NiSh’ma: Yovel

On this page, we offer three takes on the line from Leviticus found on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (25:10) Our commentators — a Palestinian, a settler, and the founder of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence — discuss how to approach the complexity of occupation during the coming yovel year. Please join the discussion about Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank.

Image by Artwork by Image by Jana Life

Leviticus 25:10

וּקְרָאתֶ֥ם דְּר֛וֹר בָּאָ֖רֶץ לְכָל־יֹשְׁבֶ֑יהָ יוֹבֵ֥ל

“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

NiSh’ma: Yovel

Munir FashehBy Munir Fasheh:

I look at societies as if they were human bodies. If there is something wrong with my small finger, my whole body feels bad. If I deal with it as insignificant or forget about it, I will be sabotaging my wellness, which is wholesome. The wellness of societies cannot be but wholesome; any attempt to exclude, ignore, belittle, or degrade societies is counterproductive — to say the least.

I wish the Zionist movement had taken Andalusia as its inspiration. Of all the European leaders, Alphonso the Wise is the one I find most inspiring. He was king of Castile, Leon, and Galicia from 1252 until 1282 when he was deposed by his son. Despite his earlier goal of expelling Arabs and Jews, he was inspired by what he saw in places like Toledo to establish a state based on the cross-fertilization of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities living under the state’s protection. Toledo became a crossroads of the three religions that cooperated around their common humanist heritage.

Out of the early Zionist leaders, Ahad Ha’am, is likely the one who resists most clearly the ideology of exclusion. Had a vision such as Alfonso’s been embraced, it might have created a society governed by wisdom rather than by control and winning. Liberty is inclusive, never exclusive, as noted in the biblical verse: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

I believe the question, “Is it too late to work toward such a vision?” is the wrong question. We have no choice. Such a vision is the wisest approach to a world moving willingly toward self-destruction.

NiSh’ma: Yovel

Ilana SumkaBy Ilana Sumka:

A Palestinian is sitting in her car at a checkpoint in the rain, waiting for permission to pass. An Israeli soldier is standing in the rain, checking the Palestinian sitting in her car. Who is free?

The power of nonviolence, says Palestinian leader Sami Awad, is its ability to lift oppression from the oppressed and the oppressor simultaneously. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” says Leviticus, because, indeed, liberty is inclusive, not exclusive, and the path to make the 50th year sacred is the liberation of all, not some.

Now is the time for this liberation. This is the occupation’s yovel year, 50 years since 1967, when the occupation began. This is the biblical 50th Jubilee year in which the land lies fallow, mandated as a moment in which outstanding debts are to be repaid, slaves released, and land returned to its rightful owner. This is what Israel must now do with its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza: recognize the losses Palestinians have incurred, and release them from the bondage of non-citizenship, travel restriction, and subjection to a separate military legal system.

The 50th anniversary of the occupation is a defining moment in Jewish history. Never has the concept of yovel been so relevant to the 21st century, and never has the question of Jewish power demanded an answer so desperately.

NiSh’ma: Yovel

Hanan SchlesingerBy Hanan Schlesinger:

“Anyone who acquires a slave acquires a master over himself,” says the Babylonian Talmud. (Kiddushin 20a) The context is the onerous burden that Jewish law places on the master regarding the satisfaction of the slave’s physical needs and the financial liabilities of the master. However, there is more to it. Slavery enslaves both slaves and masters. The latter must continually assert their mastery, gradually losing their sense of humility and fairness and becoming tyrants whose divine image is deeply tarnished.

That may be why at the time of the Jubilee, liberty is proclaimed “unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The setting free of slaves releases their masters as well.

Slaves know that they are enslaved. Masters are often blind to the evil they do to their slaves and to themselves.

I do not believe that Judea and Samaria are occupied territory. (Occupied territory is land that is controlled by one party while another party is the internationally recognized legal sovereign. In this case, the last internationally recognized legal sovereign of the territories in question was the British Mandate that ended in 1948. There has been no other internationally recognized sovereignty in this land since then.) But the Palestinians most certainly live the reality of an occupied people. We Israelis are an occupying people who are ourselves occupied by the occupation. More and more, Israelis and most of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria live in a bubble, and they recognize neither the occupation nor its insidious effects on us.

One of the many essential keys to ending the occupation of the Palestinian people and bringing healing to this land and its inhabitants may be human contact: Israelis need to look into the eyes of our Palestinian neighbors. We need to learn their humanity, their narrative, and their pain — to absorb it and to feel it — and then to look in the mirror and see the occupier. The image that we see may jolt us into proclaiming “liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

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NiSh’ma: Yovel

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