Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gratitude, Solidarity, Action

A letter to two colleagues, one Israeli, one Palestinian, who stirred us to reflection and action last fall in Jaffa.  Their urgent call for action has figured decisively in my commitment to supporting the divestment/boycott resolution that passed General Synod 30 so convincingly today in Cleveland.

Ms. Yael Atia
Sadaka-Reut Arab Jewish Youth Partnership
Jaffa, Israel

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Yael and Rulah,

Last November, I was part of a U.S. delegation that visited Sadaka-Reut and spoke with the two of you in your common room.  That day, you shared your hopes for young people, your pain and anger around atrocities in Gaza, your deep concern for the future of your peoples.  Our twenty delegates—including Christians and Jews from California and the Midwest—were profoundly affected by your honesty, your directness and your concern for one another.  It was one of the highlights of our two-week visit.

At the end of our visit in Jaffa, we asked what we might do, as Americans, to support you and your colleagues in your quest for justice and reconciliation.  We’d heard your fears around racism and occupation and their effects on teens and young adults.  Just that week, there was more violence in Rulah’s hometown in the Galilee.  We wanted to know: What would help?  What would indicate support, commitment, even solidarity?  What could Americans do?

Again, you spoke in turn.  Again, you spoke from your hearts.  And again, you were very, very honest.  In turn, you asked us to support the nonviolent movement toward divestment, boycotts and sanctions.  You noted that this same movement was important to Palestinians and Israelis alike.  And you expressed the prevailing opinion that Americans, in particular, could do quite a bit in changing the gruesome political stalemate in Israel.  “I need you to help me and my country be moral,” Yael said toward the end of our visit.  It was a stunning moment for all of us.

Rulah and Yael at Sadaka-Reut Youth Partnership
I write this evening with news that our own United Church of Christ has approved, by an 80% vote of General Synod delegates, a resolution divesting the Church from companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.  The resolution also includes a call for churches and members to boycott Israeli companies located in the occupied territories.  And it urges our churches to engage people of all faiths in the long journey to justice in the Holy Land.  (You can read the press release, relating this good news, here.)

When our delegation returned from Tel Aviv last fall, your words rang loud and clear in our minds and hearts.  We’d heard others call on us for similar commitments to the divestment movement.  But your energy—combined with your urgent concern for teens and young adults—was especially compelling.  And you articulated your political views and your hope so well, so thoughtfully.

It soon became clear that our United Church of Christ was bringing forth a resolution aimed at strategic divestment and solidarity with the KAIROS PALESTINE movement.  How could we remain silent?  How could we not respond?  Thinking of the two of you every step of the way, our church took a stand and played an active part in advancing the resolution through to today’s successful vote in Cleveland, Ohio.  (You can read our church’s letter of support here.)

I want the two of you to know that your strong witness made a deep impression on me—and on our delegation—last fall.   In the U.S., we too have huge issues to address, around racism, economic injustice and violence.  Your courage moved me to think more clearly and critically about these issues—and what I might do in response.  More than that, your strong witness did something to move a 1 million member church to divest, to boycott, to stand in solidarity with Palestinian activists and Israeli peacemakers.  We heard your call.  We were moved by your call.  And we acted, as best we could, to respond in faith and in courage.

Perhaps we won’t know—not for a while—what kind of impact the boycott/divestment movement will have on the occupation and the violence that pervades it.  But our various traditions—from Judaism to Islam, from communism to Christianity—call us to solidarity and hope.  And hope always leans into action.  Today, in Cleveland, our United Church of Christ has leaned into action.  And you have helped us to do so!

From here on, your two names and voices remain in our American hearts and prayers.  We give thanks to God, to the universe, to all that is Good: for your courage, for your decency and for your hopefulness.  If I can help you in the future, I hope you’ll call on me to do so.  You’ve made a profound impact on my faith, my politics, my life.

And the United Church of Christ stands with you this evening.

Yours in gratitude and courage,

The Rev. Dave Grishaw-Jones
Senior Minister
Peace United Church of Christ
Santa Cruz, California USA