You Love Israel. You Hate the Occupation. A New Year's Dawning. What's Your Move?

There's a certain freedom in a time of extremism and obsession and chaos. Freedom to chart a new course. Freedom to love Israel. Freedom to help undo what is done in your name.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Palestinian workers stand under a shelter as they wait for transportation at the Israeli army's checkpoint near Kibbutz Eyal in central Israel, 2009.
Palestinian workers stand under a shelter as they wait for transportation at the Israeli army's checkpoint near Kibbutz Eyal in central Israel, 2009.Credit: AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Let's say you're one of those North Americans who loves Israel.

A New Year is dawning. And while you love Israel, you may well be one of those Jews whose thoughts of atonement – of reconsideration, of addressing wounds long left gaping and jagged and raw – extend to the Israeli government's policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Let's say you believe those policies to be anti-democratic and inhumane.

And let's say you feel alone with this. On your own.

Little wonder. In these days of polarization in the Jewish community, fueled by an all-encompassing focus on Iran, it may seem that no one's noticing or doing anything to undo an ever-worsening, ever-deepening occupation.

Maybe it's because some of the groups who say they're standing up for Israel, often seem more interested in slamming Palestinians, Islam, and the President of the United States, than doing anything to change the Holy Land's reality for the better.

Or maybe it's because some of the groups who hate occupation also truly hate Israel, and give the distinct impression that they are more interested in hurting Israel than they are in helping Palestinians.

But you're not alone with this. More and more, there are people thinking of and acting on ways to try to save Israel and undo what occupation destroys, even if it's only one small mitzvah at a time.

1. A little over a month ago, terrorists firebombed the West Bank home of the Dawabsheh family, killing 18-month-old Ali and his father, and critically burning his mother and brother, who are being treated in Israel's Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

The government said the perpetrators, who are still at large, are believed to be Jewish terrorists. It later emerged that the family were ineligible for the government financial support which Israel automatically grants Israeli victims of terrorism, including West Bank settlers.

In an effort to address the problem, a number of groups, including Machsom Watch and Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), collected small donations to help the Dawabsheh family, and RHR helped the family set up a special bank account, so that donations could be sent directly there.

At the same time, many other groups, among them the Tag Meir organization, whose focus is healing the deep social wounds opened by the so-called price tag attacks (in Hebrew, "tag mechir"), and The Parents Circle of bereaved families, have also been doing important work building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. The New Israel Fund coordinates support for a wide range of these groups.

Israeli and Jewish initiatives are helping expand medical care for Palestinians in other ways as well. (See 3, below).

But more, much more can be done.

Why not create an overall fund to help pay the expenses of victims of the so-called "price tag" and other extreme pro-settlement attacks, which target Palestinian lives, livelihoods, and property, as well as Holy Land mosques and churches?

There are signs that work is already beginning toward creation of such a fund.

2. All over the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, there are Palestinian villages, towns, and neighborhoods under imminent threat of demolition, expulsion, encroachment and replacement by settlers.

Why not explore the possibility of progressive synagogues and other organizations establishing a twinning or sister community relationship with the villages?

Among possible means of support might be contacting the villagers, learning about their plight, and creating a network that monitors and publicizes what's happening there; working with Israeli left parties to help them, pressuring the Israeli government through direct mail and contacting the consulates, helping NGOs which help the villagers, and organizing visits to the sister communities.

3. One of the more important ways that concerned Jews can help Palestinians under occupation is by helping expand the availability of medical treatment.

At present, the Peres Center for Peace has an ongoing fund to help pay for medical treatment for Palestinian children. Also, an organization called "The Road to Recovery" helps Palestinian kids with transportation to Israeli hospitals, with its volunteers using their private cars to drive the young patients.

And there's more. The pro-Israel, anti-occupation organization Ameinu is joining an effort by Project Rozana, founded two years ago as a multi-faith, international initiative which raises funds to expand health care in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as providing treatment in Israel for critically ill Palestinian children when proper care is not available in their own communities.

The project is not only intended to improve the state of health care for Palestinians, but also as an initiative toward building a future Palestinian state, alongside Israel.

Ameinu's emphasis will be on supporting training of Palestinian doctors, nurses and therapists as well infrastructure initiatives, including building a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Ramallah.

Medical institutions already involved on the ground include Hadassah Hospital, Wolfson Hospital, the Save a Child’s Heart organization and the St. Johns Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem.

Synagogues, churches, organizations and individuals that would like to get involved with this effort can contact Ameinu.

4. Another way to begin to undo the mechanics of occupation is to seek to make the North American Jewish community more transparent about the aid it gives the settlement enterprise.

J Street, through its student arm J Street U, has taken this on as a specific goal. Among the issues they intend to target this school year are the questions of whether Jewish community federations have a policy about not funding over the Green Line (Israel's pre-1967 war border), and if they make that policy public.

J Street and other groups may also fight the tax exemption given to contributions to non-profits that aid settlement expansion and the deepening of occupation.

There are many other groups which deserve mention here, for example, All That's Left: Anti-Occupation Collective, Americans for Peace Now, and T'ruah: The rabbinic call for human rights.

If you would like to add to those listed here, by all means: Click Here.

All in all, there's a certain freedom in a time of extremism and obsession and chaos. Freedom to chart a new course. Freedom to make this coming New Year a better one, one mitzvah at a time.

Freedom to love Israel. Freedom to help undo what is done in your name.

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