Working towards peace and sustainability

Responding to the Unfolding Tragedy in the Middle East

As we write we stand at a precipice. In the wake of the outrageously criminal Hamas attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel, the Israelis have been making war on Gaza, from the air, for nearly three weeks. And, we are waiting with apprehension to see if the other shoe will drop, in the form of an on-the-ground incursion.

While there is some uncertainty to the numbers, we know that approximately 1,400 Israelis have lost their lives and it is likely that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s bombs. Many more have been injured and more than a million people are newly homeless. Hamas is also holding more than 200 hostages who were kidnapped and are being held in Gaza.

Both sides are guilty of heinous war crimes. Laying siege to Gaza, prohibiting, and now severely limiting, the Gazans access to food, water, medicine and fuel, is a severe violation of international law, just as the mass murder of Israelis by Hamas was earlier this month.

As if this isn’t sufficiently tragic, we also face the prospect of a wider, regional war. Hezbollah and Israel exchange artillery fire daily. Israel has been routinely bombing Syria, including attacks on Damascus’ civilian airport. And the Houthi regime in Yemen has been launching missiles at Israel from hundreds of miles away. All this speaks to the possibility of a long-feared regional war, with Iran and its allies facing off against Israel; with the possibility of U.S. direct intervention.

News reports are heart-wrenching. Each day our radios, TVs and digital devices bring us new reports of lost loved ones; of bodies buried in the rubble; of those hospitalized who can’t be treated for lack of drugs or even of electricity to power the lights and the surgical equipment.

Seeing images of the corpses, and the thousands of wounded, compels action, but many feel at a loss, not knowing what might help. Right now, if you share our perspective we would urge you to let the White House and Congress know following:

1)  We want the U.S. government to press all parties, especially Israel, where U.S. influence is greatest, to adopt a ceasefire.

2)  We want our government to press Hamas to release all Israeli and other hostages, and to urge Israel to, in exchange, release the hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners it has recently rounded up on the occupied West Bank.

3)  We urge the Biden administration to press for the rapid distribution of sorely needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. The U.S. should help fund this effort.

4)  Now is the time for an immediate halt to the U.S. provision of arms to Israel, both the $3.8 billion in military aid given annually, as well as the $14.3 billion proposed last week as “emergency military aid.” Israel is an affluent nation with a very powerful military and it does not need the billions in munitions the Biden administration proposes to provide. These funds should be redirected instead to investments in sustainable development provided jointly to the Israelis and the Palestinians to jumpstart the long process of building trust and learning to work together.

Please find contact info for the President on Congress HERE:  

We reiterate that we are pro-peace. We aim to see the Palestinians and Israelis outgrow nationalism and learn to live together as close branches on the human family tree. To be pro-Palestinian, one must be pro-Israel, and to be pro-Israel, one must be pro-Palestinian. Continued conflict leads to the abyss. Cooperation leads to a peaceful, prosperous future.

This moving message was shared recently by Rabbi Irwin Keller:

Taking Sides

Today I am taking sides.

I am taking the side of Peace.

Peace, which I will not abandon

even when its voice is drowned out

by hurt and hatred,

bitterness of loss,

cries of right and wrong.

I am taking the side of Peace

whose name has barely been spoken

in this winnerless war.

I will hold Peace in my arms,

and share my body’s breath,

lest Peace be added

to the body count.

I will call for de-escalation

even when I want nothing more

than to get even.

I will do it

in the service of Peace.

I will make a clearing

in the overgrown

thicket of cause and effect

so Peace can breathe

for a minute

and reach for the sky.

I will do what I must

to save the life of Peace.

I will breathe through tears.

I will swallow pride.

I will bite my tongue.

I will offer love

without testing for deservingness.

So don’t ask me to wave a flag today

unless it is the flag of Peace.

Don’t ask me to sing an anthem

unless it is a song of Peace.

Don’t ask me to take sides

unless it is the side of Peace.


- Rabbi Irwin Keller, Oct. 17, 2023