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Statement on the Spiraling Violence between Israelis and Palestinians

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The spiraling violence that began in Jerusalem and now includes all of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank is heartbreaking and frightening. We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that have targeted civilians, claimed Israeli lives, and terrified children. We also mourn the scores of dead in Gaza, including dozens of children, and we call on Israel’s leaders to remember that their powerful military response can be devastating for families and children there.   
 
We are also deeply shaken by the many eruptions of street violence in several Israeli cities. Gangs of Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis have smashed storefront windows of the Other, attacked citizens on the street, and chanted slogans of hate. We call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take decisive action to bring the violence to a halt, and we honor the many civic organizations and leaders that have mobilized to try to quell the violence. 
 
Finally, we call for an honest reckoning regarding the multiple events that have taken place over the past few weeks that provided so much kindling for the fires that have erupted. The attempt to evict Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem homes they have lived in for generations is unjust and cruel. The attacks on pedestrians — some carried out by Palestinians and some by Jews — have been brutal. The gathering of Jewish extremist marchers in Jerusalem shouting “Death to the Arabs” is appalling. The polarizing and hateful language that has been unleashed on all sides, in all the languages of the region, is the literal embodiment of l’shon hara — the evil tongue. So many lives hang in the balance of what happens next, and we pray for a retreat from the brink of even greater devastation. This horrifying cycle serves only the agendas of extremists, adding new layers of death, destruction, and trauma that fuel future generations of hatred, cynicism, and hopelessness. 

In her poem, The Smoke Has Not Cleared: A Prayer for Peace, Hila Ratzabi cries out to God: 

Lift us up, lay us down, 
Hold us in our grief, 
Quiet the trembling earth, 
Quiet our trembling hearts, 
Make peace for us right now 
Because we can’t  
Do this alone,  
Because parents are grieving 
And the land is ravaged 
And the smoke 
And the smoke has not cleared.  

Rabbi Alanna Sklover writes, “…we are united in knowing that the situation on the ground is not tenable for anyone, and that every single human being — Israeli and Palestinian — deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and to live without fear.” May we do the work of pursuing peace even when it seems beyond all possibility, and may we draw inspiration from all who struggle for this violence to end, all who labor for a future of mutual respect, justice and peace for Israel and Palestine. 

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