In the words of one Israeli teenager...

Below is an email that we just got from one of the Israeli participants in our Face to Face/Faith to Faith program. A ray of hope at a difficult time.

July 27th ---

Hey everybody....

When I lived in a settlement in the West Bank, Fakir, I had very nice neighbors—the Yaakobi family. They had a son, Nathaniel, who was the best friend of my brother Tamir. The mother was Hannah, a very nice woman who worked in my school. The father, Dani, was a doctor. Even after we left we kept in touch with them, especially me, because their cousin is a very good friend, and I kept visiting them all the time. My brother, Tamir, was a very good friend of Nathaniel’s even after we left Fakir.

Yesterday, the father, Dani, was driving in his car when two Palestinian terrorists kidnapped him. They tortured him in the most unimaginable cruel way, and then took his body to their village and abused it, together with other Palestinians. The body was in such a bad situation that only a DNA sample proved that this is really Dani. His body was found in the baggage of his burned car.

Right now all I want to do is to hug Nathaniel. I feel so sorry for him. But I can’t right now, so I'm writing to you. You guys are the first ones I share my feelings with, and I think it says a lot about the special friendship we have. Since I heard Dani was murdered I feel so horrible. It’s like God decided three years ago to make a list of the people I know and to kill them one by one. I'm so tired of the situation here. I'm not talking about the war in Lebanon. I'm talking about the situation with the Palestinians that we have been dealing with for the last six years. I just cannot understand how we, our parents, and our grandparents have let this happen.

How can we, humanity, ignore the monsters that come from the inside of us? How can God create such monsters? How can a human being do that to Dani? Dani was such a simple man. He wasn't a soldier in the battlefield; he was just a man like my father, and your father, who was driving his car to work. How could someone think he is doing any good by killing a man he doesn’t even know? If they want to fight us, they can just fight our soldiers. Why do they fight citizens? Why couldn't they just kill Dani without torturing him and burning his body, while their entire village is helping them and clapping hands?

And, to all the Palestinians from camp, I absolutely do not blame you for what happened. But I'm asking you to do everything you can to stop those monsters from coming out of your society!

Only now I truly understand how unbelievably important this camp is because, to be honest, before I came to camp and met all the Palestinians and Muslims who came there, and before I visited a mosque, I was exposed only to the darkest side of Islam. I have a mosque 200 meters away from my house—the mosque of Beit Sira. Every Friday the prayers come out of the mosque and throw stones and patrol bombs at Israeli cars, after their imam washes their brain against us. In the past few years things have become so out of control that the prayers entered my neighborhood and put bombs outside the doors of some apartments. Someone from my neighborhood opened his door when a bomb exploded, and he lost his hand.

When I came to camp I met the other side of Islam, and the Palestinian people, and now I know that peace is possible.
All that needs to happen is that this side will be the dominant side in government. The problem here is that the worst people in our side and the worst people in the Palestinian side are leading the Middle East. As much as politics disgusts all of us, I think that the best thing that can happen is that people like us will lead the Middle East.
I want to do everything I can to prevent more cases like what happened yesterday to Dani, even if it means I will have to go to the Israeli parliament and meet with people I hate so much every day. The problem in this world is that people like us just talk, but don't do.

Call me naive, but right now I have this huge ambition to be in the Israeli parliament. I'm always so disgusted by the politicians, surrounded by their media advisers, but lately I want to be one. I want to be one because I think that our politicians are not doing enough. The problem is not only in Israel, it's all over the world. The people in camp—each one of them—is so talented, and has so much to give to this world. I really think we should all be as influential as we can. I think it is our duty.

You can all be influential in your own way, but do something except for talking! Because, if you won't, our children and grandchildren will keep coming to peace camps and crying about the situation. Something has to be done to stop this unreasonable killing and violence. And we cannot wait for someone else to do it for us; we need to do it ourselves!


Nimrod Flip Out

As the artillery fire continues to rain down on Israel and Lebanon, I've been reading Etgar Keret's short story collection The Nimrod Flip Out.

Keret has been heralded as the leader of the next generation of Israeli writers, and the stories reflect a post-modern, post-zionist attitude. Oddly funny, the stories often mine the Jewish tradition of fantasy tales and bring up new gems.

One other item worth mentioning is a blog post by the Orthodox Anarchist. http://www.orthodoxanarchist.com/2006/07/to-live-and-die-in-jlm-anarchy-jewish.php

He reflects on the war, anarchy, the current state of zionism, diaspora identity -- a wild ride of a post well worth reading.


Reb Blog surpasses 3,000 unique visitors!

The best part of the latest report is that Reb Blog has been read in 64 countries! Only 73% of readers are U.S. based. The countries include such places as: Norway, Turkey, Estonia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, India, Chile, Mali and Iran. It is great to see that folks are stopping by.


Gurus Gone Wild

This week I've been working on a new project that weds the best of religious documentary film to more traditional topics in education - like, for example, figuring out what films on Buddhism or Hinduism to watch alongside reading Hesse's Siddhartha, or what films on Judaism to watch while reading Elie Weisel's Night or Islam & Reading Lolita in Teheran. I'd love to hear folks ideas about curricula - and we do have a budget to pay teachers $500 to write curricular pieces.

I've posted the ad copy below.

Multifaith Media Project Seeks Submissions on Teaching about Religion

Great teachers, whether in secondary school classrooms or universities, supplement their required reading with films that bring subjects alive for their students. The Auburn Theological Seminary and The Hartley Film Foundation are looking to create film-based resources for teachers who want to help their students to understand America's religious diversity.

Are You a Teacher Who Has Thought About Religion and Film?
If you are a Social Studies, English, History, Civics, or Comparative Religion Teacher who thinks creatively about film and religion, we'd love to hear from you. Have you used a film on Buddhism to explore Siddhartha, or Mohammed: Legacy of the Prophet to teach world history? Or even Groundhog Day to explore Hinduism? The Multifaith Media Project looks to draw upon the wisdom of current teachers to write 500-1500 words as part of comprehensive website for teachers interested in addressing the topic of religion in their classroom. Submissions should meet the following criteria:
Relate to a specific department (Social Studies, Literature, History, etc.)
Reference National and State standards
Refer to select clips of films when possible
If possible, use a combination of fiction and documentary films - especially films from the Hartley Film Archive
Honorarium: Each submission will be reviewed by the panel. All accepted submissions will receive a $500 honorarium and will be published in a web-based curricula resource. Ideas for submissions should be emailed to Josh Borkin at mailto:jbb@aumurnsem.org no later than September 15th 2006.


Book Review time: Fima by Amos Oz

I just finished devouring Amos Oz's Chekov marinated 1991 novel Fima. (a Father's Day gift -- thanks Shosh) The novel is about a divorced poet-political commentator-abortion clinic receptionist who happens to be the son of a cosmetics magnate. His name is Efraim - hence the nickname 'Fima' and he stumbles about Jerusalem and eats quite a bit of bread with jam. Most importantly, he waxes poetic about the legacy of the '67 war and what it has done to the Israeli soul. 15 years after publication, the political ideas are still wet. In fact, in some ways the escalation of violence and the rise of Hamas are foreshadowed... it is a bit chilling that Oz was so accurate about the elusivity of peace. But mostly it is funny and brilliant and it rolls along beautifully and Oz reminds us what it means to be alive in a world that is in a constant state of entropy. Five puffy stickers.