I have returned from my heartbreaking and heart-filling journey to Palestinian lands and the Israeli state. I very much enjoyed a very brief visit with Eamon and Lacy on my “bestest” layover ever on my way home. See below for a few choice photos from that day.
I had a very sweet and intimate visit with my sister and brother-in-law as their guest at Kibbutz Gezer, and the conversation with my niece on the way to the airport for my return trip was unexpectedly profound as well. I was glad to be there for the affixing and blessing of the plaque on the synagogue lectern in honor of our parents; also a touching moment to share. Thank you all.
My sister and I had another restorative time at the cemetery where our great uncle Shaya is buried, and I recognized many more Habers than I noticed three years ago on the memorial to the people of Tlumacz who were killed by (or because of) the Nazis and World War II.
The Center for Jewish Nonviolence stories continue to unfold as the joint resistance directed and called for by our Palestinian friends in the south Hebron Hills, as well as in neighborhoods of Jerusalem, continue, and the oppression and dispossession against them continues to grow and get more brutal and unconscionable almost daily. More reports and updates to follow soon.
Allan Solomonow, 1937 to 2020
I arrived home Friday night, January 10. I was awakened early on January 11 by a message from Greg Solomonow that his father Allan, my dear friend, had passed away in his sleep a couple hours ago. I visited Allan before I left on my trip. I had been visiting him almost weekly for years since he and Ofelia had to move out of San Francisco and into more supportive housing.
For many years Allan was part of an exceptional team of peacemaking quakers and non-Friend friends like Allan who worked for the American Friends Service Committee out of their San Francisco office. Through him and the likes of Stephen McNeil and Sandra Schwartz, I met amazing peacemakers from other cities and around the world. AFSC continues to support great activists, even Jewish Israelis like Dalit Baum (Director, Economic Activism program). More recently, I would take Allan, and sometimes O too, out for errands, or I would distract them from CNN and MSNBC by suggesting we watch a recent Stephen Colbert or Daily Show. We would talk politics, and his memories and associations would just come out sometimes.
We never did serious story-telling sessions. He does have an interview in the American Jewish Peace Archive, and many of his files are archived at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center collection I may find a recording or two I made while sorting Allan’s papers, but they were brief, and usually the best material was before I got the recorder going.
I want to share something he did around 1970 that shows how long Allan raised questions of Palestine and Islamophobia and how long such reflections have been taboo in Jewish spaces in this country and in Jewish American society. Allan was leading or presenting at an evening event at a synagogue. He was active with the Jewish Peace Fellowship at the time as well as directing CONAME (The Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East) which Noam Chomsky helped start along with Allan and others in the late 1960s. Incidentally, many people trace Allan’s Middle East Peace work back to the Middle East Peace Project (MEPP) in the mid-1970s, but before MEPP, there was Breira, and before Breira, there was CONAME, and before that (and still) there was the Jewish Peace Fellowship (JPF, which is part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, FOR).
He gave people a page entitled “Jewish Attitudes” and asked people not to look at the other side, but to read its 12 points. He took an offensive “educational” tool designed to demean “Arabs” in the eyes of young American Jews, and Allan turned it inside out. At its first sharing, Allan was thanked for making such a clear case in such a dramatic way that woke up the people in the synagogue gathering who saw it. He had people see themselves in the shoes of another, and it was received as intended. At the second showing, he was threatened, denounced, and to some extent, excommunicated (from the JPF at least). Here, see what I am talking about:
After four years or so, he got a short note from one the co-authors, the head of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, informing him that the offending workbook, Behind the Arab Mind was removed from use.
In Allan’s files I found a lot of materials designed for youth that I don’t recall seeing as a child growing up reform/west coast in the 1960s and 1970s. Certainly, I believed in the “land for a people for a people without a land” deception and that the Palestinians were responsible for the lack of peace, until at least when I went to college in 1980. I think it was to the credit of our rabbi, Gerald (“Raisin with a K”) Raiskin, who really believed in and taught for the sake of justice and equanimity that I wasn’t more intensely “Zionized.” I was taught a lot of good Jewish teachings, I just didn’t know they were Talmud, and that what I was learning in English, other Jews were chanting in Hebrew. I was taught to revere Israel, and forgive it, but I wasn’t taught not to question it. I’m finding the forgiveness hard as the occupation hardens, Palestinians are maimed and killed and stolen from, and my friends are treated as nothing. May Allan’s drive and incessance be reflected in my work as well.
Memorial services are this Sunday, January 19 at 2:00 pm at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont, California.
Eamon, January 10, 2020, 9:30 am to 2:00 pm