May 18, 2009 24 Iyyar 5769
40th day of the omer
hod she’b’yesod, splendor/surrender within bonding
This past Shabbat I spent a couple of hours at Chochmat HaLev, listening to the moving story of Elad Vazana, an Israeli Jew of Moroccan heritage who has spent the last ten or more years of his life working for peace in the Middle East. After his years of army service and having created a successful business, Elad awoke one morning from a vivid dream of being in a village in Portugal—a place he recognized as home. Filled with the dream’s power, he sold his business and gave up the life he knew to travel to Portugal.
Passing through Spain on his way to the place he had dreamed about, Elad suddenly received further guidance. Instead of going on to Portugal, he found himself on a bus bound for Granada! There he spent a fabulous year immersed in a culture still resonant with the 700-year mutually respectful and gloriously fruitful interchange that had taken place between 700 and 1400 CE, when Jewish, Muslim, and Christian populations had flourished there in harmony during Spain’s Golden Age.
Filled with the spirit of possibility, Elad knew he had to go back to Israel and do something to rekindle this productive co-existence. He returned home and became involved in Sulha, the movement to gather leaders and everyday folks from all the Middle East’s great spiritual traditions in the spirit of mutual honor and reconciliation. ( ‘Sulha is an Arabic word that carries a similar meaning to the Hebrew s’likha, forgiveness. It refers to ancient process evolved in Arab culture, where aggrieved parties would come together, witnessed by tribal elders, to speak and drink coffee and resolve differences—even when murder or violence had been perpetrated.) Sulha organizers hoped to bring people together to share their stories of pain, to eat and pray together, and so to build the foundational spiritual and emotional coalitions upon which peace can come, at last, to rest. What began as small gatherings quickly mushroomed to major annual multi-cultural events, attended by thousands.
I was impressed by Elad and by his story. His work is in Sulhita, the branch of Sulha that brings together young Israeli Jews and Palestinians, who have been taught to heap hatred upon the “enemy,” without ever having met a person of the “other side,” much less looked into their eyes. These young people are brought together in summer residential settings where they can get to know one another and create bonds of fellowship—hod she’ b’yesod, splendor and surrender/humility in bonding. If these young people. who have been taught from the get-go to hate each other, can bond with one another in friendship in a week’s time, can we not also open our hearts to the possibility of peace in the Middle East? Can we not also let begin to go of our animosities, cynicism, and fear, and continue to work together toward that end?
The work of Sulha is at risk because of the most recent violence in Gaza and the current political climate in Israel. We, of course, need the wisdom of multiple approaches to peacemaking. Recognizing the humanity of the other, getting to know the “enemy,” is perhaps but one of a number of necessary steps in moving toward peace. I urge you to look into your own heart and to ask, in what ways can I, in integrity, contribute to healing, to peace in Israel and the Middle East? If you feel moved to support the work of Sulha and Sulhita, I invite you to use the link here to go to the Sulha website, to learn more about their work, and to donate if you can.
and rejoice in my house of peace.
My house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.
With prayers and blessings for peace in all worlds,