fact," I replied, "I was wondering what meanings and messages the stained-glass window images in the church convey." Not missing a beat, Angela answered my question, image by image. And so ended our encounter, we thought.

The next day, Stephanie forwarded Angela's email to me on the stained-glass windows.

From: Angela
Date: 2007/04/08
Subject: Fire of the Holy Spirit

Stephanie! It was so nice to meet your friend Tamar at Mass today. I know from your blog that she has a real interest in understanding her Christian brothers and sisters, so I want to give good info.

I always like when people ask me questions about our faith because it causes me to think more deeply and do a little studying. I had never actually pondered the symbolism of the window — it has been a "given" for me for quite some time (I think the window was installed when I was a child).

Symbols of the Holy Spirit
As I thought more about it, I realized that I misinterpreted part of my answer about the symbols of the Holy Spirit, and in realizing this, the meaning of the whole window (the Blessed Trinity) became clear to me for the first time. I hope you will share this clarification with Tamar and thank her for inspiring me to think about it.

All Christians, and we as Catholics, believe in a triune God — one holy, almighty and ever-living God who is experienced in a Trinity of three divine beings or persons, God the Father, Jesus Christ (God the Son) and the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit).


Alpha and Omega
God the Father, Yahweh, the I AM, is represented in the window as the Alpha and the Omega (shown on the right), Greek letters for the beginning and the end. I'm sure you both know that belief in God the Father is common to Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths - we all believe in the same GOD.

Cross and Holy Eucharist
Jesus Christ (God the Son) is represented by the cross and by the Holy Eucharist [the chalice]. . .













Dogwood blossom
. . . and the resurrection is depicted in the dogwood blossoms [flanking the chalice].






Dove
The dove represents the Holy Spirit as described in Matthew 3:16, where the dove descends on Jesus after His baptism and God speaks from heaven, marking the beginning of Christ's public ministry.


TAMAR REPLIES: I love that the dove is a symbol with multiple meanings in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Genesis 8:8, Noah sent out the dove from the ark to see whether the waters has let up from the surface of the ground. Yet the dove found no resting place for its foot and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were all over the earth. Twice again, Noah released the dove; first, it returned with a plucked olive leaf in its bill (Genesis 8:11), and Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth. The following week, he sent out the dove, and it did not return to him again (Genesis 8:12). The flood was over, and the Lord said in His heart, (Genesis 8:21) ". . . I will not again strike down all living things as I did." And so, the dove has come to represent peace.

Yet the dove is also a symbol of war in the Hebrew Scriptures. In 
Jeremiah 50:16, ". . . for fear of the [oppressing] sword of the dove everyone will return to his people, and . . . flee to his land." Building on this idea, the contemporary Israeli novelist Meir Shalev features as central characters in "A Pigeon and a Boy" wartime carrier pigeons that are symbols of both peace and war.

ANGELA REPLIES: 
Fire
So here is where I got mixed up: the fire is a representation of the Holy Spirit as it descended in the form of tongues of fire on our Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Simon Peter and all of the Apostles at the Pentecost, following Jesus' ascension into heaven in Acts 2:3. This is when the Apostles were commissioned in their ministries. Our Catholic priests and bishops are direct successors of this commission in a two-thousand-year-old unbroken chain of succession. (And the Pope is a direct successor of Peter - the Rock, Matthew 16:18.) They are the only ones with a true commission directly from Christ to consecrate the Eucharist, and perform the other sacraments.

My mistake was in referring to the Burning Bush, which was, of course, a manifestation of God the Father, when he spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:2 many, many moons before the Holy Spirit came to guide us. They are the same in that they are all ONE GOD, but the reference was to the wrong DIVINE PERSON. The Burning Bush is God the Father, not the Holy Spirit.

TAMAR REPLIES: Sorry for your understandable mix-up. I have been a student of the Hebrew Bible since I learned to read, and to this day pore over source texts and multiple commentaries to understand meanings and teachings. I will never know enough Hebrew or multiple disciplines (archeology, history, geography, Biblical and pre-Biblical religions, laws, and languages, as examples!) to understand the texts properly. Though I keep trying and with help such as yours, I inch along . . .

And when you visit Israel's southern Negev desert region, you might see burning bushes, common in dry scorching environments. I once heard a wonderful teaching: The real miracle of the burning bush was Moses' exquisite attention and focus on humble vegetation (the bush) and an ordinary phenomenon (burning), which proved him trustworthy of shepherding a people. He noticed the bush as a devoted shepherd notices every sheep, none too small or insignificant.

And the conversation continues . . .
And so began our two faith traditions, two-person online interfaith dialog! Angela and I have been learning in a stream-of-consciousness-like Q&A format, each researching her tradition to ensure accurate answers. Often, weeks go by before we send an answer and, inevitably, another question.

Angela's "Hubby is Greg, Big Bro is Christopher and the little
one is Daniel. My sweet boys — not quite three years apart."

Related post

April 04, 2014

Partnering with friends in the Punya Foundation and Bhutanese Diaspora

Punya Foundation scholars, parents, and Jana Yuba Kalyan Samuha
(JYKS) volunteers in Birtamod, Jhapa, Nepal. Photo credit: JYSK

I am honored to have partnered with Dr. Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal and Vidhyapati Mishra to produce The Punya Foundation Annual Report 2013. (We each live in a different part of the world; see pages 2 and 3 of the report for our bios and how we became a team.)

In 2010, a group of exiled Bhutanese citizens established the Foundation as a charity honoring the sacrifices their community made in the struggle for human rights and democracy in Bhutan. Driven by their 100,000-person experience of expulsion from their homeland beginning in 1991, and subsisting in refugee camps in eastern Nepal nearly three decades, the Foundation has been working hard helping fellows still in the camps and those rebuilding their lives and becoming self-supporting and productive in countries of resettlement.

The Foundation mission is “Seeking Justice through Education and Empowerment” for vulnerable, often traumatized young children, high school students, women, and families in the Bhutanese Diaspora and in refugee camps in Nepal and beginning in 2013, in Kenya, too.

In Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, participants in the Punya Foundation
life skills development project to help empower victims of
rape and gender based violence. Photo credit: The Kanera

The annual report, lavishly illustrated with captioned photos, describes programs, activities, scholarship winners, partners, operations, and financial data. Also covered are new initiatives in the coming year, 2014. (For report highlights, see pages 4, 5; for project details, first-person narratives, and scholarship profiles, see the full report.)

Fellows in the Bhutanese Diaspora and friends are invited to support the charity work — donate funds, volunteer talents, make suggestions, and request more information. Please contact Punya Foundation.

My related post
Bhutanese Atlantans repurpose "the vine that ate the South"

March 28, 2014

In Tel Aviv: The orange on the Passover seder plate

African refugees and asylum seekers at the
Freedom Seder in Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv
Passover (or Pesach) is a sacred myth that celebrates the escape of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Our original Independence Day, Passover marks the shift from a nation of slaves to a free people, from a collection of tribes to a nation of law. And the covenant between them and the one God. The festival offers rituals, lessons, and actions for any Jew whether a particularist or a universalist, and for anyone of any faith or none.

We are commanded (Exodus 13:8) to retell the liberation story to our children (of any age, including ourselves) yearly. We do this at the seder meal, a  ceremony featuring a seder plate containing symbolic foods, each with special significance in the festival narrative.

Since the early '80s, adding an orange to the seder plate
represents solidarity with marginalized people
Though we follow the Haggadah ("the telling" — compiled between 280 CE and 360 CE), "It is praiseworthy to expand on the story of the Exodus from Egypt." For in our telling and listening we can internalize lessons, notice contemporary parallels, and find ways to repair broken parts in ourselves and our environments.

When is Passover?
In the Hebrew (or Jewish) calendar, Passover falls on Nissan 15 through 22. Nissan is the seventh month of the religious year and the first month of the civil year. In 2014, Passover starts Monday, April 14, at sundown, and continues through sundown, Monday, April 21 (outside Israel, through Tuesday, April 22).

Solidarity with marginalized people
in the Jewish community and beyond
The Haggadah begins with an introductory blessing, then we read, in Aramaic:
כָּל דִּכְפִין, יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכוּל; וְכָל דִּצְרִיךְ לְפַסַּח, יֵיתֵי וִיפַסַּח   
Let all who are hungry, come and eat! Let all who are needy, come and celebrate the Passover with us. 

Who is hungry? Who is needy?
In 2013, the Israel National Insurance Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that Israel’s poverty rate was 23.5 percent! One-fifth of families and one-fifth of retirees are officially poor. Further, the Israel National Council for the Child reported that one-third of Israel’s children live in poverty.

And, in the past decade, more than 60,000 hungry and needy refugees and asylum seekers have entered Israel seeking safe harbor from wars, conscription, violence, and dictators in their homelands. Most fled from Eritrea, Southern Sudan, Darfur, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other African nations.

Passover Freedom Seder for Israelis and
African Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Since 2007, the Joint Freedom Seder has become an annual expression of collective remembering turned into action. This seder, which retells our story and stories of people still enslaved, oppressed, and suffering, has been held in Levinsky Park between south Tel Aviv's Neve Sha’anan neighborhood and the Central Bus Station, a seedy, rundown living area of mostly poor Israelis, African refugees, southeast Asian foreign workers, streetwalkers, and junkies.

"Every heart to love will come like a refugee" (Leonard Cohen)
In Levinsky Park, refugees demand legal residency for eligible applicants.
A coalition of activist-volunteer-visionaries from a wide spectrum of synagogues, Zionist organizations, youth movements, and international humanitarian agencies organize and prepare the Joint Seder for hundreds of people, double the number initially anticipated.

In Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, and outside the Negev southern desert Holot detention center for refugees and asylum seekers. 

To those people who ask, How is a seder relevant to African refugees and asylum seekers?

I cite the biblical injunction:
כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם 
Like the native among you shall be the sojourner who sojourns among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34

At the 2010 Freedom Seder: 3 profiles in courage
Profile: Philmon, age 23, is an Eritrean psychology student seeking refuge from political and religious persecution. Until he can safely rejoin his parents and siblings in his homeland, Philmon does menial jobs that Israelis don’t want, for low pay without benefits.

Philmon (left) and Kidane hold up the multilingual Refugee Voice
English, Tigrinya (spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia), Arabic, and Hebrew
Profile: Nine-year-old Hebrew-speaking Saram
As did most African refugees, Saram's mother (shown with Saram in the photo) entered Israel through Egypt, from where the Israelites in the narrative escaped to freedom millennia ago.

"
We seek help from you, people
who understand our misery"
Profile: Johannes (shown in the photo) graduated from an Eritrean university with a degree in political administration. In our conversation, I sensed that he spared me details of the harsh life he has known since his government arrested him and fellow students protesting against the military regime. For more than a year, they were beaten, tortured, starved, and enslaved until Johannes escaped, as did many "fortunates" — as he calls surviving political prisoners.

We came to Israel, a place of miracles, and we seek help from you, people who understand our misery, he replied to my dumb question, Why come here? As I probed, with his permission, the narrative of his suffering touched on key points: longing for home, loneliness, unemployment, language barriers, fear. I came through the way that Moses and his people, your people crossed. Help us, please help us get out of this suffering, he pleaded.

° ° °

Kabbalat Shabbat 

The seder ended. The sunny spring afternoon turned to dusk. I forgot the oranges on the seder plates and the stories shared over the ritual meal. The loud music and singing were silenced. Yet instead of releasing the struggles and cares of the week at the weekly prayer service welcoming the Sabbath Bride, I was replaying Johannes' exodus story, and I couldn't stop listening to his plea screaming inside me.

My related posts

March 16, 2014

Purim celebration in Tel Aviv

Dancing in Purim costumes
[Note | I updated the festival dates this year from my original post on Purim 2009.]

Purim celebrates a story in the biblical Megillat Esther (Book of Esther), in which Queen Esther saves the Jewish people from (Ahasuerus advisor) Haman's plot to destroy them.

This year, 2014, Purim started after sunset on Saturday, March 15, and continues for two days until Monday, March 17. In the Hebrew calender, a day begins at sunset on the previous day.

Purim eve, 2009, Tel Aviv's tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard was a virtual sacred space where the Megilla reading, singing, playacting, and music blared under glowing night-lights while children and dogs wandered around and beneath rows of white plastic chairs.

On this holiday (observed with fanciful costumes), the spirited multigenerational crowd also listened to Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau's history lessons and encouragement. Other highlights included "Secrets of the Palace," an enactment of the Purim story told in the Megilla, awards for best costumes, and merry singing and dancing — all celebrating the festival in which, instead of being annihilated, the Jews lived.

Watch my video (5:13 minutes).



Four mitzvot, commandments on observing Purim:
  • Listen to the reading of Megillat Esther
  • Participate in the Purim feast
  • Send Mishloach manot, gifts to friends
  • (most important) Give Matanot LaEvyonim, gifts to the needy
My Purim posts

March 02, 2014

Happy 107, Alice Herz-Sommer: Oldest surviving Holocaust survivor

Note: I first published this post November 14, 2010. On February 23, 2014, Alice Herz-Sommer died in London. She was 110 years old. Her memory is a blessing.

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times — including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.
Alice Herz-Sommer

During World War II, Czech-born Jewish classical pianist Alice Herz-Sommer performed for her Nazi Germans captors in the Theresienstadt (English, Terezin) Jewish ghetto.

"As long as they wanted music, they couldn't put us in the gas chambers."

Listen to and watch Alice Herz-Sommer (3 minutes).



“I have not spent one minute hating”
Herz-Sommer's spiritual cousin, American Mamie Till, uttered these words years after the bereaved mother forced the nation to look at the horror of racism in the racially motivated murder of her son Emmett Till (1941-1955), in the Mississippi Delta. She had demanded the U.S. federal authorities to return the 14-year-old's mutilated body to his hometown, Chicago, and placed in an open coffin on public view.

Related posts

January 20, 2014

Happy birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia . . .
(from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, in 1963)

We honor the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) as "A Day On... Not a Day Off" this federal holiday, today. ". . . [A] drum major for justice" Dr. King galvanized us to witness America's disparity between promise and reality, and through nonviolent resistance ensure basic rights for all Americans — natives, immigrants, refugees, asylees, and guestsSince his life and assassination, and when I first published this post in 2009, we have steadily engaged in this struggle locally, nationally, globally

Fifteen miles from my home in Atlanta, Stone Mountain is the world's largest exposed mass of granite. On one side, a giant Confederate memorial carving depicts American Civil War champions of slavery — Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederacy President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee.

Following the Civil War, each Labor Day from 1915 until recent years, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) met on the mountain summit, igniting 60-foot cross-burnings to advocate and restore white supremacy. Founded in 1865 in southern USA, the national terrorist organization featuring white-robed terrorists in conical hats and masks would preach and commit violence and lynching to intimidate, murder, and oppress African Americans, Jews, and other minorities, and to intimidate and oppose Roman Catholics and labor unions.

So, when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in a defining moment during the March on Washington, his allies in the Civil Rights Movement and others understood the context of the phrase, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia." (Watch a video of the 17-minute speech here.)

Born into a culture poisoned by racism, economic injustice, and militarism, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called us to address these evils through nonviolent resistance. Thirty-eight years later, a crazed product of this culture assassinated the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Moses of my generation. Today, the poisons steadily erode cultures and the environment. And, nonviolent resistance continues. Everywhere.

January 18, 2014

Wedding in Jaffa, Israel: Kidane Isaac and Laurie Lijnders

In embroidered velvet crowns and robes: Laurie, a Dutch anthropologist
and Kidane, an Eritrea asylum seeker and a local community leader

Radiating freedom, unity, and courage, Kidane Isaac and Laurie Lijnders were married this morning at St. Anthony's Church following an early morning mass in Tigrinya (Eritrean language) and some English. Hundreds of celebrants filled the Catholic church in this mixed Arab-Jewish city — African asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea but also from Sudan; Israeli social activists; and friends and family of the bride from Holland. Kidane's parents and seven siblings are in Eritrea, and he doesn't know when, if ever, he will see his them. (Kidane and I have been friends since 2011, shortly after he arrived in Israel.)

Sudanese (L) and Eritrean (R) bridesmaids:
“We are all Africans,” said the Sudanese woman

The celebration was a welcome break from the protests, strikes, and constant dread of deportation. In recent weeks, Kidane helped organize the strikes that brought tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the streets and selected foreign embassies in Tel Aviv, and to the Knesset in Jerusalem demanding freedom and granting refugee status to eligible individuals

Four days after the wedding, thousands of Africans and allies resumed the demonstrations in Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, and in the afternoon protested again in front of embassies. Now, they demand also that the local government repeal the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law by releasing detainees in the Saharonim detention center and the Holot facility. Addressing these basic requirements is essential to relieving the global humanitarian crisis experienced locally.

Listening attentively, holding many posters: "We want refugee rights"
"Every heart to love will come like a refugee" (Leonard Cohen)

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January 08, 2014

In Far'ata: Learning English in the West Bank Palestinian village


In the photo, three of the 20 women who came to learn English this afternoon in Far'ata, their West Bank 700-person Palestinian village. Some brought their small children and grandchildren who added joy and prompted learning new vocabulary — boy, girl, children, grandchildren. I love connecting head-to-head and heart-to-heart, and sharing laughter and learning in hard places and painful times.

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West Bank village Wadi Fukin [Valley of Thorns]