“Of all the commandments, peacemaking is the only one that we are required to rush after to achieve, as we learn: ‘Seek peace and pursue it.’ (ps. 34:15)” – Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 9:9
One who is able to protest against a wrong that is being done in his family, his city, his nation or the world and does not do so is held accountable for that wrong being done.” – Talmud Bavli Tractate Shabbat 54b
Confronting this blogspace feels something like approaching a skein of yarn, which waits to acquire form by its repetitive contact with my knitting needles; but past training and experience offers no repertoire of stitches or skills on which to draw. Nonetheless, my regard for the wisdom of tradition – and the increasing cacophony produced by local and global distress and conflicts, call for an optimistic (if unschooled) start.
One of the reasons for starting this website is the desire to fill the long-standing information gap regarding information about multi-cultural peace efforts in Israel. While we are bombarded by information about conflict between Jews and Palestinians, in Israel and in diaspora, little attention is given to the variety of productive encounters and collaborative projects between Palestinians and Jews in Israel, and outside it. This kind of information gives me hope for the future, and I’d like to know more about such activities. They encourage me, and I hope more information will encourage others also. I’ll begin by introducing a pair of friends whose commitment to peace and justice in this country and in Israel have inspired my leap into the blogosphere.
Cy and Lois Swartz have long exemplified the best of all ethical traditions (religious or secular) in their lifelong pursuit of social justice. In retirement, they have devoted themselves to the health and integrity of the greater-Philadelphia community in their many years of hospice work, their participation in efforts to secure a fair and objective Jewish press, and their efforts to combat racism and homophobia, inside and outside of the Jewish community.
Most recently, the Swartzes have rallied an interfaith fellowship in support of weekly public protests of official Israeli policies led by their non-profit organization, Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace in the Middle East. Their views frequently challenge the basic assumptions of many mainstream American Jews with respect to Israel, most importantly the taboo regarding public criticism of the policies and conduct of the Israeli government and military. Yet the Swartzes steadfastly pursue open, thoughtful, and respectful discussion of issues within the diverse members of their community, whether religious (Jews, Christians, Muslims) or secular, always with the goal of seeking, and contributing to the achievement of, peace and justice. This remarkable couple are the inspiration for going public with this website and its intended projects.
You can find plenty of information about Bubbes and Zaydes for Peace in the Middle East on its website. The Swartzes recently published a brief description of their work in the Newsletter of the Forum on Religion, Spirituality and Aging, Volume 15:4, pp. 4 & 6 (Winter 2003), which is available online and as a downloadable pdf. May their example inspire you to act on your beliefs.