Nakba Day marked with rioting, rock throwing

Palestinians in Israel marked Nakba Day with riots and rock-throwing.

Palestinians on Tuesday rioted and threw rocks at Israeli troops near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, at the Kalandia checkpoint and at Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem. Several Palestinian rioters were arrested.

In Ramallah’s central Clock Square, thousands of Palestinians rallied at noon as a siren sounded to commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe, referring to Israel’s foundation in 1948 as a state. A similar rally was scheduled to be held in Gaza.

On Tuesday morning a rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel, but did not cause any injuries or damage.

The Palestinian Authority reportedly declared a general strike, and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared a strike in Israel’s Arab sector to mark the day. .

Nakba Day marches were also scheduled to be held in Jordan, and in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Commemorations of Nakba Day in Lebanon are being limited to the refugee camps, according to Lebanon’s The Daily Star. The orders come a year after more than 100 protesters stormed Lebanon’s border with Israel, leading to the death of at least 10 protesters.

Israel’s military has brought more troops to the country’s borders with Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Gaza in an attempt to prevent border breaches by protesters like those that occurred last year.

Happy 53

Some birthdays are better than others, and number 53 is especially tough for Israel.

Whether or not we in America see it this way, Israel is at war. A recent fax from the office of the mayor of Efrat in Gush Etzion reported, "the current PLO war has taken a tragic toll."

That’s only one front. As Gil Sedan reports in this issue, Arab terror groups recently concluded a two-day meeting in Tehran to coordinate strategy against Israel.

Economically, Israel has been struck by the tech burst and the tourism bust. "We’ve been through tourism crises before," Israel Tour Guide Association head Rafi Glass told the Jerusalem Post. "But this? This is a catastrophe."

The presence of such bad news is amplified by the absence of something else: optimism. The supporters of the peace process once argued that if it all fell apart, then the country would be no worse off than it was before the process began. That may be true, but now the country is facing a dream of peace deferred. The result, on the Israeli street, is a drying up of hope and, on the Palestinian street, an explosion.

What about us on the outside? This has been a month when many in the L.A. Jewish community are consumed with the factualness of events millennia old. Meanwhile, recent surveys have found not only that fewer than one-third of American Jews see Israel as a "very meaningful" aspect of their Jewish identity, but that many are unaware of important facts about it.

North America’s Jewish federations are mobilizing for two national solidarity rallies to be held simultaneously on Sun., June 3, in New York and Los Angeles. Let’s not only mark our calendars but use the time leading up to these rallies to educate ourselves and others about Israel’s history, its current crisis and the complex challenges it faces.

Disaster Relief


The catastrophic earthquake and tsunami is south Asia resulted in worldwide shock and then an outpouring of aid. It wasn�(tm)t difficult to write a check, nor was it difficult to find relief agencies eager to accept donations.

Money poured in, in some cases overwhelming the beneficiaries. Doctors Without Borders announced two weeks after the tsunami that it had received all the money it could use for tsunami relief and urged donors to contribute undesignated funds to general disaster assistance. The Red Cross, although still accepting money for tsunami relief, has also set a cap for those donations.

Following the similarly catastrophic tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks, the “September 11th Fund” was quickly founded and also quickly inundated with donations. Four months after the event, in January 2002, the fund announced that it had received all it needed to accomplish its goals (more than $500 million) and encouraged future donors to give to other charities.

Our generous response to those horrifying tragedies illustrates how quickly our hearts and wallets can be opened, but it also brings into question our charitable goals when equally great – or greater – needs exist. Giving in response to catastrophe is compassionate and morally sound. But the total ethics of our charitable giving needs examination when transient, spectacular tragedies are overfunded while ongoing and endemic tragedies are often ignored.

The sudden devastation of catastrophe demands an equally quick response. Unlike poverty or hunger, we could respond to the tsunami now – but not years from now. Because the number of people affected was large, we responded generously. But because the number was small, relative to other tragedies, and limited (the tsunami would not strike again) we felt confidant that our donations would actually make a difference.

Because tragedies like war and disease are so pervasive and intractable we despair at their solution. We cope with their presence by becoming numb. Our compassion is stirred, our hearts break, but our emotional numbness prevents action. We sew up our wounded hearts and move on.

As my friends and I wrote our tsunami checks in the last few weeks, many of us expressed the concern that our donations actually reach the people in need. But what most of us didn�(tm)t pause to consider is why we were giving now, to this cause and not at other times to other causes? In the hands of an ethical charity our checks would eventually ease the pain of the tsunami victims. Yet the pain of other sufferers elsewhere in the world was no less great for them having been victims to non-catastrophic tragedies that hadn�(tm)t captured our attention.

What we need is an ethic of charity that motivates us to give to ongoing, endemic needs as much as our natural horror motivates us to give to catastrophic relief.

Biblical examples of giving see charity as automatic and constant: a spiritual act based on gratitude for our own blessings, not prompted by particular needs in the community. Abraham gives one-tenth of the spoils of war (Genesis 14:20), Jacob makes a similar vow (Genesis 28:22) and Leviticus tells us, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). Maimonides advises the ethic of giving not in response to need but to prevent need. He writes as the highest step of the golden ladder of giving, “Anticipate charity by preventing poverty” such as by teaching a trade.

Giving in response to catastrophic need will always be a spiritual urge above and beyond our regular charity. Here�(tm)s how I suggest catastrophic need doesn�(tm)t become our only impulse to charity.

• Begin by naming the core values that guide your life. If you can�(tm)t do this, examine the values revealed through your life choices: where do you work, where do you spend your free time, what stories tug your heart, what activities give you the greatest satisfaction?

• Next, name the causes you wish to fight (poverty, hunger, disease, war) or support (education, freedom, human rights). The causes should flow from your values.

• Research organizations working on these causes and select a few as beneficiaries of your charity.

• Create a personal budget by approximating your yearly income and expenses. Challenge yourself to set aside 5 to 10 percent of your income for charity and divide that amount among the organizations you�(tm)ve selected. You might designate a portion of your charitable budget as “catastrophe relief.” If it hasn�(tm)t been used by the end of the year you can write an additional check to your main charity.

When a catastrophe occurs, you can then use your budget to fit your response within a reasoned, values-based, system of giving. Instead of reacting emotionally merely to relieve your own horror you can base your response on questions such as, “Does providing this relief support my values? Will writing this check reduce the amount I give elsewhere and is that OK with me?” Following that internal discussion even a decision not to write a check can be a morally legitimate response.

All giving relieves both the giver and the receiver. Giving should make us feel good and relieving our own emotional suffering is as good a reason to give as any. But healing the world demands more than an emotional response to catastrophes; it demands a generous, considered response to all instances of suffering.