Being the Chosen People, while caring for human rights

The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement Shavuot learning session will be an opportunity for some to soul-search their relationship with God.

sheikh jarrah protest 58 (photo credit: Adi Inbar)
sheikh jarrah protest 58
(photo credit: Adi Inbar)
Religious members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, known primarily for its Friday marches in the east Jerusalem neighborhood, for the first time will hold a Shavuot learning session Tuesday- night at Kol Haneshama, a Reform synagogue in the capital’s Baka neighborhood, called “The tension between the Jewish discourse and that of human rights.”
“As a religious person who attends the demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah and other solidarity activities [with Arabs], I felt a personal need to create a bridge between the differing worlds of Judaism and Western human rights, which sometimes clash,” organizer Sharon Goldberg said on Monday.
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“Our ‘Tikkun’ (Shavuot learning session) will deal with the questions that exist in the tension between solidarity and being the Chosen People,” she said. “There are issues that generate a lot of tension, especially when socially the Torah is seen as belonging to a very defined side of the political map, which is troubling.”
Goldberg said it is important to create a Jewish discourse of rights, and not just of exclusion.
The event, which is being held in conjunction with Rabbis for Human Rights, is supported by the New Israel Fund, which has spent some NIS 100,000 on Shavuot learning events that hold true to the NIF’s values of “liberal and pluralistic thought,” as the organization’s Israeli executive director Rachel Liel said in a statement. The events will be held in 40 different communities.
Despite the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement containing many religious or formerly-religious members, its values do not stem from Judaism, Goldberg said.
But on her personal involvement she added, “[I] feel that I struggle in the name of Jewish values. There are many sources in Judaism that have different leanings, and people like Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu [who ruled that according to Jewish law it is forbidden to rent or sell homes to non- Jews] make it appear as though Judaism belongs only to one side. I’d really like to show the other side.”