The Making of Puerto Rican Jews

On Top of the Mountain

The Making of Puerto Rican Jews

By Judith Fein 

It was a warm, sunny, cloudless Puerto Rican day, and the face of Levi Stein, the rabbi recently appointed to oversee the development of the Jewish Welcome Center of Old San Juan, was flushed as he clutched the wheel of his car and we wound our way up the curvy mountain road.

We were in Cidra, in the central part of the island; I had begged the rabbi to help me find some really unusual Jewish stories. “There is a Jew who lives in the middle of nowhere, on top of a mountain,” he told me. Before he had finished his sentence, we were on our way.

The car hugged the right side of the steep and narrow two-way road, lined with conical bamboo stems and lush, dense, rain forest-like foliage. On our left was a cliff, a deadly drop into the abyss. I stifled a scream when a car, careening down the hill, almost shaved the rabbi’s vehicle. The GPS chirped a few useless directions. Just as we were also about to give up, we came face to face with a vertical driveway. Cautiously, we inched our way up and there, in front of a large home, stood a middle-aged man in a checked shirt, loose pants, kippatsitsit and flip-flops. He introduced himself as Reuven Reyes. His wife Hadassah was at his side.IMG_5553.JPG

Reyes took us on a tour of the property, pointing out the banana and breadfruit trees and helping us up onto the roof of his house, from where we looked down at a lush garden filled with fruits and vegetables. Cidra was spread out down below us. Reuven’s friend, Chaim Perez, a tall, thin, handsome man, joined us. With his crisp white shirt, black yarmulke atop his head, tsitsit peeking out from the bottom of his shirtand long, curly peyote, I wondered, ‘Was I on a mountaintop in Puerto Rico — or in Brooklyn?’

Inside Reyes’ large house, the lone décor on its bare white walls was a picture of an old Jewish man blowing a shofar. Because it was right before Chanukah, a 7-branch menorah stood in the middle of the dining room table, and a Chanukiah was perched on the kitchen counter. I sat down with Reyes and Perez, peppering them with questions about their origins. Perez explained that their fathers and family originated in Spain.

“Is it possible that they were among the first secret Jews to flee the Inquisition and sail to the Caribbean with Columbus in 1492?” I asked. “Or could they have been among the Anusim who arrived after 1519? According to Inquisition records, secret Jews were discovered and tried in Puerto Rico. Because Puerto Rico was a Spanish island until 1898, and Spain’s laws banished Jewish settlements in its territories, it was considered an inhospitable place for Jews. Individuals settled there, but there were no organized Jewish communities. Could your ancestors have been among these isolated settlers?”

Reyes and Perez shrugged. Then, little by little, they recounted what they did know — the unusual story of their own lives.

“When we were born, our grandfathers went to the Church of G-d of the Seventh Day — not the Seventh Day Adventists — which had about 1,000 members in Puerto Rico,” Perez explained. “We kept Shabbat. We didn’t eat shellfish or pork or rabbit. The church was founded in 1939, and about 1980 there was a split. Some members wanted to use the name Yehovah and others insisted on Yahweh. So the church divided into two groups: The First Church of G-d of the Seventh Day and the Church of Yahweh, to which we belonged.”

It was a Christian church, he told me, but they kept kosher, observed Shabbat, Yom Kippur, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.

The Story of Reuven Reyes:

Without understanding why, Reyes’ family observed a variety of Jewish customs. His mother made Shabbat dinner on Friday nights. His family slaughtered animals differently from their neighbors: they killed the animals quickly, hung them upside down and drained the blood. At Passover time, they ate yeast-free bread in church.

As a young adult, Reyes joined the army, said he couldn’t work on Shabbat and needed to eat kosher food. They considered him a Seventh Day Adventist and put him to work in the kitchen, where he could prepare his own meals.

In 1975, Reyes married a Catholic woman and moved to New Jersey, where he worked for a Jewish boss. Reyes was involved with the church and rose quickly through the ranks of the church hierarchy. In 1981, they moved back to Puerto Rico.

Reyes logged 20 years as a church leader, was a minister and a member of the church council.IMG_5548.JPG

The Story of Chaim Perez:

From 1981 to 1987, Perez also lived in New Jersey, where he worked for a Jewish businessman, buying car parts. He questioned his boss about what Judaism was all about, but was simply told: “This is not for you.” Undeterred, Perez bought a book about Christianity and its Jewish roots.

The more he thought about his religion, the more fundamental questions Perez had. He called a rabbi in Miami, who sent him a book to help address his questions about the Messiah.

“I came back to Puerto Rico and started to buy books about Judaism,” he said. Soon, he was ready to tell a pastor in the church that his views on the Messiah had changed.

Reyes and Perez Cross Paths:

That pastor was Reyes. One day, he found out that Perez was teaching Judaism in his church. Reyes warned him that if he didn’t stop teaching Judaism, he’d be thrown out of the church. Perez looked him squarely in the eye and said, “If you throw me out through the door, I’ll jump back in through the window.”

Perez and his small group of 12 people continued to plunge into their study of Judaism. Reyes remembers saying to the church council: “We’re throwing them out, and in five years, we’ll probably be doing what they are doing.”

Perez’s group was exiled from the church, which prompted Reyes to start asking his own questions of the council. Eventually, he was excommunicated as well.

He and his wife joined the nearby Jewish Messianic Church, where one of its members had a stack of literature. “I felt as though my mind was blowing up,” Reyes recalled. “Finally, I went to Perez and said, ‘I believe what you believe.’”

Reyes approached Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, founder and spiritual leader of the Chabad of Puerto Rico, about converting. Zarchi, as per Jewish custom, was required to turn him away. After several weeks of waiting, Reyes contacted him again, and seeing his determination, resolve and energy, the rabbi invited him to Chabad for morning services and Shabbat.

Zarchi encouraged him to start connecting with various rabbis to learn more. He and a group of others had their first phone conference with Rabbi Baruch Landy, an Orthodox rabbi in New Jersey. For close to two years, they had classes remotely and learned. Reyes flew to New Jersey to attend yeshiva for three weeks, and returned to Puerto Rico with an abundance of study materials.

Reyes stopped driving on Shabbat, and started staying over at the Chabad. “I had nowhere to sleep in San Juan, so the rabbi graciously invited me to stay in the second room.” With Rabbi Zarchi’s help, Reyes obtained a bed and built a bathroom. “At the time, my wife was not interested at all. Now she is more observant than I am,” Reyes said proudly.

Over time, a few other prospective converts joined the synagogue. One day, Rabbi Zarchi told them they were ready to convert. He loaned Reyes and Hadassah money to go to New Jersey, where Rabbi Landy took them to Queens for their conversion.

It was a Thursday when a small group, including the couple and another family from Puerto Rico, passed the tests that finalized their preparation. Friday morning, they went through the conversion process, and proceeded to Passaic, New Jersey for their first Shabbat as members of the Jewish people. On the way, Reyes said the Shema, adding to a day, and larger week of powerful memories he says he’ll carry with him always.

“On Shabbat morning, we were all called up to the Torah,” he recalled. “When they called my name for the first time, Reuven ben Avrohom, it was great, I couldn’t believe it. I had done so many things just to become a Jew, and my wish came true.”

He said he was grateful to the rabbis that had helped them along the way, and for the opportunity to learn about how the customs he had always known fit in with Jewish tradition. And when he returned to Puerto Rico and to the Chabad synagogue, the rabbi and rebbitzen were waiting to welcome him back. They presented him with his tallis and tefillin, which he’d been yearning to wear for so long. Now they were his to use.

“When I go to Chabad, I feel so good,” he says, adding that he hopes more people move to Puerto Rico so that the community will continue to grow. As for Reyes, he says he is glad to share his experiences and glad to hear people are interested in hearing his story and how Judaism has impacted his life. “I’m the only Jew up on the mountain — I look at the skies and say ‘G-d’ I know you’re looking at me, and I’m trying to do the best I can.”

Three months after Reyes’ conversion, Perez and his group went to New York to convert. A rabbi in Monsey, New York invited them for Sukkot. Then they went to Borough Park, in Brooklyn, for the conversion.

Perez moved to Monsey, but then decided to settle back in Puerto Rico, where the weather was better.

Perez and Reyes continue to be familiar faces at the Chabad.  Reyes, in fact, comes every Shabbat, stays overnight, and helps take care of the synagogue. In addition to the pleasure he feels from opening and closing the synagogue for the rest of the congregation, he imbues an aura of happiness knowing he is now a proud member of the community.

“You have gone through so much to be Jewish,” I said to them.

The men, beaming in their kippot and tzitzit looked at one another and nodded. “It was worth every bit of it.”

SIDEBAR:

In 1898, after the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war and gained control of Puerto Rico, Jewish servicemen and administrators arrived and settlement gradually began to grow. During World War II, there was a substantial increase. Today, Puerto Rico is home to the largest Jewish population (about 2,000) of any Caribbean island, and boasts three synagogues, and a Jewish Welcome Center.

Segun tomado de, http://www.chabadpr.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/2357678/jewish/The-Making-of-Puerto-Rican-Jews.htm el lunes, 28 de julio de 2014.

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El Género de Dios

El Género de Dios

El Género de Dios

Al entender la manifestación de Dios mediante las metáforas masculina y femenina, podremos comenzar a unificar nuestra conexión con la realidad trascendente.

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A pesar de que el género es, por supuesto, irrelevante para Dios – que no tiene cuerpo – hay una razón para el uso de estas alegorías. Penetremos la superficie para llegar al sofisticado entendimiento que yace detrás de esto.

Bananas e Infinito

Antes de dedicarnos a nuestra pregunta, debemos hacernos otro cuestionamiento: ¿Por qué se usan metáforas para describir a un Dios incognoscible? ¡Pareciera ser algo tan pagano!

Los humanos somos inexorablemente adictos a la realidad física. Nuestra capacidad de pensar en abstracciones sin el uso del mundo físico como base tiende a ser ilusoria. Recurrimos a las palabras para transmitir ideas que están mucho más allá de nuestra experiencia, y nos engañamos creyendo que, por cuanto que nos sentimos cómodos con las palabras, nuestro entendimiento de la idea que transmiten es completo.

Intenta un ejercicio. Cierra tus ojos e imagina tres bananas, sin dividirlas en grupos (dos arriba y una abajo, etc.) ni contarlas. Ningún problema, ¿no?

Ahora haz lo mismo con siete bananas. Recuerda: prohibido agrupar y contar. La mayoría de nosotros encuentra esto extremadamente difícil. Si intentas imaginar ahora 12 bananas sin contar ni agrupar, te encontrarás frente a una misión imposible.

Si no puedes visualizar 12 bananas, entonces no tienes un gran entendimiento de lo que significa “infinito” ni “Todopoderoso”.

Para parafrasear a Maimónides (en la primera parte de su famosa “Guía de los Perplejos”), si no puedes ver 12 bananas, entonces no tienes un gran entendimiento de lo que significa “infinito” ni “Todopoderoso”.

La observación de Maimónides da una lección de humildad, pero también es bastante honesta respecto a entender la naturaleza humana: necesitamos imágenes concretas. Por esta razón, la misma Torá que nos dice que Dios no tiene forma, también permite una rica y variada imaginería “terrenal” – por ejemplo, la fuerte Mano de Dios, los vigilantes ojos de Dios, etc.

Vayamos ahora al tema de él/ella.

El Zóhar utiliza la imaginería de género todo el tiempo. Señala que la unidad de Dios asume dos formas al igual que los humanos, quienes expresan Su imagen. Las dos formas físicas que caracterizan al mundo –masculina y femenina – actúan como una metáfora viviente de las dos formas en que Dios hace que Su presencia sea conocida.

El Talmud y los místicos utilizan “Santo, Bendito Sea” como la frase masculina, y “Shejiná” (presencia) como la frase femenina. Examinemos ahora el significado más profundo de estas frases.

Metáfora Masculina: Luz Trascendente

Dios está tanto en el mundo como sobre él. Está simultáneamente dentro de nosotros y muy por encima nuestro. Utilizamos la frase “El Santo, Bendito Sea” cuando hablamos de la luz trascendente, el aspecto de Dios que está más allá de nosotros. Describe la naturaleza de la intervención Divina, los milagros y las comunicaciones.

¿Por qué utilizamos una metáfora masculina? El Kuzarí explica que los órganos genitales masculinos son externos, lo que hace que la referencia masculina sea apropiada para cuando la presencia de Dios está en un estado revelado, “externo”.

¿A que nos referimos con revelación? Dios se comunica dándonos la Torá, la cual abre nuestras mentes a Su voluntad y sabiduría. Y cuando Él hace que Su providencia sea visible, más cosas son reveladas.

Normalmente, la luz permanecería oculta de nosotros porque está por sobre nuestro. En el punto de intervención, lo que para nosotros hubiese sido incognoscible es ahora bajado para que lo entendamos.

Esta “visibilidad” puede ser literal, como cuando Dios rompe todas las reglas que gobiernan la naturaleza y nos muestra que hay algo más. Un ejemplo de esto sería lo ocurrido en el Mar de los Juncos, donde Dios es descrito como un “guerrero”. Sus milagros fueron obvios incluso para el ojo más cínico.

La luz de Dios también puede afectar la visión de nuestro ojo más interno. Por ejemplo, cuando fue dada la Torá en medio de una revelación nacional en el Monte Sinai, Dios apareció metafóricamente como un “Anciano Sabio”.

Obviamente, en el sentido más básico, esta es la luz con la que Dios creó el mundo, como dijo Dios en el primer día: “Que se haga la luz” (Génesis 1:3).

De hecho, todas las intervenciones altamente visibles de Dios son expresadas con una metáfora masculina. Dicha metáfora es “El Santo, Bendito Sea”.

Metáfora Femenina: Luz Penetrante

La presencia de Dios no está sólo afuera y por encima de Sus creaciones, sino que también está dentro de ellas. Los genitales femeninos son internos y no están expuestos al ojo exterior, razón por la cual la palabra femenina “Shejiná” describe la presencia de Dios dentro de cada uno de nosotros.

La naturaleza inherente de la Shejiná es estar oculta, en el interior y, en ocasiones, ser silente. En otras ocasiones, es articulada por medio de inspiración espiritual y consciencia. Su presencia es difícil de describir con palabras; de hecho, la naturaleza externa del habla es opuesta, hasta cierto grado, a la naturaleza interna de la Shejiná.

En ocasiones, la Shejiná es simbolizada por lugares en el mundo. En la narrativa de la creación, el Zóhar nos dice que la frase “en el Jardín” se refiere a la Shejiná. La presencia oculta de Dios permeó el Jardín del Edén. Por el contrario, la era en la que la Santidad estuvo más distante fue la época del Diluvio. El mundo había caído a un nivel en el que la línea que separaba entre animales y humanos se había empequeñecido hasta ser casi invisible. El Zóhar describe este estado como uno en que “la Shejiná fue puesta a un lado”.

La naturaleza inherente de la Shejiná es estar oculta, en el interior y, en ocasiones, ser silente.

En nuestro mundo hay lugares en donde la chispa de divinidad que le da vida a cada creación puede ser sentida más profundamente. La presencia de Dios en el alma humana, a la que nos referimos en género femenino, es mucho más profunda que en cualquier otra creación. Asimismo, nos referimos a la Tierra de Israel – una profunda manifestación de presencia interior de Dios – en género femenino.

A pesar de que cada ser humano posee un alma divina, podemos caer tan bajo que dejamos de tener consciencia de la Shejiná. El insensibilizador efecto de esta inconsciencia es llamado “exilio de la Shejiná”. La Shejiná está allí, pero ya no sentimos Su presencia. Sin embargo, Dios se compromete a estar en nuestro interior; el Zóhar describe a la Presencia Divina como la Madre que cuida a Sus niños, quien no los abandona jamás. La chispa de divinidad permanece dentro del judío eternamente como consecuencia del pacto de Dios con Su pueblo Israel.

Unidad y Renovación

¡Cuán fragmentados estamos! ¡Qué distante sentimos la Shejiná cuando estamos divididos por la erosión de nuestra propia sensibilidad! ¡Cuánto anhelamos descubrirla dentro de nosotros, y en el mundo, para tener unos pocos momentos de trascendencia!

¿Cómo logramos ganar cercanía a la penetrante luz de Dios? ¿Dónde podemos encontrar la Shejiná? Una clave es actuar, y la otra es sentir.

En el mundo de la acción, los cabalistas agregan una fascinante frase de meditación previa a la plegaria o a la realización de una mitzvá. Esta frase dice, literalmente, que “el acto que estamos a punto de hacer unificará al Santo, Bendito Sea, con la Shejiná”. Esto significa que los actos externos que Dios nos obligó hacer (rezar, estudiar, hacer mitzvot) despertarán Su presencia en nuestro interior. Ninguna otra cosa que hagamos puede ser tan significativa para traer la luz trascendente de Dios a nuestra consciencia y a nuestro mundo.

El acto que estamos a punto de hacer unificará al Santo, Bendito Sea, con la Shejiná.

Sentir es la otra clave. Cuando nos permitimos sentir una verdadera alegría espiritual y un autentico anhelo, la puerta que abrimos es la puerta del aspecto más profundo de nosotros mismos, la Shejiná que está en nuestro interior. Esta chispa puede ser encendida por medio de “querer querer”.

Luchamos para ser dignos de realizar actos constantes de unificación de los atributos de Dios. Nuestra luz interna y la luz externa revelada, serán en ese momento una. Esta es la “nueva luz sobre Sión” que tan ansiosamente esperamos.

Segun tomado de, http://www.aishlatino.com/judaismo/filosofia/dios/El-Genero-de-Dios.html, el lunes 28 de julio de 2014.

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's Ladder
Kabbalah teaches there are four layers of consciousness through which we ascend.

The dream

The foundational text of Kabbalah, the Zohar, teaches that Jacob‘s ladder was a metaphor for the experience of prayer (incidentally, the Hebrew words for “ladder” and “voice” – “sulam” and “kol” – representing the voice of prayer, share an identical numerological value of 136). Prayer constitutes the ladder through which a human being climbs from his or her earth-bound existence into deeper states of consciousness, until touching the heavenliness at the core of the human soul.

The Midrash (quoted in Yalkut Reuvani and Megaleh Amukot 1) on the verse transmits an oral tradition that the ladder in Jacob’s dream consisted of four steps, which, according to the mystic Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, known as the “Shelah” (1560-1630), embodied the Four Worlds of the Kabbalah.

While the philosophers spoke of three universes – planet earth, the galactic empire and the realm of pure spirit represented by angels – the Jewish mystics speak of four existential paradigms. They taught that our earthly universe, described as “the world of Action” (Asiya) evolved from three higher and more spiritual forms of existence, known as the world of “Formation” (Yetzira) the world of “Creation” (Beriya) and the world of “intimacy” (Atzilut).

Rabbi Horowitz explains that “a ladder etched on earth” represents the world ofAsiya; “Angels of G‑d descending and ascending on it” symbolize the worlds ofYetzira and Beriya, populated by two distinct forms of angels; and “G‑d standing over him” is a metaphor for the fourth and highest universe – the world of Atzilut.

Is there a way of linking the Zohar’s interpretation that the ladder represents prayer, and the interpretation of Rabbi Horowitz that the ladder represents different worlds?

The daily climb

The answer is yes. The Morning Prayer, too, is divided into four sections, which according to the great mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), or Arizal, correspond to the same above-mentioned four worlds.

The worshipper climbs the first step of the spiritual ladder, cultivating the microcosmic universe of Asiya….

In the opening chapters of the “portal of prayer” (in Pri Etz Chaim) the Arizal explains that the division of the Morning Prayers into four sections corresponds to an ascending progression through the four worlds, beginning with Asiya and culminating in Atzilut.

During the beginning of the prayers, until a section known as “Baruch Sh’amar“, the worshipper climbs the first step of the spiritual ladder, cultivating the microcosmic universe of Asiya within his or her psyche. In the second section of the liturgy, known as “Pesukei d’Zimra,” the individual ascends to the second rung in the ladder, encountering the microcosmic world of Yetzira. Subsequently, during the recital of the Shema and its preceding blessings, the worshipper enters into the universe of Beriya, and, then, finally, during the silent Standing Prayer, he or she encounters the cosmic intimacy with the world ofAtzilut.

What this means is that each morning we are summoned to climb Jacob’s ladder and cultivate our microcosmic four worlds that reside at various strata of our identity. Only after this intense meditation and emotional journey can we face the bustling street with the vision and the fortitude required to illuminate the world around us with goodness and love.

These are abstract, metaphysical concepts. How can we apply the doctrine of the “four worlds” to our personal lives? How do we access them on a daily basis?

The answer is anything but simple. The Kabbalah sees it as the task of a lifetime dedicated to study, meditation and intense personal ethical and spiritual refinement. What follows is a tiny fragment of this vast and splendid edifice of Jewish mystical thought.

The World of Action

The first step toward genuine growth requires you to take control of your inner “world of action” (Asiya), becoming conscious of your day-to-day and hour-to-hour behavioral patterns and conduct, and introducing the critically needed changes you need to make in your schedule.

The changes may be in the area of social behavior (i.e. avoiding gossip, slander and bickering), in your business relationships (i.e. eliminating dishonesty and cheating) or in your personal life (ceasing immoral sexual behavior, confronting addictions, controlling your inclination to gamble, etc.). The initial step to take in climbing “Jacob’s ladder” is a commitment to change undesirable habits on a tangible, behavioral level.

This is the primary function of the first section of the Morning Prayer, in which we read about various forms of animal sacrifices offered in the Temple. This symbolizes our own labor of confronting the beast within us and sacrificing its cravings, addictions and lusts to G‑d. Your inner beast may still be very crude and brutish, yet you are empowered to control its behavior and avenues of expression.

A key phrase in the first section of the prayers is “hodo l’Hashem“, which can be translated as: “surrender to G‑d”. This is the first stage of our personal work. Your heart may not be aglow with spiritual passion, but before you can achieve significant growth in your life you must first surrender your animal and tame it.

And yet, we are not robotic machines. Our behaviors are the result of emotions, attitudes and perspectives. If you wish to maintain a healthy and ethical lifestyle you can’t merely do the right things by rote; you must be inspired inwardly. Thus, the journey must continue into the second layer of consciousness, the world of Yetzira.

The World of Formation

The second step in growth calls on you to explore the inner formations of your psyche. In the world of Yetzira you need to examine your inner attitudes, motives and temperaments that give birth to your daily conduct and behavior. You must muster the strength to reformat your internal emotional structure.

A relationship with G‑d means a relationship with your own inner core….

If in the first stage of action you attempt to change your software, in this second stage you strive to redesign your hard-drive. It is, of course, far more challenging and difficult and could come about only through a rigorous process of introspection, humility, honesty and courage.

This is the primary function of the second section of the morning prayers, known as “Pesukei Dezimra“, or “verses of praise”, also translated as “verses that weed out”, in which we read Psalms describing the relationship between G‑d and nature.

In Kabbalah, the relationship between G‑d and the world is not seen merely a relationship between the Creator and the created, but rather as a link between the surface level of reality and the depth of reality. In Kabbalah, “G‑d” is the term employed to describe the underlying structure of all of existence, including of course human existence. In Kabbalah, a relationship with G‑d means a relationship with your own inner core, with the reality of your reality. Alienation from G‑d means alienation from the depths of the self.

This second section of prayer, a review of heart-stirring chapters of Psalms describing G‑d as the author of nature, is intended help us realign ourselves and our world with their true reality, with their authentic essence, with G‑d. The meditation on these truths helps us weed out our selfish, beastly and egocentric inclinations, cravings and attitudes and transcend our shame, fear and resentment. It helps us rewire our inner emotional structure and reformat our feelings and passions.

But how about the scars and wounds that have become entrenched in our psyche? How about the abuse and inner turmoil that have seeped into the very stuff of our chemistry? Can we ever heal from them?

For this you must process to the third layer of consciousness, to the world ofBeriya.

The World of Creation

In this state of consciousness you do not merely reform yourself (as in the layer of formation), but you are empowered to recreate yourself. Here, in the world ofBeriya, you surrender all that you previously claimed as yours to the divine vision of life, allowing for the higher power to recreate your identity all over again, from nothing to something.

Here you are allowed entry into that core space of self that recognizes its perpetual metamorphosis….

In this third section of prayer we discuss the notion that G‑d creates existence every day anew. Here you are allowed entry into that core space of self that recognizes its perpetual metamorphosis from nothingness into something-ness. In this part of the prayer we also declare “Here O Israel, G‑d is one”, which means that G‑d is the only one recreating us every day and every moment as aspects of His being, as expressions of His reality.

This is, admittedly, a frightening moment. You must possess the readiness to erase your entire hard drive, surrendering all of it to the invisible “microchip”. It may feel like jumping off a cliff. Yet, when you take that jump, you allow yourself to experience rebirth, soaring far and beyond the limitations and parameters of your previously finite and flawed emotional structure.

Yet even after your entry into the third world, you haven’t become one with reality. You have surrendered your notion of selfhood for the sake of ultimate reality, but there is still an “I” attempting to experience oneness. I am experiencing you; I am experiencing G‑d and the very awareness of self indicates that I am still alienated from true reality.

Take dancing as an example. How do you know that you are truly immersed in the ecstasy of the dance? The answer: when you are unaware of the fact that you are totally engrossed in the dance. The moment your “I” is begins to observe that your body is moving around uninhibitedly, you are not fully present in the dance. When you become truly one with somebody or something, you don’t experience the oneness. You’re just one.

How do you know when your body is healthy? When you don’t feel it. When you begin to feel any part of your body – even if you don’t feel pain but only a sense of heaviness – it is a sign that something in the body is dysfunctional. The healthier the body is, the less you sense it.

Artists are keenly aware of this truth in their own careers. There is a point in the work of writers, musicians, painters or speakers when they cease to be conscious of their existence as an independent entity, instead becoming conduits for a deeper energy coming through them. It is at this point that the artist performs best, for his self has merged with his work in a seamless whole.

Great communicators, for example, will tell you that their speeches become truly meaningful and transformative at the moment they become unaware that they are speaking. This may sound weird, but it is the truth. When you’re truly busy living, the “you” does not occupy any space. When the “I” is totally in touch with life, it does not inform you of its existence, for it is completely unified with its mission.

The World of Intimacy

Thus we are invited, in prayer, into the fourth and deepest world, that of Atzilut. Here you give up everything, even the feeling that you have given up everything. You allow yourself to melt away in the all-pervading reality of the one G‑d. You achieve intimacy with the divine; your entire personality becomes a transparent conduit through which the oneness of G‑d shines forth.

This is the fourth section of prayer, known as the silent Standing Prayer. During this prayer, silence must reign supreme, for there is no “I” present to become excited and inspired. We do not reach out to attempt and experience lofty transcendence and sublime oneness. We simply address G‑d firsthand, as “You”, and unite with Him in profound intimacy.

Yet surprisingly this part of the prayer is the most “physical” and concrete of the entire morning service, focusing on each person’s material needs. Why?

Because, just as the most profound intimacy between a husband and a wife is experienced via very physical means, so too the most profound intimacy between man and G‑d finds expression in our sanctification of physical existence.

Spiritual enlightenment is a refined form of self-expression; it is a distraction of complete oneness with G‑d. On the other hand, taking your physical self, your material resources and your brute body and connecting them with G‑d, this is the hallmark of intimacy with the divine. Paradoxically, the very brutish and crude nature of physical matter allows us to escape the traps of the self-conscious ego.

Show me a man who mustered the strength to take control of the first world, and I will show you a self-controlled and fulfilled human being. Show me a man who humbled himself to enter the second universe, and I will show you a courageous and profound soul. Show me a man who dared enter the third universe, and I’ll show you a happy man. But show me a man who climbed the fourth step of the ladder, and I’ll show you a man who needs not to be happy, for he and happiness have become one.


This essay is based on a discourse by Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi with footnotes and commentary by his grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel ofLubavitch, the Tzemach Tzedek, and on a discourse by the latter’s grandson, Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch; Published in Derech Mitzvotecha pp. 83-85; OrHaTorah Shemot vol. 4 parashat Mishpatim pp. 1127-1150; Sefer Hamaamarim5678 pp. 264-265v.

Copyright  2004 Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson

Segun tomado de, http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/658156/jewish/Jacobs-Ladder.htm el sábado, 26 de julio de 2014.

Mohammed Dajani Daoudi // Evolution of a Moderate

Mohammed Dajani Daoudi // Evolution of a Moderate

Once a radical Fatah leader, the Palestinian professor has come under fire for taking his students to Auschwitz to teach reconciliation. 

By Nadine Epstein

flash90 dajani In this day and age, bringing a group of students to visit Auschwitz is so common it is barely noteworthy in the annals of experiential  education. People from all over the world visit the Nazi concentration camp in Poland, where nearly a million Jews were killed and more  imprisoned, starved and tortured. But what is normal behavior elsewhere is abnormal in swaths of the Arab world, where many political and  religious institutions actively promote Holocaust denial or at least Holocaust obfuscation.

 Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, a professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, found this out last March when he brought 27 Palestinian  university students to visit the Auschwitz death camps. The backlash over this visit underscores the chasm between normals: Although by no  means the first Palestinians to visit Auschwitz, the group—in particular, its leader—became a lightning rod for criticism. The 63-year-old  founding director of the university’s American Studies Institute was portrayed as a traitor to the Palestinian cause.    

 Dajani is a courtly, soft-spoken man, fluent in American English. When I spoke with him in early May in Washington, DC, he recounted what  had happened. “Students marched to my office holding placards that said: ‘Depart you normalizer,’ and handed my secretary a letter warning  me not to come back to the university,” he tells me. A journalist in the Palestinian press called him “the king of normalizers.” (“Normalizer” is a  derogatory epithet in the Palestinian world, used to describe someone who engages in “normal” relations with Israelis.) “Another journalist  accused me of brainwashing the minds of the youth like Socrates.” Dajani pauses and laughs sadly. “And another said that I should have taken  the students to a Palestinian refugee camp rather than to a Holocaust death camp. And I should teach Palestinians about the Nakba,” he says,  referring to the Arabic word meaning “catastrophe” that Palestinians use to describe the 1948 war.

Dajani is not naïve. He knew there would be some pushback from the visit—and he was careful to not involve the university—but he was not expecting the outpouring of vitriol. “Over the last three years, I’ve taken my students to Antalya [Turkey] to attend a conference on peace education, and Israelis were there,” he says. “I’ve taken 15 students to Oberlin College, where they studied democratic culture with 15 Israeli students from Tel Aviv University for two weeks, then went to Washington together for a week. Nobody made a big deal about those trips. Now I’ve taken my students to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust and what happened, why it happened, what lessons we can learn from it. And suddenly, the whole world is upside down.”

Dajani speculates that timing played a role—news about the trip broke as the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed—but the response was provoked by an Arabic mistranslation of an article published about the trip in Israel’s liberal daily Haaretz. The translated article erroneously said the trip was paid for by two Jewish organizations. It wasn’t. Funding came from the German Research Foundation, and the trip was organized by “Hearts of Flesh—Not Stone,” a project of the Center for Reconciliation Studies at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, which simultaneously sent 30 Jewish students from Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Universities to learn about the Nakba at the Dheisheh refugee camp just south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Dajani explains that the Al Quds administration was fully aware of the trip ahead of time, and given the school’s 2009 moratorium against joint projects with Israeli universities, he had agreed to make it clear to participants that it was not a school trip. Local arrangements were handled by Wasatia—a movement Dajani founded to encourage moderation among Palestinians. 

I asked Dajani if he would take students again to Auschwitz after what happened. “Yes, definitely, this will not stop me. On the contrary, I think that it should be done again. And that it should be done also with different sectors within the Palestinian society: religious leaders, journalists and educators.”

Mohammed Dajani at Auschwitz in March 2014.

We spoke for an hour and a half before he left to give a talk to members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, where he has been a visiting fellow in the past. Then he was flying to Los Angeles to give a speech titled “Refusing To Be a Bystander” to the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation. Then back to Jerusalem and the Al Quds campus. Despite threats to his personal safety, he shrugged off the need for security. He was more worried that the university’s leaders, who had privately expressed support, had not made a public statement in his defense, giving the impression that he had done something wrong. “I did not break any university rules,” he says. “On an individual basis, professors are allowed to engage in joint ventures.”

Instead, the school had issued a statement distancing itself from Dajani and the students, and some staff members had spoken out against him. One posted online that Dajani had “tricked,” “trapped” and “threatened” his students, adding that he was a “peace-man for Israel and the West” who was “using and abusing his own people for his own personal agenda.” Dajani seemed particularly dismayed that the Al Quds professors and employees union had voted to oust him from the organization, even though he was not a member.

A little more than a week after our talk, Dajani decided to tender his resignation “to expose the double-talk we live. We say we are for democracy and we practice autocracy, we say we are for freedom of speech and academic freedom, yet we deny people to practice it.” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “The educational environment on this campus for teaching and learning is not available at your university, which makes it difficult to practice my mission to educate and practice academic freedom.”

He hoped the university administration would refuse to accept his resignation and take a stronger stance on his behalf. But in an official announcement on May 18, outgoing University President Sari Nusseibeh and incoming President Imad Abukishek said they had no choice but to process the resignation. “I believe there was a lot of pressure on them that such activities not be repeated and they wanted to set an example for other professors,” says Dajani. His resignation took effect June 1.

The Palestinian view of the Holocaust is complicated. Generally it is seen through the lens of Palestinian history as having a direct causal relationship to the Nakba. Many Palestinians go one step further and consider the Holocaust propaganda to justify the establishment of the State of Israel and create sympathy for Jews. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who recently called the Holocaust “a heinous crime,” once held this view. His 1982 dissertation, published as “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism,” famously argued that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to spur more Jewish immigration to Palestine. 

There is another widely accepted opinion among Palestinians about this tragic period in Jewish history: It is almost universally equated to the Nakba, says Dajani, who attributes the widespread ignorance about the Holocaust to the fact that the subject is not studied in Palestinian schools. Teaching about genocide has been part of his curriculum for many years, and in 2012, he coauthored a textbook in Arabic with colleagues Zeina Barakat and Martin Rau entitled Holocaust—Human Suffering: Is There a Way Out of Violence? “The Holocaust is totally different in goals and scope and method, and the quantity of people,” he says. “Unless students get a better education about what happened, they will keep comparing it to the Nakba.”

We cannot just keep our head in the sand and say the Holocaust did not take place. It is immoral to deny it. It is actually, historically speaking,wrong to do so. It is also wrong to claim that the numbers are exaggerated.

After years of teaching, as well as taking students to Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Dajani has identified several misconceptions that come from conflating the Holocaust with the Nakba. “I see my students look at the concentration camp as a jail,” he says. “And then they start to compare it with the Israeli jails. They zoom in on this small picture of somebody being jailed or somebody being tortured. They miss the point of what a Jew sees. A Jew zooms in on the big picture—the Holocaust was meant as the final solution. It was meant to eradicate them as a nation, as a people, as a civilization.” Dajani also tells me about some of the erroneous beliefs the students who recently traveled to Auschwitz with him had upon arriving. “One told me that he thought the Nazis collected Jews in the concentration camps to ship them to Palestine,” he says. 

Among Palestinians, there are those who completely deny the Holocaust. (According to the Hamas charter, Jews were “behind World War II” and “the so-called Holocaust is an alleged and invented story.”) “We cannot just keep our head in the sand and say the Holocaust did not take place,” says Dajani. “It is immoral to deny it. It is actually, historically speaking, wrong to do so. It is also wrong to claim that the numbers are exaggerated.” He rejects the claim that it was just one of many massacres that occurred in the course of World War II. “It was a unique part of the Second World War. Even in a war, you are not supposed to kill a prisoner or kill somebody who has nothing to do with anything.” 

One of the most important lessons Dajani believes his students took away from the Auschwitz trip is that genocides don’t materialize out of thin air.  “They learned that the Holocaust did not only take place in Auschwitz. It was building up for a long time through incitement against Jews and rising anti-Semitism,” he says. The Nazis needed a scapegoat, he adds, and chose the Jews as well as other unlucky segments of society. “I believe that this lesson is a very important one for us as Palestinians and Israelis. It’s why we should end incitement in textbooks and the media—in order to not eventually end up with a genocide.”

Barakat, a Palestinian doctoral student at Friedrich Schiller University who did her M.A. at Al Quds under Dajani and collaborated on the Holocaust textbook with him, agrees: “To avoid another atrocity, we need to talk about this and raise awareness about what happened before.” She is saddened when Palestinians dismiss the Holocaust as a Jewish concept or deny that it happened. She compares this to the Israeli education minister’s 2009 decision to ban teaching about the Nakba in Israeli schools and remove the word from the curriculum. “Israel has made a tremendous effort to wipe out the memory of the Nakba,” she says.

Barakat was one of the organizers of the March trip. “I had never been to a Nazi death camp before. It was shocking for me,” says the 32-year-old. “I had read many books on the topic, but seeing it is totally different from reading about it. I think it was a unique experience, and I can feel empathy for the suffering.”

She is horrified at the backlash against Dajani. “Professor Dajani is a courageous teacher. He’s inspiring to all of his students. And all the students who went to Auschwitz with him feel the same.” 

The students, she adds, faced pressure from friends and family members before they left, and more when news about the trip broke. Not all of them have publicly defended Dajani but many posted extensive comments about the trip on the “Hearts of Flesh—Not Stone” Facebook page. According to the posts, they felt that being at Auschwitz gave them greater empathy for Jewish suffering, although few interacted with Israelis who were present as part of the reconciliation project. One student, Issa Jameel, told The Media Line, an independent online publication in Jerusalem, that he hopes that his professor wins a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mohammed Suleiman Dajani Daoudi comes from a prominent Jerusalem clan known for standing up to extremists. In 1529, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent honored Sheikh Ahmad al Dajani by designating him and his heirs the custodians of the King David tomb on Mount Zion. (This is why family members add the formal appellation Daoudi—David in Arabic—to their names.) In more recent centuries, two Dajanis served as Jerusalem’s mayor between 1863 and 1918, and in 1938, Hassan Sidiqui Dajani was assassinated for leading the opposition against the Grand Mufti and advocating reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.

Mohammed was born in what was then known as the “Dajani neighborhood” in West Jerusalem’s German Colony, two years before the 1948 war. When Jewish forces arrived, the family fled to Egypt. Their property was confiscated, but the following year they returned to live in the Old City, then under Jordanian rule. Dajani tells me that during his childhood, his parents ran a travel agency and a hotel; his father Suleiman traveled frequently and spoke English, French and Hebrew in addition to Arabic, and his mother finished high school, a high level of education for a woman of her time. They were secular Muslims and sent him, one of four children and the eldest boy, to English-speaking Quaker schools. 

Mohammed Dajani with the group of Palestinian students at Auschwitz in March 2014.

As a teenager Dajani idolized John F. Kennedy, and in search of an American college education, he enrolled in the engineering department of the American University of Beirut in 1964, the same year the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded. Like many Palestinian students, he gravitated to the Palestinian liberation cause and joined the PLO’s Fatah faction, which Yasser Arafat established in 1965. “The idea was to liberate Palestine from river to sea and establish a Palestinian secular democratic state where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live,” he recalls. “At the time my concept was, ‘us or them.’ We were totally against dialogue or negotiations, compromises or any solutions that did not allow the liberation of Palestine.” It was, he points out, the heyday of Arab nationalism. “The feeling was that Israelis were imperialists and plantationists within the Arab world, and as a result, this was a national liberation movement like other national liberation movements.”

Although Dajani trained with Fatah to become a guerrilla, he says he “never fired a shot.” Instead, his mastery of English led him to his position as director of Fatah’s “public relations,” and he disseminated information and represented the organization at conferences. At the university, he was one of the student leaders representing Fatah, and was elected for two consecutive years as president of the student council.

“If you had walked into my office,” he says, “you would have seen pictures of Mao Tse-tung, of Marx, of Vladimir Lenin—big posters—but no founding fathers.” He laughs at the memory. “No Thomas Jefferson, no Western philosophers. My hero then was Che Guevara. I was into very radical politics at the time.”

He remained a student for 11 years in order to maintain his Lebanese residence permit, eventually earning a B.A. in mass communications and an M.A. in English. As the years progressed, Dajani grew disenchanted with Fatah and the corruption and nepotism he observed. He was also disappointed by Arafat’s leadership style. “I was a young idealistic student, and these things contradicted my idealism,” he says.

In 1975, the Lebanese government tired of Dajani’s radical politics and deported him to Syria. At this point, he decided to divorce himself from Middle East politics and, he quips, marry academia. 

The question was where. As a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, he had held a Jordanian passport, but Jordan had revoked his and other Fatah members’ passports during the 1970 Black September Civil War. He was also banned from Israel for 25 years for his prominent role in what was viewed as Fatah’s propaganda efforts. So he applied for and was granted an Algerian passport and headed to England to study.

But after visiting his brother Munther, three years his junior, at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Dajani did a second M.A. there. He then followed Munther (the brothers are very close) to the University of South Carolina in Columbia, where both worked on doctorates in the government department.  

During his student days in the United States, Dajani avoided Palestinian politics and generally kept his nationality to himself. People assumed he was an Algerian, and few knew that he and his brother were related since Munther held a Jordanian passport. “That was the complexity of life for a Palestinian,” he sighs.

If you had walked into my office you would have seen pictures of Mao Tse-tung, of Marx, of Vladimir Lenin—big posters—but no founding fathers. No Thomas Jefferson, no Western philosophers. My hero then was Che Guevara. I was into very radical politics.

While a student, he also did his best to avoid meeting Jews. He largely succeeded except for Morris (Moss) Blachman, a political science professor who taught a class in international relations. Dajani recalls having dinner at Blachman’s home and hearing what it was like to be a Jew in South Carolina at the time. “Baptists regularly approached the Blachmans and told them, ‘If you want to go to hell, okay, but let us save your children. Let us take them to church. Let us baptize them.’” He also learned that there were still clubs in South Carolina that excluded blacks and Jews. Blachman, now an associate dean at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine,  has been following the news of his former pupil. “It’s great to see this kind of courage and the recognition that you don’t serve your cause by Holocaust denial and that people have to get along,” he says.

When Dajani finished his degree in 1981 (his dissertation was on the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74), he wanted to stay in the United States. “I had a choice of either getting married in order to get a residency, or to do another Ph.D. So I chose the second—I’d say the less problematic choice.” (Dajani is single and has no children. He was married once for two weeks.) Munther was now at the University of Texas at Austin, and once again older brother followed younger. By the time Dajani finished his second dissertation—on international cartels—his father had managed to get him a pardon from King Hussein, paving the way for his return to Jordan. 

Armed with doctorates, both Dajani brothers found teaching jobs in Amman, Munther at the University of Jordan and Mohammed at the Applied Science University, where he established and chaired the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy. Despite his proximity to Jerusalem, the Israeli ban was still in effect, and Dajani was unable to cross into Israeli controlled territory to see his family. However, in 1993, his father, who had been diagnosed with cancer, succeeded in obtaining a family reunion permit so that his eldest son could finally return home.

Dajani was terrified when he approached the Allenby Bridge to cross over the Jordan River to enter the West Bank. “To me it was a totally traumatic experience, because this was the first time I entered since 1967,” he recalls. “When I came to the bridge, I saw all these Israeli soldiers, and I was very afraid that they would put me in jail.”

Once in Jerusalem, Suleiman encouraged his son to broaden his horizons. Suleiman was in the tourist trade, and he had Jewish associates whom he wanted Dajani to meet. Dajani acquiesced but held onto his view that Israeli Jews were his enemies. “I had this negative attitude toward them. I felt that they had usurped my land and were my occupiers. I didn’t want to harm them, but I didn’t want to have anything to do with them.” 

Then his father brought him along to his chemotherapy appointments at Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. “I was expecting that they would be treating him differently—with discrimination—as a Palestinian, as an Arab, as a Muslim. I found out that this was not the case. They were treating him like a patient. At the same time, I looked around the hospital and found that there were many Palestinian patients with Israeli doctors treating them. This helped me to see the human side of my enemy. It helped change some of my views with regard to Jews and Israelis.”

I had this negative attitude toward Israeli Jews. I felt that they had usurped my land and were my occupiers. I didn’t want to harm them, but I didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Suleiman died in 1995, but Dajani was to have a second encounter with the Israeli medical system that would further change his views. It took place on the way home from a family outing to Tel Aviv when his mother suffered an asthma-induced heart attack in the car. “We were coming to the Ben Gurion Airport exit, and my brother decided to take the exit to seek medical help,” he recalls. “I did not believe that anybody would help her, being an Arab and coming to an airport where Israelis are very keen about security.” 

To Dajani’s surprise, however, the guards immediately called for help and for over an hour, paramedics applied electric shock and massage in the hopes of finding a pulse. His mother was then transported to the closest medical facility, a military hospital, where doctors couldn’t revive her.

 In the car on the way back to Jerusalem that night, Dajani had an epiphany. “I was looking at her empty seat and I was thinking about her loss, and how in the morning she wasn’t even sick, and then suddenly she dies. But at the same time, I was thinking about my enemy who tried to help her. That had a great impact on me in helping me think in terms of us and them, and trying to seek a peaceful solution.”

At this very personal moment, Dajani crossed a major ideological chasm in the Palestinian world—between two very different attitudes toward Israel. Simply put, there are those who are willing to deal with Israel and there are those who are not. The latter view is the one that shaped Dajani, along with many in his generation, during his years in Beirut. It grew out of the Arab separatist movement that had cost Hassam Sidiqui Dajani his life in 1938 and snowballed in 1947, when the Arab world—including the Palestinians—rejected partition and then chose not to engage with new Jewish state. Perhaps it is best summed up in the Khartoum Resolution issued by the Arab League in the wake of the Six-Day War: The third paragraph contains what became known as the “Three No’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

This approach fell out of vogue after the PLO and Israel signed a mutual recognition accord in 1993, but it reappeared—in a new form—after the failure of Oslo and the Second Intifada. The Three No’s turned into “No Normalization” in the belief that normal relations paper over the injustice of the Israeli military occupation. According to an official Palestinian website, “Normalization is the colonization of the mind, whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe the oppressor’s reality is the only ‘normal’ reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with.”

This has everything to do with one of the labels hurled at Dajani after the Auschwitz visit: “king of normalizers.” “There is the notion among some Palestinians and their supporters that no one should have anything to do with Israelis, and anyone who interacts with Israeli institutions or the Israeli government is a normalizer,” explains Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based American Task Force on Palestine and columnist for The National, an English-language newspaper published in Abu Dhabi. “Anyone who engages seriously with Israelis is susceptible to this accusation, but of course it is all fictitious because everyone who lives in Israeli-occupied territories deals with Israel. Even Hamas does. There’s no way not to. So it is a purely malicious accusation that is applied selectively in order to question the nationalist credentials of any Palestinian who interacts. It is only used against certain kinds of people, usually liberals and ones doing constructive things like Professor Dajani, in an effort to stigmatize.” The term, says Ibish, is used by demagogues both on the far left and religious right: Dajani is equally disliked by conservative clerics and by leftists who support boycotts against Israel.

 It all boils down to ideology, says Ibish. In his opinion, the political dividing lines follow what he and others have called “the knowledge constituency versus the ignorance lobby.” “There is a group of people like Professor Dajani who are knowledge empowerers, and there is another group of people who are horrified by the knowledge of ‘the other.’” He says this is not unique to the Palestinians. “There’s great insularity in the Arab world,” he says. “We don’t want to think about other people in the broader world. It is extremely damaging.”

Ibish sides with the “knowledge empowerers.” Dajani is not the only one, but Ibish lauds him for taking a public stance. “I think Dajani was noble, brave, heroic and is an example of exactly what should be done,” he says. Ibish believes that Palestinian students have a right to know the truth. “They need to know what informs the attitudes of the Israelis who shape their lives,” he says. “Ignorance cripples the Palestinians. They need a sound strategy for dealing with Israelis, and to have that, they have to understand with whom they are dealing. There is really no way to make the case that ignorance is empowering.”

I tried to find Palestinians who would speak with me who would consider Dajani a “normalizer,” but failed. However, in reading through online discussions in English about the Auschwitz trip, I saw posts such as this, from a professor at a university in Bethlehem. After saying that the late Columbia University professor and Palestinian advocate Edward Said had visited Auschwitz, he said, “No one has a problem with a trip to Auschwitz in the right context. Here it was the wrong context: in collaboration with Zionists and accepting their (anti-Semitic attitude) that Israel/Zionists represent Jews and Jewish suffering and so to deal with ‘them’ you had to deal with Jewish suffering. That is nonsense. Zionists actually collaborated with Nazis, and all Palestinians distinguish assiduously between Jews/Jewish suffering and the racist monstrosity called Zionism.”

The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote: “What is more important—a small hope or a big dream?” This line was to come into Dajani’s mind at a moment of need in a new phase in his career. 

During the latter half of the 1990s, Dajani trained Palestinian civil servants, first for the United Nations Development Programme, and later for various Palestinian entities. As part of his work he facilitated workshops, which led in 1999 to an invitation to lead a program for Palestinian and Israeli religious leaders in Turkey. This turned out to be a transformative experience for him. “In the first session, they were fighting about who owns the land and accusing each other,” Dajani recalls. “The session was going nowhere, and then I thought of Darwish’s statement and used it to cool things down by asking them, ‘Are you for the big dream or the small hope?’”

“I explained that the big dream for Israelis is to wake up one morning and find that there are no Palestinians around, and they can have Israel and build it and have Jerusalem as the capital. The big dream for the Palestinians is to wake up one morning and find there no Israelis, no Jews around, and they can have Palestine and make Al Quds their capital. The small hope is for both of them to wake up one morning and to have two states, two people, two nations, living next to each other. So the question was, ‘Are you for the big dream or the small hope?’ Now the big dream is immoral, because it implies that you want to wipe out the other. You want to have a Holocaust, you have to annihilate the other. So nobody wanted to be in that position. And so everybody was saying, ‘We are for the small hope,’ although all their body language, all their thinking, was for the big dream. But they would not dare say so.”

There is the notion among some Palestinians and their supporters that no one should have anything to do with Israelis, and anyone who interacts with Israeli institutions or the Israeli government is a ‘normalizer.’

Dajani developed this concept into a conflict resolution model he called “Big Dream, Small Hope,” which over the next few years he presented at conferences and universities in more than 50 countries. He brought these values along when he accepted a teaching position at Al Quds University in 2001, and a year later, started the school’s American Studies Institute, which offers an interdisciplinary master’s degree. (Dajani says he tries to impart to his students “what made America become great; religious freedom and multiculturalism…these are the things I extracted from the American experience.”) One of the courses he taught was on reconciliation.

In 2007, Dajani took his campaign for reconciliation to a new level, in the hopes of addressing growing disillusionment over the peace process in Palestinian society.  He cofounded Wasatia with Munther, a peace advocate in his own right. (Munther Suleiman Dajani Daoudi is the dean of Al Quds Bard Honors College and former dean of the Faculty of Arts at Al Quds and director of the Issam Sartawi Centre for the Advancement of Peace and Democracy.) 

The idea for Wasatia—which means “moderation” or “the middle path” in Arabic—came to Dajani on a Friday morning in 2006, as he stood on the balcony of his house, which overlooks a checkpoint. He watched as a long line of Palestinians formed at the gate in the hopes of entering Jerusalem to pray. “They didn’t have permits and the Israelis were not allowing them in,” he says. A melee began, and the soldiers pushed the crowd back and threw tear gas. At first, Dajani thought the violence would escalate, but instead a compromise was reached. The officers at the checkpoint arranged buses to take the Palestinians to and from the mosque, and in return, the Palestinians agreed to leave their identification cards at the checkpoint. “This was a win-win situation,” says Dajani. “The Israelis were worried about security and made sure nothing happened. And the Palestinians wanted to pray and did not want to plant a bomb. I realized these were moderate Palestinians, not extremists, because if they were, they wouldn’t have accepted the deal with the Israelis. My question was, who represents them?”

Dajani is not a religious man, but he has developed his own “radical” reading of the Qu’ran as a source of moderation, positing that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are equal religions in God’s eyes, and teaching that the holy book preaches religious freedom and acceptance of the other. Wasatia disseminates these ideas through conferences and seminars, articles in Arabic-language newspapers, and written materials distributed to imams, mosques, students, academics and other intellectuals. Its website and reach are modest. “I see progress,” Dajani says. “People are now more acquainted with these ideas.” Largely funded by the Dajani family, Wasatia cannot compete with the millions of dollars from various world governments that support other Palestinian religious and political institutions.

His big dream is that one day Wasatia will eclipse Palestinian political parties in influence. The small hope is to help strengthen the voices of moderates within the parties and foster a moderate culture throughout Palestinian society. “That way we can achieve peace,” Dajani says.

When asked if he would consider going into politics, Dajani replies, “Definitely not.” “It was Lord Acton who said, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’” says Dajani, sounding like the poli-sci professor he is. “Once you are in politics, you have to do all kinds of twisted things to gain power or to remain in power. You lose yourself. That’s why I would like to be a reformer who can guide our community rather than to politically lead it.” 

Dajani’s experience as a radical youth in Lebanon immunized him against the idolization of politicians—including Arafat, whom Palestinians lionize as the icon of the their national liberation movement. “I don’t think he led them well,” says Dajani. His study of government has given him a perspective few fellow Palestinians share. “Unfortunately, the Palestinians in the last 100 years had leaders who were leading them to catastrophe rather than to salvation. We started with Haj Amin al Husseini in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and then we moved to Ahmad Shukeiri in the mid-1960s, and then to Arafat. And now we have Abbas. So basically we have had only four leaders, and we have not had hero models for our youth such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. That’s part of our problem. We are victims of a lack of visionary leaders. Our leaders did not perceive things in the right way, and they incited us to follow wrong slogans and wrong causes in order to seize power and remain in power.

“So we are where we are, and Abba Eban was right in saying that the Palestinians never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity. I think that this now applies to our cousins, the Israelis, who are losing one opportunity after the other, regarding peace. They are learning from us.”

Dajani calls for an end to the occupation and the full recognition of a Palestinian state. “He is very strongly for the Palestinian cause,” says David Newman, professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva, who has served on panels with Dajani at international conferences. “But he doesn’t believe the way forward is through violence. To move ahead you have to have dialogue.” 

The only way forward, says Dajani, is a two-state solution. This is possible, he says, because the silent majority of Israelis and Palestinians long for peace. “I believe they want to go back to live a normal life, where their worries would be how to put food on the table, how to send their children to school. Just the normal worries of a normal family rather than worrying about occupation, about prisoners and about checkpoints.”

In his eyes, the two-state solution has been sabotaged by radicals on both sides. “In Israel, the big parties have become hostages to the small parties, which threaten they will leave government if there is a release of prisoners or a resumption of negotiations. The problem with Israeli democracy is that in the last two decades these small parties have come to play a major role in the electoral system beyond their size. That’s why [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is stepping back.

“On the other side, leaders in the Palestinian Authority are happy with this situation,” he says. “It keeps them in power, and they don’t have to call for elections because they can claim that we have problems with the Israelis. So they have an interest in keeping the status quo rather than moving forward toward peace. That’s why I believe the man on the street—the silent majority—should speak up and not remain a bystander.” 

There are other Palestinians who have worked for and are working toward peace, but Dajani stands out, says Einat Wilf, a former Labor member of the Knesset who’s now a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute. In March she published an online article titled “Israeli Leftist Finds a Glimmer of Hope,” about her search for a Palestinian who would be willing to recognize the two-state solution based on the belief that there are two peoples with equal rights to the land, rather than on the reality of power. Dajani was the only Palestinian who reached out to her, she says. She wasn’t sure what to make of him until they met in person at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. “He talked about how the Palestinians had made a mistake when they rejected the partition in 1947, and that they should have recognized that Palestinians had to share the land. And how he’s promoting moderation. Based on that conversation I was able to publish my piece with a glimmer of hope rather than despair.”

Out of this exchange came a joint statement: “The Jewish people around the world and Palestinian people around the world are both indigenous to the Land of Israel/Palestine and therefore have an equal and legitimate right to settle and live anywhere in the Land of Israel/Palestine, but given the desire of both peoples to a sovereign state that would reflect their unique culture and history, we believe in sharing the land between a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine, that would allow them each to enjoy dignity and sovereignty in their own national home. Neither Israel nor Palestine should be exclusively for the Jewish and Palestinian people and both should accommodate minorities of the other people.”

Wilf says that Dajani is not well known in Israel, although after the backlash to his Auschwitz trip, Israelis are taking note. “People might think of him as important in the intellectual sense, but they would view him—and he himself would say this—as someone who does not broadly represent the views of Palestinian society.” She thinks he is quite courageous. “Many Israelis recognize the right of the Palestinians to the land and self-determination—maybe 30, 40, 50 percent, so I operate in the broad mainstream. But for a Palestinian to come out and support Israel’s right to exist today is rare. He considers that he can plant the intellectual seeds for change, even if he is very much alone in the field.”

 When we first began talking, Dajani seemed reticent, even shy. But the more we talked, the clearer it became that he is determined to speak his mind and has every intention of continuing to work toward his goals of Holocaust education for all Palestinians, building moderation within his society and peace through a two-state solution. “In his very quiet way, he is quite a ferocious battler for his principles, for which I have enormous respect,” says Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute, who has twice visited Dajani’s reconciliation class at Al Quds.

Dajani has not decided what his next step is now that he has left the university. “He is not going into exile,” says Satloff. “Dajanis have been in Jerusalem for hundreds of years and he is a very proud Dajani. I don’t see him giving that up anytime soon.”

Satloff, like other colleagues, friends and family members, is concerned about Dajani’s safety. “This is a turbulent moment, and someone who is publicly associated with the ideas of tolerance and coexistence is running a risk,” he says. Dajani tells me that he doesn’t travel much in the West Bank and that he hasn’t been to Gaza since Hamas took over. But he says he feels safe in his hometown, Jerusalem. “You have to believe what you believe,” he says. “And I believe that whatever God ordains will happen. So nothing will happen to us, except what has been written.”

Segun tomado de, http://www.momentmag.com/mohammed-daoudi-evolution-moderate/?utm_campaign=eNewsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=13591046&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8cqDBKxLIUe7fc6i-f0dl5PrO6r3OGI7gQgn1IKDKftLt7mhkE_fqTOHxhl70BCKryi2vDDkkv4RdMppWkcV0AR8OqyCeDgBpEvZKC8lHKlhBXoG8&_hsmi=13591046, el viernes, 25 de julio de 2014.

Jewish Gaza

Jewish Gaza

 July 24, 2014

King David in 6th century Gaza synagogue

With everything that’s going on, it’s easy to forget that Gaza has a long Jewish history. It’s an odd history, however. The fact is that Gaza has never sat right with the Jewish people. Isaac, one of the three Biblical forefathers, was born somewhere between Beer Sheba and Gaza, precisely in the area that is suffering the most rocket attacks from Hamas. Both Abraham and his son Isaac had problems with the local rulers. (Genesis 20:1-3,11-12, 26:1,7)

Biblically, the area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, but the Jews never quite secured it. It’s always been an area of conflict, an arena for confrontation between Jews and hostile neighbors.

After the Biblical Exodus, during the period of the Judges, the territory fell under Philistine control. The Philistines were an Aegean people, meaning they came from the area of modern Greece. In ancient Egyptian writings, they are described as one of the  “Sea Peoples” that attempted to invade Egypt and conquer the whole area.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of the Philistines, you have. The most infamous Philistines are the warrior Goliath, who was famously defeated by King David as a youth and Delilah, the biblical hottie that seduced the Israelite strongman Samson and brought about his downfall.

The Philistines exited from history in 722 BCE, when they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians.

After the Philistines disappeared, the area came under the control of various empires, e.g. the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. The only common denominator was the Jews. For example, in 145 BCE Gaza came under Maccabean control (you remember the Maccabees, their victories are still celebrated during Hanukkah). This is what the Book of Maccabees (1:15) has to say about Gaza:

Not a strange land have we conquered, and not over the possessions of strangers have we ruled, but of the inheritance of our Fathers that was in the hands of the enemy and conquered by them unlawfully. And as for us, when we had the chance, we returned to ourselves the inheritance of our Fathers.

It might seem strange today to call Gaza the “inheritance of our [Jewish] fathers”, but there it is.

After the great Jewish revolts against the Roman empire in 67 CE and again in 132 CE, with the destruction of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, Gaza again played a strange role in Jewish history: it served as the main marketplace for Jewish slaves into the Roman empire. Nonetheless, the Jews returned, and by the 4th century, the Jewish community flourished. Gaza was the main port for Jewish commerce in the Holy Land. More than this, over the next few centuries, Gaza served as a center of Talmudic and Kabbalistic (Jewish mysticism) studies. But even here, things went off track. In 1665 the Kabbalist Nathan of Gaza became a key “prophet” of the false messiah, Shabbatai Tzvi. Tzvi created a messianic stir in the Jewish world until he was forcibly converted to Islam. This sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish diaspora, which took decades to recover from “the messiah’s” apostasy.

By the time the Arabs arrived in the 7th century CE/AD, Jews had been in Gaza for over 2000 years. In 1929, when the area was under British control, after the Jews of Hebron were massacred by the local Arab population, British forces evacuated the entire Jewish community of Gaza for fear of a massive pogrom.

Archaeologically speaking, several important finds have been uncovered. First, a 6th century synagogue. More dramatically, in 1965 Egyptian archaeologists discovered a mosaic image of King David playing a harp. This mosaic had once graced this 6th century synagogue. What happened to the archaeology? When it came to King David, locals promptly gouged out his face for fear that it demonstrates a connection between Jews and Gaza. When the Israel Defense Forces conquered the area during the 1967 war, Israeli archaeologists removed what was left of the mosaic and, using a photograph, restored the face. It is now on permanent display at the Israel Museum.

The Great Mosque of Gaza was originally a Crusader church. But one of the upper columns in this magnificent structure originated in an ancient synagogue: Near the top of the column a menorah was engraved. The menorah was encircled by a wreath. On the right of it was a shofar, the ram’s horn sounded on Rosh Hashanah, and on its left was a lulav, a palm branch used during the fall festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The inscription below, in Hebrew and Greek, reads “Hananiah, Son of Jacob”. He probably sculpted this engraving, or it was dedicated to him.

Gaza archaeology-7

The menorah remained there for all to see from the time of the Crusaders. Recently, it was destroyed by locals.

So it seems that Gaza has always been problematic for Israel. But the Bible does state that there was one period when Judah and Israel had peace. This is the way it describes it: “So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba.” Meaning, there were no ancient missiles and no war. This period of bliss was during the reign of King Solomon. According to the book of Kings (1 Kings 4:24-5), the key to the peace was the fact that Solomon “had dominion over everything west of the River, from Tiphsah all the way to Gaza.”

Segun tomado de, http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jewish-gaza/ el viernes, 25 de julio de 2014.

Quién Creó a Di-s?

Di-s

Toda existencia implica un creador ya que nada se crea a sí mismo. ¿Quién, entonces, creó a Di-s? Nadie.

El tema más importante y central del judaísmo es, sin duda, Di-s. Después de todo, todo esto fue Su idea….

A modo de introducción contaré la siguiente anécdota.

El Rebe de Lubavitch anterior, Rabí Iosef Itzjak Schneerson, zi”a, fue encarcelado en 1927 por los bolcheviques a raíz de su trabajo sacrificado por fortificar el judaísmo a lo largo y ancho de la Unión Soviética.

En uno de los interrogatorios, el oficial le comentó: Mire, yo soy tan judío como Ud. y no creo en Di-s. A lo que el Rebe respondió: “ese Di-s en el cual tú no crees, yo tampoco creo…”

Son muchos los que profesan no creer en Di-s sin saber de qué se trata. Ven en la fe en Di-s una especie de muleta o escape para quienes no quieren o no pueden encarar la realidad por medio de la razón, la lógica y la ciencia…

Empecemos por definir, entonces, de qué definición de Di-s estamos hablando.

La definición más sucinta que he encontrado al respecto es la de Maimónides en la apertura de su obra maestra, el Iad Hajazaká:

“El fundamento de los fundamentos y el pilar de las sabidurías es saber que hay una existencia primaria (que no depende de nada) quien crea a todo lo existente y todo lo que existe en el cielo y la tierra viene de él.”

O sea, más allá del «nombre y apellido» de Di-s, la definición esencial es que: 1) Di-s no tiene creador y 2) creó a toda la existencia.

Veamos por qué.

Toda existencia implica un creador ya que nada se crea a sí mismo. ¿Quién, entonces, creó a Di-s? Nadie. Di-s existe de una manera diferente a la que conocemos como existencia. Hay dos tipos de existencia, existencia circunstancial y existencia esencial. Todo lo que nosotros conocemos es existencia circunstancial; algo existe porque viene de algún lado y porque nadie los destruyó. No tiene por qué existir. Puede también no existir. Por ejemplo, el diario que está leyendo en este momento existe porque alguien lo compuso e imprimió. Si nadie lo editara, no existiría por su propia cuenta. En cuanto a Dos estamos hablando de otro tipo de existencia, una clase de existencia que no implica creador: Una existencia “esencial”. Un ejemplo para eso es la regla de “2+2=4”. ¿Quién creó esa regla? Si bien el hombre la entiende, no la creó. El hombre no la creó y no la puede destruir… Obviamente, Di-s es más que una mera ecuación matemática. Es la única verdadera existencia esencial. Existe porque existe. Y existe sin los límites que definen cualquier existencia circunstancial, o sea, no tiene creador.

Aun después que uno acepte que el mundo tiene creador, cabe preguntar: ¿Qué tipo de vínculo e involucramiento tiene Di-s con nosotros en la actualidad? ¿No será que creó al mundo y ahora sigue por su propia cuenta? ¿Realmente le importa a un Di-s infinito qué tipo de refuerzo contiene mi sándwich? Parece tan irrelevante para un Dos tan Todopoderoso…

El tema es que cuando pensamos en Di-s tendemos a pensar cómo haríamos si fuéramos Di-s. Cuesta liberarnos de nuestras referencias. Cuentan de tres maestros jasídicos que estaban conversando entre ellos, analizando cómo harían las cosas diferentes si fueran Di-s. Cada uno propuso cambiar algo de cómo está el mundo. Cuando le tocó al Alter Rebe, el fundador del movimiento Jabad, dijo: «si fuera Di-s crearía al mundo tal cual Di-s lo creó…» Sucede que tendemos a definir a Di-s a nuestra imagen y semejanza. “A la gente grande no le importa lo que hacen la gente chica… Si Di-s es tan grande, seguramente no le importa lo que hagamos nosotros….” El tema es que hay una gran diferencia entre «grande» e «infinito»; frente a algo grande, hay diferencia entre grande y chico, pero ante lo infinito, grande y chico son igualmente significativos.

En el Tania está explicado extensamente que la relación entre la existencia toda y su Creador es como la relación entre la palabra hablada y quien la pronuncia. Una palabra hablada no tiene existencia propia. La existencia de una palabra hablada depende total y constantemente del que la pronuncia. Apenas para de hablar, la palabra deja de existir. Ya que el estado natural del mundo es la no existencia, hace falta una fuerza innovadora para sacarlo de su estado natural. O sea, la existencia no es el resultado de algo que Di-s hizo, sino de lo que hace continuamente; si dejara de crearnos, dejaríamos de existir. Si nos crea, es porque Le importamos.

Muchos se preguntan, si Dos existe y controla todo lo que pasa en el mundo ¿por qué hay tanta aparente injusticia?

La respuesta es que no podemos entender la justicia Divina. Podemos reclamarle a Di-s que haga las cosas de tal manera que no nos duela. Pero después de todo, no tenemos más remedio que aceptar con humildad que la justicia Divina existe aunque no podamos entenderla.

Uno de los fundamentos de la fe judía es que todo lo que pasa en el mundo es por Providencia Divina y por lo tanto es para bien. No hay nada que pase por casualidad; es todo por “causalidad”. Algunas veces vemos el beneficio y en otras, no.

Otro punto:

Según las enseñazas jasídicas y místicas judías, Di-s se manifiesta de dos maneras, por medio de la naturaleza y rompiendo las leyes de la naturaleza. Según el Baal Shem Tov, fundador del jasidismo, la única diferencia entre la naturaleza y el milagro, de hecho, es que la naturaleza es un milagro constante.

Este concepto, que la naturaleza es nada más que una manifestación Divina, se ve expresado en cada bendición que pronunciamos: Baruj Atá Hashem Elokeinu…. Bendito eres tú, Di-s nuestro Di-s… El nombre representado por la palabra Hashem, es una palabra compuesta de tres palabras, Haiá, Hove, Ihié, o sea, “fue, es, será”. Están los tres tiempos combinados en una sola palabra. Esto representa como Di-s trasciende los límites del tiempo y la naturaleza. La palabra Elokim tiene el mismo valor numérico que la palabra “Hateva”, o la naturaleza. Representa la idea que Di-s se manifiesta por medio de la naturaleza. “Hashem Elokeinu”, entonces, quiere decir que la naturaleza es nada más que una manifestación de lo sobrenatural.

Segun tomado de, http://www.es.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2068710/jewish/Di-s.htm el viernes 25 de julio de 2014.

Full Transcript: Israeli President Shimon Peres’ Farewell Speech at the Knesset

Full Transcript: Israeli President Shimon Peres’ Farewell Speech at the Knesset
Israeli President Shimon Peres. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Israeli President Shimon Peres. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Below is the full transcript of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ farewell speech at the Knesset on July 24, 2014.

I came to thank you for the privilege you granted me to serve our country and its people for the past seven years. There is no greater privilege. Thank you.

Israel, this small country, became a truly great state.

I know of no other country on the face of the earth or throughout history, which amazed and surprised so much.

Gathering in its people. Making its wilderness bloom. Resurrected from the ruins, surviving a terrible Holocaust. Fighting back in seven wars. Bringing a language back to life. Respecting its traditions and adopting modernity.

And at the same building a country which continues to develop.

A country which carries values and practices democracy.

A country without natural resources, which utilized instead the resourcefulness of its people. Our human resource is far more precious than wells of oil or mines of gold.

A country which was established upon a historical core and became an outstanding state in the new scientific world.

A country of song. A country of literature. A country which seeks peace day and night.

I leave the presidency without parting from my faith. I will continue to serve my country as a deep believer that Israel is an exemplary state.

We are a people that experienced unimaginable agony. And we are a people that reached the lofty heights of human achievement. We made great efforts. We paid a heavy price.

We will never forget our brothers and sisters who perished in the Holocaust. We will remember those who fell in battle, who brought new life to a redeemed people.

It is a great privilege to be a citizen among citizens who know toil and struggle. Who made a supreme effort and carried determined hope until the first dew of our dawn.

We returned. We built. We fought. We prayed. Until we began to see contours that even surprised us. We are an ancient people who are getting older. We are a people, first and foremost, that rebuilds itself time and again.

Israel was born as a precedent and created precedents. Despite being small in number among the nations, our people carried a faith as great as any. The first to rebel against prejudice was Moses.

A nation that rebelled against Pharaoh. That smashed idols. That shattered illusions. A nation that walked through the desert to reach its home, its destiny.

We climbed the mountains and came down with the tablets, with the Ten Commandments which became the foundations upon which our nation was built and which were adopted by Western civilization.

We continue and will continue with this great legacy. There are still idols to be smashed, slaves to free, lives to save and justice to uphold. There is still a world to fix.

Even if we remain the minority among the nations. Even if we serve as a target for evil – we will not deviate from our moral heritage.

Challenges are not invited. They occur spontaneously. That is how the current challenge occurred. I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families. Tears in their eyes. And faith in their hearts.

I did not imagine that it would happen again, after we were hit with rockets which were intended to harm innocent civilians. And after we uncovered tunnels meant to kill, intended to penetrate into the heart of civilian communities and fire at mothers and children. We must alert the world to the madness of the terrorist threat.

Terrorism aims to spill our blood. And leads to blood being spilled among its people. Never has such a minority torn apart the fabric of whole societies. So cruelly sent children to serve as shields for its crimes.

Hamas has once again put hundreds of thousands of the citizens of Gaza in harm’s way, into a field of fire.

The terrorists have transformed Gaza, which is over 3000 years old, into a man-made tragedy.

We left Gaza of our own free will and even helped to rebuild it. Unfortunately, it was taken over by fanatical terrorists, who uprooted the structures for rehabilitation and wasted them on a machinery of terror and murder.

Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza. The opposite is true, Israel built the Erez Crossing to open a gateway to Gaza. We did not open fire. We returned fire when fired upon.

We fought the terrorists to bring peace to our people. They were also cruel to their own people, taking food away from babies to fund terror. They sowed death and they reaped death.

They forced their children to serve as human shields, and sent them into the fire. I say it again, I say it clearly, the Arabs are not our enemies. The policy of murder is the enemy. It is also the greatest danger to the Arab World.

Hamas fired but it cannot answer two simple questions. What is the reason for the fire? Gaza is not occupied, and when they don’t fire it is open.

Secondly, what do they want to achieve? You can accomplish things without fire and you lose them when you open fire. For 68 years terror has been harming its people. It has never been victorious. It brought only darkness to its people and destruction to its land.

Terror has no answers and does not draw the right conclusions. Israel will be victorious over terrorism because we search for peace and we are just in defense of our home.

Israel will win because of the IDF. Because of its excellent commanders and dedicated soldiers. There is no other army like the IDF. Its power is great. Its equipment is advanced. Its values are clear.

The country is proud of its army. The people love the army. The nation trusts it.

When I came to comfort, these past days, those who had lost that which is dearest to them, I feel a sadness that has no comfort, but I also learn again the magnitude of our fallen. The fire cut short their lives and revealed their greatness. It lit up the depths of their personalities alongside the courage of their hearts.

Nobody had to explain a thing to them. They knew the reality. By themselves. They moved towards battle even before the call to the front lines came. They volunteered for dangerous missions and fought like lions. Fast but not reckless. They carried the legacy of our forefathers and the bravery of youth.

Their hearts were filled with love for their families, for their country, for their people.

The parents educated and the boys exceeded the expectations of the country.

I visited communities which had been bombed. Communities which created wonderful societies and plowed new fields.

I met the founders surrounded by fruit trees. And children who advocate for freedom and brotherhood. They are all aware of the danger. But convinced of our ability to overcome it.

Members of Knesset,

Allow me to say from upon this stage – there are none like them.

I will add, Israel’s strength is drawn from its unity. A unity of a nation which fights and builds. A nation of good citizens, who enlist when they are young and volunteer for reserve duty long after.

Israel is a nation that dwells alone. But we have friends. In America and in Europe, in Asia, in Australia and in Africa. I am grateful to them.

It is difficult to understand how across the world in the streets and the squares protesters come out in support of terrorists and condemn those who defend themselves. They hold signs aloft without providing an answer to terror. They encourage and incite violence.

It is also hard to fathom how a council which bears the words “human rights” in its name, decided to establish a committee to investigate who is right. Is it the murderers or those who refuse to be murdered?

If the right to life is not the first right among human rights, what is the value of other rights? The terrorists try to restrict the freedom of air traffic. We must not submit to them. Governments must paralyze the terror and not suspend the flights. In countries governed by law, the sky should be open and the terrorists stopped.

Members of Knesset,

There is no place to doubt our victory. We know that no military victory will be enough. There is no permanent security without permanent peace. Just as there is no real peace without real security.

There is no chronological order when it comes to our founding principles.

In our search for peace, we must not forsake security. In our efforts to ensure our safety, we must not forgo the prospects for peace. A people which can win wars can also bring peace to its children. Even when peace seems to elude us, our reach is determined enough to grasp it. We have witnessed it in the past.

I remember when experts used to say that Egypt will never sign a peace treaty with us. That Jordan will never agree to peace with Israel before Syria does so. That there will never rise a camp against terror among the Palestinians. That never will Arab leaders raise their voices for peace and against terror, in their own language and not just in English, in Arab countries and not just in Europe. Arab leaders that condemn kidnappings and are open to land swaps. Arab leaders that are for two states while one of them is clearly the State of Israel which is a Jewish homeland in its nature and in its constitution.

There was never an expert that could have predicted that one day the Arab League which engraved upon its flag the three “No’s” of Khartoum, would publish an initiative which refutes them all, and would instead suggest a proposal of its own for a path towards peace, not only between Israelis and Palestinians but with all Arab countries. Even if we cannot accept this proposal in its entirety, we cannot ignore its value.

As Ben Gurion said: “There are no experts for the future, only experts for the past.” Indeed, the future requires believers, not necessarily experts. The future is built. Not inherited from prophets. In order to secure the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Israel adopted the solution based on two states for two peoples. A Jewish state – Israel. And an Arab state for the Palestinians.

This solution is accepted by a majority of the peoples of the world and by a majority of the Arab world.

Members of Knesset,

I have come to bid you farewell as a citizen, as a man whose dream is still alive. As a man who has learned from experience that the greatness of Israel’s reality is greater than the dream which begot it at its dawn.

I am taking leave of my position as President, but not from my duty as a citizen. I was a President who loved his people. As of now, I am a citizen in love with my people.

I will not give up my right to serve my people and my country. And I will continue to help build my country, with a deep belief that one day it will know peace.

That Israel will uphold social justice and will raise its eyes to the realized dream of its prophets. That Israel will continue to be Jewish in its legacy and democratic in its practices. That it will safeguard freedom of speech and freedom of research.

That it will continue to excel in its scientific level on a global scale. That it will be a moral country. A country which will practice equality for all its citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouins, and Circassians. So we promised in our Declaration of Independence. So we proclaimed in our book of laws. So we practiced upon the commands of our authorities.

The social vision of the prophet Amos, as the political vision of the prophet Isaiah, are our guiding lights.

They commanded us to take social justice and world peace as guiding principles for our actions.

Israel was born on the foundations of its principles. Today it grows on the shoulders of science.

There is no contradiction between the two and there shouldn’t be.

During my visits to the many unique and diverse corners of Israel, I entered each place with an explorer’s curiosity and returned with a heart full of pride.

I discovered everywhere, and every time, hardworking people, endless talent, wonderful children and surprises which cannot be described.

Therefore, as I leave my official position I will remain a citizen filled with hope.

Hope for a better future. Hope for peace. Hope that the dream of today will create an exemplary reality. When I return and meet the beauty and strength of the State of Israel, I find myself shedding a tear. Maybe excited slightly more than my younger friends. Because throughout my years I witnessed the entire incredible journey, and the miracles of Israel.

Alongside David Ben Gurion I saw it fighting for its life. With few resources but endless dangers.

And today, I see her standing strong. Secure. Flourishing. Successful in every field. I see my country promising an exciting future for our sons and daughters.

Friends, Reuven Rivlin, the next elected President of Israel,

I wish you success, that you should serve the nation in your positive way, as you already do. With your great heart. With your face full of light. You already have what is expected from a president. I am sure you will succeed in our way and strengthen the future of the State of Israel

Members of Knesset,

The nature of parliamentary democracy is ongoing, passionate debate. This is democracy. This is how it should be. If I may, particularly in these days when we must stand united, in these difficult days in which they eyes of the nation are on its leaders, on you. Please – do not lessen the debate. It is the essence of democracy. And it must remain. But do it with mutual respect, with a sense of shared destiny and with great respect for the Israeli public, like which there is no other. They are worth of nothing less from their representatives.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Segun tomado de, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/24/full-transcript-israeli-president-shimon-peres-farewell-speech-at-the-knesset/, el jueves 24 de  julio de 2014.