Middle East Working Group- History

In spring, 2002, after much reflection and discussion, a group of members in Kahal B’Raira shared food, ideas, hopes and concerns about our role in helping to promote and sustain peace and justice in the Middle East. We formed a Middle East Working Group, whose first step was to listen to each other’s ideas and to seek common ground upon which we could act.

We identified three broad areas of work that continue today. First, we want to create a supportive context for those within the Congregation who want to act in a spirit of connection, reconciliation, peace and justice in the Middle East.  We believe this spirit is reflected in the courageous words and actions of Palestinian, Jewish and other peace activists in Israel – as well as positions taken by other congregations.  Second, we want to help gather and share materials that spread the stories of peace activism in Israel and Palestine. We believe this kind of education can help us act more effectively, recognize our connection to others around the world, and help Congregation members learn more about Jewish and Palestinian peacemaking efforts. Third, we want to work in solidarity with others who seek to promote peace, justice, reconciliation and healing and who actively oppose the current demonizing that characterizes slogans on both sides of this issue.  In all these activities, we have been guided by Dr. Martin Luther King’s words at Riverside Church in 1967: “ A time comes when silence is betrayal.  We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” 

Since 2002, we have met monthly. Our work revolves around three major activities.

Education.  We read, discuss and learn from each other.  We invite others to stimulate new ways of understanding, and we share this work with the broader Congregation.  In the past few years, we have sponsored programs for the congregation, as well as afternoon and evening films and speakers.  We have reached out to the Boston public and elected officials through letters and media.  Our goal has been to increase and deepen understanding of the challenges and possibilities for peace with justice.

Support and Solidarity.  We support and work in solidarity with others who are committed to peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. We collaborate with other groups in the greater Boston area, and we support groups working on the ground in Israel and Palestine. During the past several years, we have raised money for projects in Israel (including Open House, Hand in Hand schools, and Breaking the Silence – a group of IDF soldiers speaking on the impact of the Occupation). We sell Palestinian olive oil and greeting cards that support the purchase and planting of olive trees in the West Bank; in this work, we have created alliances with farmers in the town of Jayyus.  The olive tree and its fruit are traditional symbols of peace.  Today, olive oil represents more than one third of the agricultural production in the West Bank.  Our sale of olive oil and planting of olive trees supports Palestinian farmers as well as offering direct financial aid to the groups named above.

Celebration.  Although our work often brings us sadness and concern, we are committed to celebrating the courage and commitment of peacemakers in the Middle East and around the world.  Among other projects, we have created a DVD about four Jewish-American peacemakers; we use the DVD for educational and workshop activities.