Washington: Jewish Rabbis to lead prayers for Gaza aid flotilla victims

The White House

The White House

A Jewish group in Washington will be leading a memorial service in front of the White House next Sunday, for all those killed in the Gaza aid flotilla last week. The service is at 1pm in Lafayette Park. They will also be praying for the many thousands of Israelis and Palestinians killed or displaced from their homes since the beginning of the Israel  - Palestine struggle, healing prayers for those hurt or wounded in the Israeli assault on the boats, prayers for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held by Hamas; and for the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.
Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rabbi Arthur Waskow will conduct healing prayers in the Jewish tradition for those hurt or wounded, and a traditional Jewish memorial service for those killed when Israeli troops assaulted a flotilla of ships bringing aid to Gaza last Monday. The Muslim community will be represented by Dr Sayyid M. Syeed , National Director for the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Christian community by United Church of Christ pastor Rev Ama Zenya and Rev Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational Church of Christ in DC Other clergy are invited to join in offering prayers.
The services is part of a conference sponsored by the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives taking place from Friday, June 11-Sunday June 13 at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E. Capitol St., NE. 

The focus of the conference is: Strategies for Secular and Religious Progressives in the Obama Years. People not registered for the conference are welcome at the rally starting 11am at Lafayette Park facing the White House from 11am to 2pm on Sunday June 13.

The organisers say: "If you can't come - you can still help: by insisting that national media and your local media and the progressive media as well cover this event - it's a way of making clear that the entire Jewish people should not be blamed for this morally distorted action on the part of Israel - and you don't have to be Jewish to make that point to the media."
The conference is co-sponsored by Tikkun,  the Network of Spiritual Progressives,  Common Cause, the Interfaith Alliance, The Nation magazine, Progressive Democrats of America, the Washington Peace Center, Tikkun magazine, The Shalom Center, and Peace Action. Among the conference speakers: Rev Brian McLaren, Rev James Forbes, Rev. James Winkler, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Buddhist author Robert Thurman, John Dear, SJ, Congressman Keith Ellison, environmentalist activist and theorist Bill McKibben, Heather Booth, David Korten, Rabbi Arik Asherman, and more. For more  information see: www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference.
Rabbi Lerner, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and editor of Tikkun Magazine, said: "The overwhelming majority of American Jews are saddened at the killings and wounding that took place on the high seas on 31 May, and want to make clear that this kind of behaviour is not a morally acceptable or politically effective way for Israel to achieve security. We are holding this service in part to express our condolences to the families of the slain and our prayers for those who have been hurt or wounded. We stand with Israel in support of its right to security, and with the Palestinian people in support of their right to justice and national self-determination in a secure Palestinian state that encompasses all of the West Bank and Gaza and sharing Jerusalem with Israel.
"The violence against the Gaza Aid flotilla is  a microcosm of the violence that those non-violent peace activists have consistently experienced when attempting to use tactics of non-violence in challenging the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The daily structural violence of the Occupation and of the blockade of Gaza are usually ignored by the media, hence making overt acts of human rights abuses by Palestinians who revert to acts of terror or Hamas which allows shelling of Israeli towns to appear as though they are a product of hatred of Israel rather than as responses to Israel's on-going violence. Yet the continued refusal of Hamas to acknowledge the existence of Israel and to look to Iran, whose leadership has called for the destruction of Israel, gives plausibility to the Israeli claim that Hamas and the militants among Palestinians do not seek 'justice for Palestinians' but rather 'an end to the existence of Israel itself with uncalculated horror to the Israeli people.' So while we memorialize those killed in Gaza, we condemn violence of Palestinian terrorists and of Hamas, even as we find hope in the commitment of leaders of the Palestinian Authority to embrace the path of non-violence and cooperation with Israel. The violence on all sides must cease, Gilad Shalit must be freed by Hamas,  the blockade of Gaza and the Occupation of the West Bank must be stopped, and all the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and outdoor detention camps must be freed.
"We also believe that the best path to peace is a new spirit of open-hearted contrition and atonement, leading to a strategy of generosity to replace the current strategy of military power and domination by Israel and acts of violence or terror by Palestinians. Both sides have co-created this larger struggle, and both sides need to turn to the other in a spirit of contrition and genuine recognition of the legitimacy of the other side's narrative, difficult as that may be for each side to do. It is not power of military prowess nor mobilization of outrage that will solve this struggle, but rather an attitude of love and generosity of spirit that will break the cycle of violence and make possible a rapid solution to the larger conflict. The only alternative to this is for the world to assemble a global conference of the countries which voted for the creation of Israel in 1949 and now take steps to impose a fair, just and lasting peace on th sides of the conflict."  

"Not all speakers or participants at this Memorial service agree with this statement (or at least we didn't have time to check), but they do agree that the needless deaths of those on the flotilla need to be mourned and the victims of violence deserve our prayers."
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, author of 11 books including The Politics of Meaning Healing Israel/Palestine,  The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right, and The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left. He is Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun in Berkeley, California and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Rabbi Lerner can be contacted at:  RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org

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