WRITE NOW TO THE JNF: DON'T EVICT THE SUMARIN FAMILY
A FAMILY IS DEPENDING ON YOU. EACH LETTER COUNTS. NOBODY SITS THIS ONE OUT
Dear Friends and Supporters,
This is it. After all of the planning, now it could be in your hands whether or not the Keren Kayemet-Jewish National Fund succeeds in unjustly evicting 18 members of the Sumarin family from their East Jerusalem Home.
PLEASE SEND A LETTER NOW!
A few hours ago, a broad and diverse coalition of Israeli organizations and organizations from abroad began an international campaign for the soul of Jerusalem—for bringing closer together in some way Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah and Yerushalayim Shel Matah—the earthly Jerusalem of stone and concrete, and urban and international politics, and the heavenly Jerusalem representing our highest ideals and our vision of the world as we and God believe that it ought to be. We can debate to what degree West and East Jeruslalem are united, but Yerushalyaim Shel Ma’alah and Yerushalayim Shel Mata are certainly still far apart.
Together, we prevented the immanent eviction in 2011. Thousands of you wrote, making it clear that when generations of Jews put coins in JNF 'Pushkes," to buy land for the Jewish people, or bought trees in honor of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, we didn't intend that money to be used to cruelly evict a family from their home. Unfortunately, we must do so again.
Nobody sits this one out. If we don't do at least as well, we may do more harm than good. This isn't like one of our fundraising appeals, where Torat Tzedek will find a way to survive, one way or the other.
THIS IS A FAMILY. YOU ARE THIS FAMILY'S HOPE-PLEASE CLICK HERE TO WRITE A LETTER NOW!
After all the words and concepts, there is the scared family I spent time with last night, allowing them to share their story via Zoom with people of conscience. (Please contact us to set up similar briefings: email@example.com) Ahmad told of how he has been living in fear and uncertainty since he was 6 years old, and now has to watch his teenage daughter live with that same fear. Only, now, he said, the feeling in the pits of their stomach is more and more palpable because the appeal of their eviction on June 30th may be the end of the road. His mother told of how she has lived in that home since getting married 40 years ago. Having raised children and grandchildren there, it is her life. She feels inseparable, attached to every stone.
I suppose it is naive to think that the heightened awareness of the importance of a home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic might cause those who covet the Sumarin home to leave the family in peace. We need to remind them.
A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME COULD MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. DON'T DELAY: PLEASE CLICK AND WRITE NOW.
Please find links here to:
Below you can also find the Jewish source material and ideas for divrei Torah that we went out previously to rabbis.
- Extant articles on the Sumarin Family. I particularly recommend the Peace Now background material, and the Haaretz article by colleague R. Michael Marmur.
- Arguments you may likely hear from those defending the KKL-JNF policy, and possible responses. (Plus a brief background introduction).
- My just published D'var Torah for Yom Yerushalayim and this Shabbat. If enough of you click and/or share, it will stay visible to those who wouldn't normally see our message. The Hassidic rebbe Menachem Mendle of Warka said the Shabbat before the Shavuot holiday should be called "Shabbat Derekh Eretz" (The Sabbath of basic human decency) because "Derekh Eretz Kadmah L'Torah" Basic human decency comes before the Revelation we celebrate on Shavuot. Isn't that just what we are talking about here?
For more information, questions, ideas and/or comments, feel free to reply to me, or write to: Sumarincoalition@gmail.com.
A family's future is on the line. Let's do this!
Rabbi Arik Ascherman
Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice
Recipients of the Rabbi David Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Award for 5779
P.S. As many are asking whether Israel will move forward with annexation plans, it is important to recall that the "Absentee Property Law" imposed in East Jerusalem after annexation was the method by which the family's home was confiscated, and turned over the the KKL-JNF, to then be turned over to settlers. This law may very well be resurrected after annexation.
Amal Sumarin and her granddaughter, Diana
- 1. The midrash teaches that of all the holiness in the world, the Land of Israel is the most holy. Of all the holiness in the Land of Israel, the most holiness is in Jerusalem. Of all the holiness in Jerusalem, the most is on the Temple Mount (Haram Al Sharif. Of all the holiness on the Temple Mount the most if found where the Holy of Holies once stood. Mishna Kelim 1:10. If we were to substitute the word “holiness” with “political tension,” we would have our current reality. Jerusalem has become “axis mundi,” but not exactly in the way we had imagined it. Not a city of peace, in which the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and worship together on the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif, as envisioned in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micha 4: 1-5 .
- 2. Today there are many Israelis who understand that when we prayed every day to return to Jerusalem, we were not thinking of the outlying Palestinian neighborhoods, but the close we get to the Temple Mount/Haram HaSharif and the surrounding “Holy Basin,” there is less and less willingness to consider anything less than complete Israeli dominance. In recent years, Yom Yerushalayim has become an ugly triumphalist day, with masses of armed Israelis marching and dancing through Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the Old City, shouting “death to the Arabs” and “Muhammed was a pig.”
- 3. The Sumarin family literally lives in the shadow of the Temple Mount, Al Aqsa mosque, in the neighborhood of Silwan. There, several settler groups, most prominently “Elad” are dedicated to “Judaizing” the neighborhood. Exploiting the intoxicating idea that Silwan may have been the Biblical “City of David,” they have sponsored archeological digs literally under people’s homes, causing floors to buckle and walls and ceilings to crack. They have used various unethical means, such as the “Absentee Property Law,” to take over homes in the neighborhood. There is no home they covet more than the Sumarin family home, literally next to the entrance to the archeological visitor’s center Elad has created. They have already taken over most of the family’s yard, but they want the home. Although other family members were always living in the home, Israel exploited the fact that the three sons who were the legal heirs were living abroad, to declare that the home was “absentee property.” They transferred the property to a custodian, who transferred it to the KKL-JNF. The KKL-JNF has been trying ever since the 1990s to evict the family. They almost did so in 2011, but were deterred after thousands around the world wrote to the KKL-JNF.
- 4. We may have diverse opinions about whether East Jerusalem was liberated, unified and/or occupied in 1967, but surely we can agree that we seek a just Jerusalem. A Jerusalem that unites the earthly “Yerushalayim Shel Mata” and the Heavenly “Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah,” (Ta’anit 5a) representing our holiest ideals—the world as we and God would like it to be.
Once I sat on the steps by agate at David's Tower,
- 6. Beyond the politics, the history and archaeology, there are human beings of flesh and blood living in this city. Israel’s poet laureate Yehudah Amichai famously wrote in his poem, “Tourists”
- בקורי אבלים הם עורכים אצלנו, יושבים ביד ושם, מרצינים ליד הכותל המערבי וצוחקים מאחורי וילונות כבדים בחדרי מלון, מצטלמים עם מתים חשובים בקבר רחל ובקבר הרצל ובגבעת התחמושת, בוכים על יפי גבורת נערינו וחושקים בקשיחות נערותינו ותולים את תחתוניהם ליבוש מהיר באמבטיה כחולה וצוננת. פעם ישבתי על מדרגות ליד שער במצודת דוד, את שני הסלים הכבדים שמתי לידי. עמדה שם קבוצת תיירים סביב המדריך ושימשתי להם נקודת ציון. "אתם רואים את האיש הזה עם הסלים? קצת ימינה מראשו נמצאת קשת מן התקופה הרומית. קצת ימינה מראשו". "אבל הוא זז, הוא זז!" אמרתי בלבי: הגאולה תבוא רק אם יגידו להם: אתם רואים שם את הקשת מן התקופה הרומית? לא חשוב: אבל לידה, קצת שמאלה ולמטה ממנה, יושב אדם שקנה פֵּרות וירקות לביתו.
- Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."
- 7. Whatever will be the political future of Jerusalem, and even if it is the “Eternal Indivisible Capital of the Jewish People” it must be a city that honors the human rights and dignity of all of her citizens. We aspire to live by our highest Jewish values. Rather than be a curse to those living among us and around us, we wish to bring closer to fruition the prophecy made time after time to our ancestors in Genesis, "Through you shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed."
- 8. The Hassidic rebbe, Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz, taught: “By our service to God, we build Jerusalem daily. One of us adds a row, another only a brick. When Jerusalem is completed, redemption will come.”
- 9. When we break a glass under the khuppah at the end of a wedding ceremony, and recite “If I forget they, Oh Jerusalem,” it is not just earthly Jerusalem that we pledge to put above even our highest joy. It is our realization that the homes and lives and families we build have a role to play in uniting Yerushalayim shel Mata with Yerushalayim shel Ma’alah. Whether or not we have, or will ever choose to stand underneath the wedding canopy, this is our Jewish and human obligation. We have an opportunity to honor that obligation now in a way that could make all the difference for the 18 members of the Sumarin family, spanning three generations. Please write or call the JNF, and ask them to immediately cease all efforts to evict the Sumarin’s from what has been their home for generations.
- 10. Isaiah 5:8 Oy to those who add house to house And join field to field, Till there is room for none but you To dwell in the land!
- 11. Michah 2:1-2 Oy to those who plan iniquity And design evil on their beds; When morning dawns, they do it, For they have the power.
- Many of hte ideas above can also be integreated.
- 3. Another teaching from the Hassidic rebbe, Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz in “Zera Kodesh,” and as quoted in Iturei Torah, Volume 5, page 9: “This verse comes to say that the Word of the Holy One was in the desert, a place that attacks the shards, as we read in Deuteronomy 8:15 ‘Who led you thorough the great and terrible wilderness with its seraph serpents and scorpions, a parched land with no water in it.’ That is the greatness of the Holy Torah that can spread to all of the most degraded places and enter into the depths and to raise up from there in every meaning of the word, and even raise up the deprived.” (My translation. See also the translation in the Plaut Humash p. 1035)
- 4. We have left the desert, and entered the Land, but the fact that we are in the midst of the counting of the Omer reminds us that, “eyn mukdam v’ein meukhar b’Torah” Although we have entered the Promised Land, we are still in the desert, and have not yet made it to Sinai.
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה."
- 5. We have achieved independence, but we are only at the beginning in terms of creating a country fulfilling our national purpose. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch writes in his Torah commentary:
(ויקרא כ"ג, ט"ו).
And from the day on which you bring the omer (sheaf of barley) of elevation offering-the day after the Sabbath—you shall count of seven weeks.(Leviticus 23:15)
"כבר חגותם את חג חירתכם. וכבר זכרתם לפני ה' את העצמאות שזכיתם בה בשבתכם בארצכם ובאוכלכם מלחם מן הארץ. נמצא שכבר הגעתם אל החירות ואל רווחת העצמאות, המהווים בדרך כלל מטרת כל השאיפות הלאומיות. ואילו אתם תראו עצמכם רק בראשית ייעודכם הלאומי" ותחלו עתה למנות לקראת השגת מטרה אחרת ובלשון זו נאמרה מצוות הספירה בדברים ט"ז:ט: " מֵהָחֵל חֶרְמֵשׁ, בַּקָּמָה, תָּחֵל לִסְפֹּר, שִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעוֹת."; במקום שאחרים חדלו לספור, תחל ספירתך אתה".
You have already celebrated the Festival of Freedom. You have already recalled to God the independence that you merited dwelling in your land, and eating of the bread of the Land. You have achieved the freedom and the well being of independence that usually are the ultimate goal of national aspirations. However, you should only see yourself at the beginning of your "national purpose," and now you must begin to count towards the achievement of another goal. That is the intent of the commandment to count the omer in Deuteronomy 16:9: "When the sickle is first put to the standing grain." Where others stop counting, you must begin. (There is my translation, not from the published version of Hirsch's Torah commentary. A.A.)
- 6. We must keep our “eyes on the prize,” and be Torah, lifting up the oppressed and deprived, such as the Sumarin family. (See above under “Yom Yerushalayim,” and the additional background material.
- 7. Additional source on the desert: BeMidbar Rabbah 19:26 ( Numb. 21:17) “Then Israel sang.” For what reason is Moses not mentioned there? For the reason that he was being punished because of the waters; and no person praises81Rt.: QLS. Cf.: Gk.: kalos. his executioner.82Lat.: speculator (“examiner” or “overseer”). And why is the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, not mentioned there? The matter is comparable to a governor who made a banquet for the king. The king said, “Will my friend be there?” They told him, “No.” He said, “[Then] I also am not going there.” Also here the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “Inasmuch as Moses is not mentioned, I also will not be mentioned there.” ( Numb. 21:18) “The well that the princes dug […]:” Was it dug there? It is simply that it was given through the merit of the ancestors who were called princes. Thus it is stated (in Ps. 105:41-42), “He opened a rock, and water gushed out […]. For he remembered His holy promise and His servant Abraham.” ( Numb. 21:18, cont.) “That the nobles of the people dug with the scepter, even with their own staffs”: The princes were standing by it, and each and every one drew [the water] with his own staff for his own tribe and for his own family. And the space between the [four] standards was filled with a [flow of] water that was gathering strength. A woman who had to go to her companion from one standard to [another] standard went by ship, as stated (in Ps. 105:41), “they traveled the river by tsiyyot.”83A more traditional translation would be: IT FLOWED THROUGH THE WILDERNESS LIKE A RIVER. Now tsiyyot (here understood as the plural of tsi) can only denote a ship, since it is stated (in Is. 33:21), “nor shall a stately ship (tsi) pass by.” Now the waters flowed outside the camp and embraced a great strip of land. Thus it is stated (in Ps. 23:3) “He leads me in paths (literally, circles) of righteousness.” In addition, [the encircling waters] would cause endless varieties of green herbage and trees to grow, as stated (in Ps. 23:2), “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still water].” All those days that Israel was in the desert they used it (i.e., the well). Therefore, they rendered praise for it [with the song ending] (in Numb. 21:18), “the well that the princes dug.” ( Numb. 21:18, cont.) “From Midbar (literally, desert) to Mattanah,” [so stated] because in the desert [the well] was given (nittenah) them to use as a gift (mattanah). Another interpretation: Why was [the well] given in the desert? Because if it had been given to them in the land, the tribe in whose border it was given would have argued and said, “I have a prior claim to it.” For that reason it was given in the desert where all would have an equal claim to it. And for what other reason was it given in the desert? Just as a desert is neither sown nor cultivated, so is the one who receives the words of Torah. They remove from him the yoke of the government and the yoke of earning a living. Just as a desert does not grow arnona;84The Latin word generally denotes, as it probably does here, a tax on farm goods paid in kind; but the word also occurs in a broader sense denoting agricultural products generally. so are children of Torah (i.e., Torah scholars) free [from it] in this world.85I.e., by accepting the yoke of Torah, such scholars are exempt from government taxes and the need to earn a living. Another interpretation [of why it was given] in the desert: Who is the one who fulfills the Torah? One who makes himself like a desert and removes himself from everything [that might distract him]. ( Numb. 21:19) “From Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth”: These three places correspond to the three courts in Jerusalem that would explicate the Torah to all of Israel: (Ibid.) “From Mattanah to Nahaliel,” these refer to the Sanhedrin on the Temple Mount; (ibid., cont.) “from Nahaliel to Bamoth,” these refer to the Sanhedrin86Gk.: synhedrion. in the [Temple] court beside the altar; ( Numb. 21:20) “From Bamoth to the valley that is in the Plain of Moab.” These refer to the Sanhedrin, when it was in the chamber of hewn stones, which was in the region of Ruth, of whom it is stated (in Ruth 2:6), “She is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the Plains of Moab.” ( Numb. 21:20, cont.) “[At the Summit of Pisgah,] which is visible on the surface of wilderness (yeshimon);”87Yeshimon may be a place name, Jeshimon. This is in reference to the well which accompanied them until it was hidden in the Sea of Tiberias.88See yKil. 2:4 or 3 (32cd); yKet. 12:3 (35b); Lev. R. 22:4; Eccl. R. 5:8-9:5; cf. Shab. 35b, according to which the well is visible from Mount Carmel; similarly M. Ps. 24:6, according to which the well is visible from Mount Nebo. And one standing on the surface of the wilderness sees something in the midst of the sea about the size of the mouth of an oven; and that is the well, which is visible on the surface of the wilderness.
- 8. Tankhuma: Chukat, Siman 49 Another interpretation: Why was given in the desert? Because if it had been given to them in the land, the tribe in whose border it was given would have argued and said: I have a prior claim to it. For that reason it was given in the desert where all would have an equal claim to it. And for what other reason was it given in the desert? Just as a desert is neither sown nor cultivated, so is the one who receives the words of Torah. They remove from him the yoke of the government and the yoke of earning a living. Just as a desert does not grow annona;195The Latin word generally denotes, as it probably does here, a tax on farm goods paid in kind; but the word also occurs in a broader sense denoting agricultural products generally. so are children of Torah (i.e., Torah scholars) children of freedom.196I.e., by accepting the yoke of Torah, such scholars are exempt from government taxes and the need to earn a living. See Numb. R. 19:26. Another interpretation in the desert. Whoever fulfills the Torah is one who uses himself like the desert, whoever uses himself like a desert and removes himself from everything .
One of the campaign members is “Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalyim,” religious Jerusalemites calling on fellow religious Jews to “join hands with our fellow Jerusalemites who suffer from discrimination.” They have created the “ Words of Torah: Protect the Sumarin Family, facebook page containing divrei Torah that have been written on behalf of this campaign. In the words of Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim member Dr. Shaiya Rotheberg, the point is to allow people to “plagiarize.” All those who wish to do so are invited to post your divrei Torah and other written words relevant to the campaign.
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