NEW YORK—The American Jewish communal conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rarely moves beyond political rhetoric, often delivered at high volume and devoid of nuance. Few American Jews have ever met a Palestinian, let alone traveled to the West Bank. Today, two organizations dedicated to Israel’s future have announced a new partnership that will empower more American Jews to meet both Palestinians and IDF veterans who have served in the territories, to listen deeply to their narratives, and to bring these perspectives into working toward a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.
The partnership brings together T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis and their communities to bring a moral voice to protecting human rights, and Breaking the Silence (BTS), an organization of Israeli army veterans dedicated to exposing the reality of life in the Occupied Territories.
The two organizations are joining forces to provide “Go and See” daytrips to the West Bank for synagogue and other Jewish groups as part of their Israel trip itineraries. As Israelis—and former combat soldiers—the Breaking the Silence staff will share their perspective of how the occupation affects Israelis. T’ruah will facilitate the group’s reflection during and after the program, and will engage participants in Jewish learnings that relate to the complex issues at hand. This partnership is made possible through a generous grant by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
“Of the thousands of American Jews who travel to Israel each year, only a tiny number visit Palestinian areas of the West Bank or hear from Palestinians,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah. “As one Talmudic phrase teaches us, ‘Go and see what is going on.’ For a full understanding of the issues on the ground, it is crucial to hear this perspective, as well as to hear many Israeli perspectives including those of IDF veterans who have risked their lives to defend current government policies and now speak about why these policies hurt Israelis as well as Palestinians.”
“Over the past few years, T’ruah has helped Breaking the Silence allow North American Jews to see with their own eyes the reality of military rule in the West Bank as experienced by Israeli soldiers,” said Breaking the Silence’s executive director, Yuli Novak. “Our joint work has become increasingly important as more American community leaders and rabbis are speaking out about the effects of the ongoing occupation and understanding that it is damaging the lives and souls of both Palestinians and Israelis.”
T’ruah and Breaking the Silence have already partnered on a visit to Hebron as part of T’ruah’s year-long program for rabbinical and cantorial studying in Israel, and to bring rabbis to tour the South Hebron Hills. T’ruah also serves as the fiscal sponsor and host of Project Hayyei Sarah, an effort by rabbis and rabbinical students who have visited Hebron with Breaking the Silence to speak about their experience on the Shabbat when Jewish communities read about the burial of Sarah in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The new partnership now opens up the opportunity to learn about the situation in the West Bank to members of the Jewish community beyond clergy.