Statements of Support

Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, one of the largest Reform Judaism congregations in the world. He is also past Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, in Jerusalem.

"Genuine Testimony"

I met A. a few years ago in Toronto. He told me then that in his retirement he spends a couple of months every year in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Over the years we've met in Jerusalem on a Sunday when he came to church, at times in the company of other team members. Like A., they're religious women and men belonging to different denominations within the Church and beyond.

CPT has been active in different conflict zones in the world. It came to Hebron in 1995, as its brochure has it, "in order to maintain a violence-deterring presence between Israeli settlers, soldiers and Palestinians." Its work, therefore, isn't very different from what Israeli groups such as Machsom (checkpoint) Watch, Breaking the Silence, Rabbis for Human Rights and many similar are doing. Indeed, CPT is in touch with them.

CPT's mission statement says: "Because we believe in a God of mercy and justice, we are not neutral about situations where one group is being oppressed by another. We do not affiliate ourselves with any particular political agenda, but we do believe that it is our calling as Christians to stand in solidarity with the downtrodden in conflict situations. We are totally opposed to violence as a means, regardless of our opinion of the perpetrators and victims in any given incident. We believe that both violent and unjust acts demean the image of God in human beings."

CPT activities in the old city of Hebron that's currently under Israeli administrative control include: "visits to homes at risk of demolition and/or land confiscation; visits to schools to introduce CPT and our school patrol activity; accompaniment of farmers at planting times; and the monitoring of Israeli soldiers as they search homes."

What A. and his friends had to tell me about conditions in Hebron confirms what I saw with my own eyes when I visited a year or so ago. The army is there to protect the settlers and little else. Some of the settlers, imbued with a perverted version of Jewish religious nationalism, are a menace to their neighbors and an embarrassment to Judaism. Palestinians are often without protection. CPT and similar organizations operating in Hebron are there as witnesses. Their aim is to inhibit settlers from attacking Palestinians.

Though I must admit at being suspicious of "do-gooders" from outside, I'm prepared to make an exception for CPT. Not only are the volunteers I've met women and men of highest integrity who in their working life (often as clergy, educators or members of religious orders) contributed much to society but, talking to them, I was left with the impression that they recognize the complexities of the situation and would not issue blanket condemnation of Israelis or express uncritical views of Palestinians.

Their involvement appears to be genuine. They shun lofty proclamations from a safe distance, as so many ostensibly liberal religious groups are prone to do. Instead, they give of their time and money to spend months at a time in Hebron under less than comfortable conditions in order to be of genuine help, not hypocritical grandstanding.

Each time I meet A. and his friends my respect for them grows. Because I know that this kind of activity could not be done by Jewish groups, due to settler "retaliation," I'm grateful to these women and men who're there to testify to values that Jews and Christians share.

Dow Marmur, Jerusalem 14 April 2008