"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)
Last Tuesday, Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston Illinois and Rabbi Brian Walt of Rabbis For Human Rights-North America coordinated an organized Jewish communal response to the continued blockade of Gaza and the cruel punishment of its people. This initiative, "Ta'anit Tzedek - The Jewish Fast For Gaza", follows the Jewish tradition of holding a communal fast in times of crisis, both as an expression of mourning and a call to repentence.
At the beginning of last week there was an initial group of 13 Rabbinic participants. By tonight, there are over 360 people, including over 50 Rabbis, Christian and Muslim clergy, people of various faiths, and people of conscience. The members come mostly from America, as well as Israel, Palestine, Germany, Iran, China, Mexico, England, France, Ecuador, Canada, Australia, Lebanon, Scotland, and Portugal.
"Do not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being spilled." (Leviticus 19:16)
Since Hamas' electoral victory in January 2006, the Israeli government has subjected the people of the Gaza Strip to an increasingly intolerable blockade. This has restricted the ability of Gazans to export finished materials and import food, fuel,and other essential materials. As a result, the Gazan economy has completely collapsed, unemployment and poverty has increased dramatically, and significant numbers of children are at risk for malnutrition.
The Rabbis who led this project realized that they could no longer stand by while the Israeli government continues to punish the Palestinian people of Gaza. While condemning Hamas' deliberate targeting of Israeli citizens, the leaders of Ta'anit Tzedek also condemn the use of much greater violence by the Israeli government. They hope to use the fast to spotlight their four goals:
- To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;
- To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;
- To call upon Israel, the U.S., and the international community to engage in negotiations without precondition with all relevant Palestinian parties - including Hamas - in order to end the blockade;
- To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The Rabbis have decided to hold a monthly water-only fast, from sunrise to sunset, on the third Thursday of every month. The first fast is set for this Thursday July 16th. In addition to fasting, the leaders of this group have asked participants to donate the money they save on food to the Milk For Preschoolers Campaign of the American Near East Refugee Aid organiztion, which combats malnutrition among Gazan preschool children.
For those people who realize that justice, truth, and peace are interdependent and want to support the people of Gaza, please consider the following actions:
2)Contact the leadership of Ta'anit Tzedek with questions, concerns, or ideas for public observance regarding the Fast.
3)Contact your Rabbis and the major Jewish denominational groups about this powerful and courageous initiative.
Here are links to several organizations:
Alliance For Jewish Renewal
Union for Reform Judaism
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism
4)Contact clergy and non-clergy of other faiths, as well as other non-religious people of conscience to join the initiative.
For all those joining us this Thursday, may you have a meaningful fast