Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Parents of captive soldier write letter to mark his 25th birthday: 'We know that every day that passes is another nightmarish day of impossible suffering, days and nights of suffocating endless loneliness. But we do not forget you'
On Sunday Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas over five years ago, will turn 25. In honor of his upcoming birthday, his parents Noam and Aviva wrote him a letter, which they chose to share with the world:
Our dearest Gilad,
With the burning sun beating on our heads, on the sidewalk adjacent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home, we are trying to digest the fact that 1,890 days have passed and you still are not with us.
We have been here on this sidewalk for over a year now, trying with all our power and using any means at our disposal to break the wall of imperviousness that lies between us and those who have yet to be convinced after so many days, months, years and after mistakes it is time to bring you home.
We're here. We haven't given up, we haven't surrendered, and we have not been broken. And we are not alone. Our dearest Gilad, many many people who are strangers to you, who you have never met, think as we do, that it is inconceivable to speak of social solidarity, of national fortitude and of having faith in the State while abandoning you to your fate. Day after day, lonely and abandoned in Hamas dungeons for over half a decade.
Another nightmarish dayLast summer tens of thousands marched for you, out of the belief that it would set your release in motion. This summer, tens of thousands marched on the streets in protest calling for social justice, the public's right to live and make a living with dignity, and we and many with us, added to that call the demand for your right to live, your oh so basic human right to freedom and liberty.
Our beloved Gilad, we know that every day that passes is another nightmarish day, a day of impossible suffering, days and nights of suffocating endless loneliness. But you must believe that we do not forget you, we do not forget the fact that next Sunday, you will be 25 years old, that this is your sixth birthday in captivity, that more than a fifth of your young life has been spent in a dungeon, a Hamas pit.
The Shalit family - heavyhearted (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
We know that you have no idea why the nightmare has yet to end, and why our many efforts have yet to bear fruit. We are trying to hold on to life though our life has become unrecognizable.
Your brother Yoel has already graduated from university at the Technion, and Hadas your younger sister is set to finish her military service any day now. And while these are supposed to be joyful and happy occasions, we are heavyhearted because you are being prevented from experiencing them.
With every moment that passes we try to seek an answer, advice as to what else we might do? What remains to be tried? How can we convince people that you aren't just a poster, a cardboard image or even a picture that can be found wherever you turn, how do we remind everyone both here in Israel and abroad that you are still there?
Recycled, tattered statements
They constantly offer us shreds of hope, telling us they have made headway in the negotiations, but each time we see once again how hundreds and thousands of security prisoners are released from Israeli prisoners back to their homes.
We see money and goods continue to flow into the hands of those who have been imprisoning you brutally for years, that the conditions awarded to Hamas (yes, that same cynical organization that is holding you as a secret weapon) prisoners here in Israel are improved and no one really manages to change anything in spite of all the talk. And our hearts are heavy. For how long?
As more days go by our concern for your health, your very life, increases. Recycled and tattered statements will most likely once again make their way from the Prime Minister's Office in addition to the usual commentary and editorials published by experts on "terror" on behalf of the government and independently.
Statements that will say "we are doing everything in our power" (five years of doing everything in their power) and will continue to inspire fear in the Israeli public as if a deal for your release would bring terror back to Israel. As if leaving you to your fate in Gaza will prevent dozens and even hundreds of future casualties.
Sadly, even when you're there the deadly terror attacks and attempts to carry out terror attacks continue ceaselessly.
Your sacrifice changes nothing in the sensitive and unstable situation in our little state. Moreover, as time goes by, we see how our nation's sense of security, of the younger generation serving and enlisting in the military, and the parents who send them, is growing weaker in light of the breach of our unwritten pact (and not for the first time) between the state and its soldiers – the primary duty - to bring every soldier back home.
With much love and endless yearning,
Mom and Dad
Thursday, August 25, 2011
War journal: Beer Sheva, Wednesday 24 August 2011, 10:50PM
A few days ago, I stopped writing this letter, because on Sunday a ceasefire was announced. Today, on Wednesday, we heard the sirens again. I am writing to share with you some of my experiences and feelings.
I did not think that I would be writing a war journal again, and despite the fact that the hope for peace still rings within me, reality demands attention.
Last Shabbat (August 20), I came as usual to our shul, Congregation Eshel Avraham in Beersheva. It was 9AM. One minute before the services began, the siren sounded. We all ran into the small shelter in our building. We took into account that we have less than 60 seconds, according to the Home Front Command, to find cover.
There was a tense quite as we looked at one another. We waited to hear the explosion. Our first hope is always directed towards Iron Dome, the new anti-rocket system that is capable of destroying the rocket in the air. Our second hope, in case Iron Dome fails, is that at least the rocket will explode in an open area. But we also know that hopes are not always actualized, and there is always a chance that a rocket will explode in a place filled with people, maybe even where we happen to be.
Tension. Fear. The silence is broken by the cries of one of the congregants. What to do?
Suddenly I remember that we also have tools in our arsenal for moments like these. I make a suggestion: Why don’t we start praying. We begin to sing together the “Ma tovu” prayer, “How wonderful are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel.” In the background we can hear the first explosion. After a few minutes in the shelter, we return to the synagogue sanctuary.
These moments, when you are in a building, are the hardest. But they will be even harder soon. The instructions are to take cover within seconds, and if there is nowhere to go, lie on the ground with hands on your heads. As the minutes pass, more congregants arrive. It’s clear that they experienced the sirens outside on the street.
The first to arrive was a new immigrant woman from the former Soviet Union. When I asked her what she did, she replied that she tried her best to remain far from places with glass. She was breathing heavily because she had to run in order to get to a safe place – the synagogue. Each congregant had a different story; one, a new immigrant from Canada (arrived only a few months ago), said she crouched down and put her tallit over her head. Faith, it turns out, is a powerful weapon.
That morning – on a weekend in the middle of the Israeli summer, in the middle of the school holiday, in which many people were looking for somewhere outside the city where they could spend time in light of the circumstances – we had approximately 30 people at services.
We are believers, but we are also worried. In our congregation, we have eight preschool classes, in which 230 children come to learn every day. Today they are on holidays. But on the first of September, when the schoolyear begins, the tension will be enormous.
In our congregation we have two buildings. The new building has a shelter than can house 120 children and our staff. The old building, however, which is home to classes with 110 children from ages three months to three years, does not have a shelter.
The entire community of Eshel Avraham and our friends around the world are doing our best to find the 180.000 dollars funding in order to urgently build the missing shelter . God willing we will have a real ceasefire so that we can come to synagogue to pray in peace, so that our children will not be in danger and the shelter will be just another play room.
May he who makes peace in high places, make peace for us and for all Israel, and let us say, amen
"עושה שלום במרומיו, הוא יעשה שלום עלינו, על כל ישראל ועל כול יושבי תבל, ואמרו אמן."
Rabbi Mauricio Balter - הרב מאוריסיו בלטר
Congregation Eshel Avraham - קהילת אשל אברהםBeer Sheva - באר שבע
Israel - ישראל--
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Saturday, August 14
Rev. David Anderman, First Congregational Church, Waterville and Rev. Alice Anderman, Colby College Chaplain
Sunday, August 21
Rabbi Susan Bulba Carvutto, Temple Beth El, Augusta
Saturday, August 27
Richard Kelly, Vassalboro Friends Meeting
Saturday, September 10
Rev. Paul Nielsen, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Waterville
Saturday, September 17
Father Larry Jensen, St. Joseph Maronite Church, Waterville
Saturday, September 24
Sharon Jones, Winthrop United Methodist Church
Thursday, August 11, 2011
In this week's portion there is a surprising and oft overlooked verse (Deut 6:16):
טז לֹא תְנַסּוּ, אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, כַּאֲשֶׁר נִסִּיתֶם, בַּמַּסָּה.
16 You shall not test the LORD your God, as you tested HaShem in Massah.
Also interesting to note that the word for "test" in Hebrew is the same verb used when God tests Abraham when he is asked to sacrifice Isaac. God may test the faithfulness of God's servants, but we cannot do the same to the Divine.
What are we to take away from this verse? According to the work, Sefer HaHinuch "There is a warning here not to perform the commandments by way of a test, i.e., not to perform a commandment in order to try the Lord, seeing whether He repays in like measure. Rather, one is to observe the commandments out of one's love and fear of G-d." (Translation and reference from Dr. Alex Klein)
According to this text, we cannot pray for the sake of receiving an immediate reward or response. Prayer needs to be done for its own sake. Many in our movement are asking questions about the quality and importance of prayer. What does it mean to pray for its own sake? What do we expect from God in return for our faithfulness?
Praying for its own sake, in my opinion, means committing to showing up without expectation; to be there for the encounter despite knowing that what you receive cannot be predicted. The truth is, just as we don't know what we'll get when we converse with God, so too do we never know what we'll receive from another person when we open up a connection with her. Both God and people are not computers or machines -- you can never predict which output you will receive as the result of your input. However, you show up for the encounter out of obligation and love. This way of doing things is unpredictable, but serves as the requisite basis for both Jewish prayer and holy relationships.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
The quote that piqued by interest was this:
"Bob Braitman is absolutely right: in order to improve the quality of tefillah in our synagogues (and in our lives outside of synagogue), we should ask Jewish men and women what they hope for in prayer. What do they want? What do they need? What in the siddur speaks to them? What leaves them cold? What do they believe God—however they understand God—wants to hear from them? What are they prepared to reply?"
How would you feel about this question being asked at the beginning of our services? I'd be interested to know. I think that this would be a good conversation for our community, especially as we learn new prayers and tunes together!
See you all on the Shabbat of August 19th and 20th!
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Learn more about Tisha B'av by clicking here!
Three hundred thousand Israelis, from every sector of society (Arab, Jewish, religious, secular, and everything in between) have come to protest against social injustices in Israel. In particular, our brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting for economic justice and affordable housing in the Jewish state. It is amazing and inspiring to see such unity and commitment in the struggle for tzedek! Read more from this article in YNET, Israel's largest newspaper.