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NPR follows the Olive Harvest in the Shadow of War

This week we visited Ayoub Abuhejleh, a Palestinian famer in the town of Deir Istiya in the West Bank. We have been helping Ayoub to harvest his olives in the face of much pressure.

On this visit we were walking through his fields when the Army appeared and aggressively arrested Ayoub, he has since been released.

Accompanying us on this visit was a media crew from the NPR show "All things considered".

Click the photo above to hear the story which was broadcast on Wednesday. It captures the reality of the West Bank through the lens of the Olive Harvest.

There are 100,000 Palestinians who rely on the olive harvest for their livelihoods, with every passing day that harvesting is forbidden they move closer to economic crisis.

Emergency Medic Kits for West Bank Towns

Samir Awad, Avi Dabush, Rabbi Michael Marmur & Anton Goodman of RHR at the Hizme Checkpoint

In the background of this terrible war, is a rise in settler violence across the West Bank. We are seeing three times the number of attacks which, since the formation of the current Government, had already risen to unprecedented levels. In the past weeks we have been reaching out to our Palestinian partners to express our solidarity and ask what help we might provide. At a meeting with the Mayor of Qusra, he spoke of the lack of personal safety in the town following a series of settler attacks and the murders of 6 residents of the town. He told us that they are lacking emergency medic kits, and within a few days we were able to send a number of these kits to the town. A subsequent mapping has shown that many towns are underprepared for treating victims of settler violence, and ambulances can take a long time to arrive. We will be purchasing more medic kits and distributing across the towns of the Northern West Bank, surrounding Nablus, where the setller violence is especially fierce.
Help us to provide medic kits to Palestinian towns

Humanitarian Aid to Marginzalized Communities

With thanks to all those who have supported our emergency humanitarian campaign we are able to take food parcels to isolated communities who are suffering at this time.

Together with a broad coalition of organizations and collectives, including Culture of Solidarity, Free Jerusalem, YMCA, Torat Tzedek and the Center for Jewish Non-Violence, we are ensuring that hundreds of boxes reach vulnerable families in the Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Negev, and Palestinian towns at risk in the South Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley.

The efforts and communities are expanding and rely 100% on the donations we raise. To donate emergency food boxes click below.
Humanitarian Aid to Marginzalized Communities
GBP donations for Humanitarian Aid

Overlooked Poverty at time of War

This week our Social Justice Department was advocating for decision makers to open their eyes to those who are not being cared for during the war. We realized that many children who live with poverty are not receiving school meals since many schools are closed. Our department director, Adv. Becky Keshet, immediately went to work and was succesful in scheduling a special hearing of the Knesset Education Committee. Members of Knesset were shocked to hear that under 50% of children eligible for state-funded school meals are currently not receiving them. When they ask the Finance Ministry representative where the unspent funds are, the answer came that this area has been consciously under-budgeted by the Ministry, even before the war. 

The sorrow of bereaved parents - Thoughts on Parashat Chayei Sarah

By: Rabbi Ehud Bandel

In these difficult days, when parents bury their children, we are exposed to shocking personal tragedies. One of them, to which I was personally exposed, was a case of cardiac arrest that happened during the Shiva to a bereaved mother whose son had fallen in battle. The concept of heartbreak took on a literal meaning here. Miraculously, the mother's life was saved, but the impact of the event was so great, that after the resuscitation, she did not remember the fact that her son had fallen.

Chayei Sarah portion opens with the death of Sarah the matriarch. Rashi notes: "The narrative of the death of Sarah follows immediately on that of the Binding of Isaac, because through the announcement of the Binding that her son had been made ready for sacrifice and had almost been sacrificed, she received a great shock (literally, her soul flew from her) and she died" (Rashi on Genesis 23:2). Rashi's interpretation is based on the midrash of the words "And Abraham came to mourn for Sarah" (Genesis 23:2) – "Whence did he come?" asks the midrash, and answers: "From Mount Moriah". The source of Rashi's interpretation is Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer - a midrash from the 8th century that tells us this: "When Abraham returned from Mount Moriah in peace, the anger of Sammael was kindled, for he saw that the desire of his heart to frustrate the offering of our father Abraham had not been realized. What did he do? He went and said to Sarah: Hast thou not heard what has happened in the world? She said to him: No. He said to her: Thy husband, Abraham, has taken thy son Isaac and slain him and offered him up as a burnt offering upon the altar. She began to weep and to cry aloud three times, corresponding to the three sustained notes (of the Shophar), and (she gave forth) three howlings corresponding to the three disconnected short notes (of the Shophar), and her soul fled, and she died. Abraham came and found that she was dead" (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 32:8).

According to the midrash, it seems that the real binding is not Isaac's, but Sarah's. She is the one who pays the price of Abraham's trial. The biblical story does not reveal everything to us, but the midrash reveals to us the mother's point of view, and it gives her a voice - a voice that reminds us of the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

We usually say that the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of the right of our father Avraham - the great believer, who was ready to sacrifice his son. But according to Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, the Shofar comes to remind us not of Abraham, but of his wife Sarah - Isaac's mother, who was not even consulted.

There is another famous midrash, which compares the sound of the shofar to the weeping of a bereaved mother. And who is the bereaved mother whose pain we are supposed to sympathize with? This is the mother of Sisera - the great enemy of Israel during the period of the Judges. In the song of Deborah in the book of Judges we read: "Through the window she looked forth, and peered, the mother of Sisera, through the lattice: 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?" (Judges 5:28). According to the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 33b) the sound of teruah should sound like the weeping of Sisera's mother.

This sensitivity to the bereaved mother and her pain - and even to the mother of the enemy - is a central message that the Sages seek to teach us. This sensitivity to others is also emphasized in additional midrashim to our portion.

When we read about Sarah's burial, we ask ourselves: 'And Isaac, where was he?' Why is the son not present at his mother's burial? At the end of the portion we hear where Isaac was: "And Isaac came from the way of Beer-lahai-roi; for he dwelt in the land of the South" (Genesis 24:62). What is Beer-lahai-roi? This is the place where God's angel appeared to Hagar and promised her that she would give birth to Ishmael. The midrash explains: After the death of his mother Sarah, Isaac went to bring his father's wife Hagar back home. Furthermore, immediately afterwards the Torah tells us: "And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah" (Genesis 25:1). And according to the midrash, Keturah is not a new wife, but rather she is Hagar who has returned to her home. These midrashim see the expulsion of Hagar as a stain on Abraham our father - a stain that must be removed, and therefore, Abraham's marriage to Keturah is interpreted as the return of Hagar to his home, with the matchmaker and reconciler being Isaac.

The reconciliation with the enemy seals our portion. Chayei Sarah portion ends with Abraham's death and burial. "And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah" (Genesis 25:9). The quarrel and rivalry for years between Isaac and Ishmael are pushed aside, and the two brothers meet together at their father's funeral. Couldn't they have met earlier? Can the brothers meet only after the death of the father? Everyone will give their answer, but one thing is clear. Reconciliation and appeasement between the brothers must come sometime, and better late than never.
Rabbi Ehud Bandel is the founding CEO of "Rabbis for Human Rights" and the former president of the Masorti Movement.
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