Archive for July 2006

Shalom Center post

July 31, 2006



Giving Hanukkah New Meaning:

The Festival of Conserving Oil & Energy

Dear friends,

In this special message there are two parts: one of grief, one of hope. Please be sure to read them both.

A word about the second part:

This special report will explain The Shalom Center’s plans to make Hanukkah the festival of conserving oil and energy in our own generation.

These plans for Hope and Hanukkah begin about one-third of the way down this report.

But first, we must face the darkness. Our time of sorrow, near despair.


As Israeli troops first entered Lebanon, we received a letter from a member of one of our Philadelphia congregations, who now lives in northern Israel. Her son was being sent across the border, she said, and she asked – for him and for his comrades in the army, “Pray FIRST.”I was moved by this poignant outcry. She did not ask that we pray ONLY for Israeli lives – but “first” for them. Just as when we say the Mourners’ Kaddish, we focus first on those whom we have known and loved directly, and only then for others.

So we pray first in grief for Pam Waechter, the Seattle Jew who was murdered by an American Muslim who said he was consumed with rage at what Israel has done to Lebanon. And we pray for a speedy refuah shleymah – a full recovery to vibrant health – to the others wounded in his attack on the Jewish Federation in Seattle. My right arm is aching as I type this – “If I forget you, Godwrestling folk, may my right arm forget its strength.“

I welcome the condemnation of the attack issued by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and I am sure by other Muslim organizations. We have already suggested to our Seattle supporters of the Peace of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, that Jews and Muslims gather publicly there to mourn the dead, pray for the wounded, and condemn the attack.

And I turn as well to the 50 or more civilians killed and many wounded in Kana in Lebanon, half of them children, suffering from an Israeli air strike against the village.

The Israeli Air Force said it had information that rockets were fired against Israel from nearby; but the question arises again and again, to ALL sides in this many-sided war, whether they could have used alternatives at every stage. Alternatives that would have made murders and massacres less likely, peace more possible.

If there had been a cease-fire imposed by the world a week ago, Kana’s dead would be alive today. Perhaps the Seattle killer would have been consumed by more grief than rage, and other lives would not have been lost.

Blood feuds are easy to start, easy to expand, hard to stop. No one should stand in the way of stopping them.

Often, when I or anyone mentions such deaths in the same breath – one might better say, the same un-breath – we are accused of the fallacy of “moral equivalence.” When I hear such an outcry, one feeling and one thought rise up in me:

To the dead and the suffering, moral “equivalence” and moral “un-equivalence” are empty of meaning. The dead are dead; the maimed are maimed. Wailing sweeps away all philosophic weighing.

And as I have said before, the individual person who deliberately intends to kill a civilian may be morally different from one who does so without intending to. But when every shred of experience is that a policy will kill the innocent, there is an institutional responsibility to pursue a different policy. The children who die by “accident” in a drive-by killing aimed at a drug lord from another gang are not “collateral damage.”

The killing must stop – in Iraq, in Palestine, in Israel, in Lebanon, in America.


Let us turn to hope and Hanukkah.

Two years ago, we decided that behind even the issue of global scorching stood the power of Big Oil — often used to deny the very existence of global scorching. So with the generous support of ALEPH, the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, several donors through The Shefa Fund, the Arnow Family Foundations, and Hazon, The Shalom Center began our BEYOND OIL Campaign, and began planning to make Hanukkah – the festival of the “miracle” of conserving oil, when one day’s supply of oil kept the Great Menorah lit for eight days – the central point for the BEYOND OIL campaign.

1) Our Goal: By 2020, cut US oil consumption by seven-eighths and replace that amount of oil as an energy source by conservation and by use of non-fossil, non-CO2-producing, non-nuclear sources of renewable, sustainable energy.

Why specifically seven-eighths? Because it would make an enormous difference; because it is do-able if we take the steps we sketch below;

and because it fits the symbolism of Hanukkah.

2) Hanukkah: One Day’s Oil for Eight Days’ Work.

When the Maccabees rededicated the Temple, one day’s worth of oil kept the Great Menorah lit for eight full days. Through their boldness, they conserved the source of sacred energy.

Let us make every Hanukkah the festival of ending America’s addiction to oil, by conserving energy and shifting to renewable energy sources.

Experts we have consulted say that the seven-eighths reduction by 2020 is possible, though not easy to achieve. It requires major but quite possible changes in the US transportation system: use of cellulosic ethanol (NOT corn), plug-in hybrids, public transit, use of wind power and other renewable, non-nuclear, non-CO2-producing sources of electricity).

3. This Hanukkah, The Shalom Center will invite synagogues everywhere to join in the GREEN MENORAH PLEDGE and will present the first GREEN MENORAH AWARD to a synagogue that has done extraordinary work to green itself and America.

If there are more than one, all the better: we see this as cooperative, not competitive.

The Shalom Center will also organize a Hanukkah candle-lighting vigil at a key center of Oiloholic addiction, to focus attention on the need for change.

Our goal is that EVERY synagogue –

  • Reduces its own use of energy by conservation and by using sustainable sources.
    • Organizes “Oiloholics Anonymous” groups of congregants to help each other to “kick the Oil habit” in their own households.
    • Urges all congregants to adopt a commitment to Kosher Kars — using their present cars in such a way as to reduce gas use (e.g. by carpooling) and making their next car purchase a hybrid or other high-mileage car.
    • Takes action to change public policy by campaigning for a Carbon Tax on various energy sources according to their effective production of CO2.

    This is a crucial idea whose time will only come if we fight for it. No other public-policy step will make enough change to free the US from its oil addiction; yet politicians will be afraid to support the Carbon Tax until we build a base for it.

    We invite your help to make this BEYOND OIL campaign strong and creative. You can write Russ Agdern, national organizer of the BEYOND OIL campaign, at; or me, at; or of course The Shalom Center at our offices.

    COEJL, the Coalition for the Environment and Jewish Life, is also beginning a Hanukkah campaign. Theirs is focused on persuading synagogues and congregants to conserve energy by installing condensed fluorescent light bulbs. We look forward to cooperating with COEJL in our distinctive yet complementary work on Hanukkah in particular and global scorching in general.

    Shalom u’vracha,
    Rabbi Arthur Waskow


    Our postal address is
    6711 Lincoln Drive
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119
    United StatesIf you have been forwarded this message and want to subscribe, please go to Click here to Subscribe
  • Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing

    July 31, 2006

    See? I’m not the only one who sees that same-gender marriage is inevitable!

    July 30, 2006
    Op-Ed Columnist

    Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing


    THERE were community meetings in Seattle on Wednesday. Some of the couples who had sued to overturn Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case they lost before the state’s Supreme Court earlier that day, were going to appear. Gay and straight elected officials who support “marriage equality” were going to make speeches. I probably should have been there too.

    But I had a previous engagement.

    The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. My 8-year-old son — adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me — loves the M’s almost as much as he hates the way a breaking news story can keep me late at work. He would never have forgiven me for skipping the game.

    I didn’t feel too bad about missing the meetings. Washington’s high court rejected same-sex marriage for much the same reason the New York Court of Appeals did earlier this month. The speeches in Seattle would no doubt be similar to those made in New York, and I didn’t need to hear them again.

    Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It’s for kids.

    In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible heterosexuals often have children by accident — we gay couples, in contrast, cannot get drunk and adopt in one night — so the state can reserve marriage rights for heterosexuals in order to coerce them into taking care of their offspring. Without the promise of gift registries and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more newborns in New York would be found in trash cans.

    At least the New York court acknowledged that many same-sex couples have children. Washington’s judges went out of their way to make ours disappear, finding that “limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.” Children, the decision continues, “tend to thrive in families consisting of a father, mother and their biological children.’’

    A concurring opinion gave the knife a few leisurely twists: due to the “binary biological nature of marriage,” it read, only opposite-sex couples are capable of “responsible child rearing.”

    These stunning statements fly in the face of the evidence about gay and lesbian parents presented to the court. Similar evidence persuaded the high court in Arkansas to overturn that state’s ban on gay and lesbian foster parents.

    What the New York and Washington opinions share — besides a willful disregard for equal protection clauses in both state Constitutions — is a heartless lack of concern for the rights of the hundreds of thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples.

    Even if gay couples who adopt are more stable, as New York found, don’t their children need the security and protections that the court believes marriage affords children? And even if heterosexual sex is essential to the survival of the human race (a point I’m willing to concede), it’s hard to see how preventing gay couples from marrying increases heterosexual activity. (“Keep breeding, heterosexuals,” the Washington State Supreme Court in effect shouted, “To bed! To bed! To bed!”) Both courts have found that my son’s parents have no right to marry, but what of my son’s right to have married parents?

    A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled, essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.”

    Even if you believe that marriage plays a special role in the lives of heterosexuals with children (another point I’m happy to concede), can it not play a similar role in the lives of homosexual couples, whether they’re parents or not? Marriage, after all, is not reserved for couples with children. (Perhaps it will be soon, if courts keep heading in this direction.)

    When my widowed grandfather remarried in his 60’s, he wasn’t seeking to further the well-being of his children, who were grown and out of the house. He was seeking the security, companionship and legal rights that marriage provides. The survival of humankind was the furthest thing from his mind.

    These defeats have demoralized supporters of gay marriage, but I see a silver lining. If heterosexual instability and the link between heterosexual sex and human reproduction are the best arguments opponents of same-sex marriage can muster, I can’t help but feel that our side must be winning. Insulting heterosexuals and discriminating against children with same-sex parents may score the other side a few runs, but these strategies won’t win the game.

    So I’m confident that one day my son will live in a country that allows his parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as he’s concerned, as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than a year and a half ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that it’s in his best interest for us to be married.

    And while Wednesday was a dark day, the M’s beat the Blue Jays 7 to 4, so it wasn’t a total loss.

    Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly.

    One more on Beirut…

    July 30, 2006

    I usually don’t like Anthony Bourdain. He seems like an arrogant jerk who smokes too much. But then there’s this story (as sent to me by a friend):

    Watching Beirut die

    We went to Beirut to film a TV show about the city’s newly vibrant culinary and cultural scene. Then the bombs started falling, and we could only stand on the barricades of our hotel balcony and watch it all disappear — again.

    By Anthony Bourdain

    Jul. 28, 2006 | From where I’m sitting, poolside, I can see the airport burning — the last of the jet fuel cooking off like a dying can of sterno. There’s a large, black plume of smoke coming from the south of the city — just over the rise, where the most recent airstrikes have been targeting the Shiite neighborhoods and what are, presumably, Hezbollah-associated structures. My camera crew and I missed it the first time they hit the airport. Slept right through it. Woke up in our snug hotel sheets to the news that we wouldn’t be making television in Beirut (not the show we came to do anyway), and that we wouldn’t be getting out of here anytime soon.

    Any hopes of runway repair followed by a flight out disappeared two nights ago, when we watched from the balcony of my hotel room as missiles, fired from offshore, twinkled brightly for a few long seconds in the air, then dropped in lazy parabolic arcs onto the fuel tanks.

    We knew by that time what was happening in the south: Hezbollah rocketing Israel, the Israeli army mobilizing along — and even crossing — the border, firing artillery, reserves being called up. Frightened visitors from other Gulf states and the Lebanese — including our local fixer — had headed for Syria, but planes had been hitting that route out repeatedly, making the already unattractive option of camera-bearing Americans crossing into that unwelcoming country even less attractive. An exit by sea was out of the question in light of a total naval blockade. We were stuck. The other American guests — at first secure in their “This doesn’t concern us” and “They won’t target us” and “We’re just waiting for word” mode, were now visibly worried.

    Anthony BourdainEverything had begun so beautifully. Our fixer, Lena, was bursting with enthusiasm when she met us at the airport. After months of preproduction, finally we were here! Finally, the American television crew had arrived — to show the world how beautiful her country was, how lovingly restored, how hip and forward thinking in the years since the bloody civil war. On the first day of filming, we’d had a sensational early lunch of hummus, kibbe, stewed lamb and yogurt at Le Chef, a local, family-style joint in a charming neighborhood. The customers at the tables around us in the tiny, worn-looking dining area chattered away in Arabic, French and English. Stomachs full, my crew and I headed over to Martyr’s Square and the Rafik Hariri memorial; a few blocks away, our fixer and friends pointing out old scars and new construction, trying to explain how much Beirut and Lebanon had changed since the man’s death in 2005. They spoke effusively of the calm, the peace, the relative tolerance that had followed the galvanizing effects of Hariri’s assassination. Each smiled and pointed at the giant photographic mural of the million-person demonstration that had led to Syria’s withdrawal from their country; Ali, our unofficial tough-guy escort, pointed at a tiny dot among the hundreds of thousands in the photo and joked, “That’s me!”

    They were so proud of how far they’d come, how much they’d survived, how different and sophisticated Beirut was now. They spoke of all the things they had to show us, the people we had to meet. Significantly, the word “Syria” was still spoken in slightly hushed tones. Speaking too long, too loud or too harshly of their former occupier, it was suggested, could still get you killed. (An outcome not without precedent.) We walked along the road leading to a cordoned-off area by the St. George Hotel, where Bardot, Monroe and Kim Philby had once played — back when Beirut was called the “Paris of the Orient” without a hint of irony. The buildings in the area were still in ruins, a roof torn off, the old hotel — under construction when the targeted blast that killed Hariri occurred — still empty. The Phoenician, across the street, which had also been destroyed, had recently been completely rebuilt. A modern hotel like any other, but they were proud of that too. Because, like Beirut, it was still there. It was back.

    Then, in the blink of an eye, everything went sideways: Relaxed smiles froze and disappeared. Suddenly, there was the sound of automatic weapons firing randomly in the air from a nearby neighborhood. And fireworks. Then cars — a few of them — teenage kids, women and adults, some leaning out the windows and waving Hezbollah flags and flashing the “V” for victory sign, celebrating what we were told, after a few quick cellphone calls, was the grabbing of two Israeli soldiers. Our fixer, a Sunni; Ali, a Shiite; and “Marwan,” a Christian, who’d just minutes ago been pointing proudly at the mural — all three looked down in embarrassment, a look of sorrow, shame and then resignation on their faces. Someone muttered “assholes” bitterly. They knew — right away — what was going to happen next.

    Not that that stopped the party — initially anyway. Beirutis like to tell you (true or not) that they partied right through the civil war. That it wasn’t “cool” to seek shelter during an airstrike. That we “shouldn’t worry. All the nightclubs have their own generators.” That night, we continued to shoot (and drink heavily) at the opening party for the newly relocated Sky Bar, a rooftop nightclub with a view of the Mediterranean. Moneyed Beirutis — all of them, it seemed, young, sexy and ridiculously beautiful — drank vodka and Red Bull, and swayed (if not exactly danced) while Israeli jets flew menacingly low overhead. Were it not for the warplanes, it could have been Los Angeles or South Beach, Fla. The crowd was English speaking — with the kind of West Coast, television accents you hear on sitcoms. Many were Lebanese Americans, returned to the country of their parents, or émigrés to America and Britain who’d left during the civil war and only just come back. I met and talked with Ramsay Short, the young editor of the newly launched Time Out Beirut, and he bragged effusively about their recent “Sex Issue,” its cover depicting a woman’s bare legs, panties bunched around the ankles. The issue — provocative, to say the least, in a largely Muslim country — had sailed through without censorship or even major complaint. Ramsay was happy about that. As he was happy that his town had rated its own edition of the snarky, urbane city guide. “There are only 15 cities in the world with a Time Out,” he told me happily, “and Beirut is now one of them!” He did not look up at the planes. Later, we hit Barbar, a late-night post-nightclub shawarma joint where his mood became more pensive. Even then, before the first airstrikes, I think he too knew what was coming.

    Any pretense that the “party never stops in Beirut” was gone by the next morning when the airport was hit with what would be the first of many strikes. A naval blockade precluded any escape by boat. For those who could, the road to Damascus was the only option — and Lena, and Ali, urged us to take it. But the network and our production company were reluctant to sign off on what — even then — seemed a dodgy undertaking.

    We found ourselves in my hotel room, watching the airport get hit again: Me, camera people Tracey, Todd and Jerry, field producer Diane, our fixer — and Ali. Our fixer, at the urging of her father in Syria, tearfully agreed to join him there. Our driver, an hour earlier waiting outside, gassed up and ready to go, disappeared. Ali alone remained. Refused to leave us. “I am with you,” he said. But after observing numerous calls to and from his family in South Beirut, and seeing the way he was working the prayer beads between his fingers, the sword tattoo on his arm flexing and slackening nervously, we insisted he join them. (We later heard his house was flattened.) We were left to ourselves, emptying my mini-bar and trying to keep a stiff upper lip, telling stupid jokes, while the orange glow from the airport flared and subsided and finally died.

    After a series of very worried calls from the States, we are told to “stand by for ‘the Cleaner,'” a “security expert,” “like the Harvey Keitel guy in ‘Pulp Fiction,'” the man who will “get us out,” take us to a “safe house,” a “secure location,” “exfiltrate us” to safety. We are told to be packed, to be ready. To expect a call from “Mr. Wolfe.”

    At 3 a.m. I get the call. Shortly after, I meet the man in the lobby. I’d been expecting an ex-Green Beret — somebody with a thick neck, steel grey eyes, a tattoo saying “He Who Dares Wins,” an aged Dolph Lundgren type, all business and mysterious past. We’re expecting a midnight drive in a flatbed truck, maybe hidden under a tarp. Bribes at the border. A next-day rendezvous with a blacked-out helicopter. The man I meet is a short, nebbishy type — he looks like someone you’d meet at an office supply convention. He has two cars out front — his, and another driven by a woman associate. We load out quickly and race through empty streets, blowing through traffic lights — no directionals, last-minute turns — to the other side of town, to Le Royale, a mammoth hotel on a hill in the Christian section, fairly close to the American embassy. This, as it turns out, will be our home for the next week.

    Nearly a week later, they’ve brought in a polka band to play in the dining room of the “Mexican”-themed restaurant at Le Royale. Outside, on the pool deck, though the bar is unattended, they keep the radio cranked up to drown out the sounds of bombing — so as not to scare the kiddies. We wake up to molar-vibrating percussions and go to sleep to distant thunder. Afternoons, we watch as Beirut is dismantled. Bit by bit. First the sound of unseen jets flying overhead. Then silence. Then a “Boom!” Then a distant plume of smoke. Black, brown, white … the whole city south of us slowly growing more indistinct in the midday light under a constant, smoglike haze.

    It’s called “Kwik-Clot,” Mr. Wolfe tells us. And in case of arterial bleeding, it’s essential gear. He’s thinking of issuing us some — in case one of us should catch a bullet or shrapnel to the femoral artery. Mr. Wolfe has lived in Fucked-Up Country One and done work in Fucked-Up Countries Two and Three. He lives in the Most Legendarily Fucked-Up area of Lebanon — where they have a Hezbollah gift shop, for chrissakes. So we take him seriously — though this is not the kind of morale-boosting patter we want to hear. “Just pour in wound!” he tells us cheerily. It’s not, however, that harsh a segue from the “Know Your Exits” lecture, in which we are advised to “casually” explore all the nooks and crannies and “avenues of egress” from all points in the hotel.

    Or the “Vary Your Routines” briefing, where we are instructed to use a different elevator or service stairway when going to breakfast or meetings or heading to the pool. We are to eat, drink, swim at unpredictable times as we wait for news. “It takes three days of planning and surveillance to set up a kidnapping” says Mr. Wolfe, lowering his voice suddenly when a lone gentleman in casual clothes enters our area of the balcony and sits at a nearby table. “Amateur,” says Mr. Wolfe. “Look at how he’s got his face pointed straight out at sea, his ear cocked in our direction. Clumsy. Obvious.” Sure enough, the guy does seem suddenly suspicious, the way he moves closer to snap a few panoramic vistas with his cellphone camera. “Probably ISF,” sneers Mr. Wolfe. “Local boys.” Mr. Wolfe’s amusement — and pleasure in scaring the living shit out of us — rises in direct proportion to our paranoia. A room has been reserved for armed security — should we need it, he assures us. And our own rooms moved around so as to be close to each other — with one of them designated as a meeting point should we have to assemble at short notice. “We don’t want to be meeting in the lobby with everybody else.” We’ve practiced running down and through a rabbit warren of service exits, stairwells and passageways to Mr. Wolf’s “vehicles” in a sub-level of the parking lot. A security guard has been taken care of so as to lift the gate of a back entrance should circumstances require our fleeing through a back way. We are to stay close together — and be on time for meetings and briefings. There’s even a pop quiz: Mr. Wolfe hands out photographs of various design features and landmarks in the hotel and challenges us to tell him where, exactly, those locations are, and how we might exit from each. When Mr. Wolfe is not within shouting distance, his female associate keeps a close eye on us — even when we’re by the pool.

    And we’re by the pool a lot. We sit. We play cards. We tell the same dick jokes — halfheartedly, for sure. But by now, that’s all that keeps us from going crazy or bursting into tears. Our irregular “intel” (Mr. Wolfe’s favorite word) consists of printed analysis from a faraway corporate security company (useless speculation), BBC News (pretty good), local TV (excellent — though in Arabic), the Hizballah Channel (scary), Sky News (shockingly up-to-date and thorough), Some Guy From the Pool (almost always on target. He accurately predicts locations and times of airstrikes and seems to know which countries’ citizens are getting out and when), Somebody’s Mom Back in the States (excellent source), and Mr. Wolfe’s printouts from the AOL News Web site (always discouraging). We’ve heard the Israeli prime minister talk of knocking back Lebanon 20 years. And we believe him. We hear of pleasure boats filled with European nationals being turned back by Israeli ships. We call the embassy day after day and get no response. Nothing. Officially — after days of war — the State Department advice is to visit its Web site. Which contains nothing of use.

    We watch the city we’d barely begun to know — and yet already started to love — destroyed, seemingly (from where we’re sitting) without sense or reason. We watch Blackhawk helicopters fly in and out of the embassy and hear panicked rumors that they’re evacuating the ambassador (false) and “non-essential personnel” (true, I believe). Around the pool, the increasingly frustrated, mostly Lebanese Americans exchange rumors and information gleaned from never-ending cellphone conversations with we don’t know who: relatives in the south, friends back in America, people who’ve already made it out. Friends who’ve spoken to their congressman. Guys who work at CNN. The list goes on. The news maddening, incomplete, incorrect — alternately hopeful, terrifying and dismaying.

    The hotel empties and fills and empties again. We hear:

    “The Italians got out!”
    “The fucking Romanians got out!”
    “The French are gone!”

    What is clear — as far as we’re concerned — from all sources is that there is no official, announced plan. No real advice, or information, or public exit strategy or timetable. The news clip of President Bush, chawing open-mouthed on a buttered roll, then grabbing at another while Tony Blair tries to get him to focus on Lebanon — plays over and over on the TV, crushing our spirits and dampening all hope with every glassy-eyed mouthful. He seems intent on enjoying his food; Lebanon a tiny, annoying blip on an otherwise blank screen. I can’t tell you how depressing that innocuous bit of footage is to watch. That one, innocent, momentary preoccupation with a roll has a devastating effect on us that is out of all proportion. We’re looking for signs. And this, sadly, is all we have.

    And every day we hear worse. Cellphone towers, power stations, land lines are being targeted, says Mr. Wolfe. And we’re frankly terrified of the seemingly imminent moment when we can no longer stay in touch with the outside world, make or receive calls to the States — or more important, be notified by the embassy (should that ever happen). They’ve run out of bread and food in downtown stores.

    And yet, at the hotel, still safe and fed and liquored up in Bizarro World, we sit by the pool and watch the war. And wait, impotently — shamefacedly. As the hotel empties again — and only a few of us are left. Expectations fade and then die. Just bitterness and a sense of disgust remain. What to expect anymore? One hopes only for the little things: that they’ll fire up the pizza oven today. That they’ll open the bar early. That we might just maybe get an English language newspaper or magazine — or even a French one.

    A few miles away, of course, hopes are similarly downscaled — yet far, far more urgent:

    Will there be bread?
    Will there be water?
    Will the power come back on?
    Is my family OK?
    Will I die today?

    They’ve hit the little lighthouse by the port. While on one hand insisting that the Lebanese government do “something” about Hezbollah, they’ve shelled an army base, the main bridges and roads. The last roads out to Syria, says Some Guy by the Pool. An end or a pause is too much to hope for. Of that we are certain. And certainty — however terrible the truth — is something we cling to, an all too rare commodity. It’s uncertainty that’s the enemy, the thing we know will make us all crazy.

    In the end we are among the lucky ones. The privileged, the fortunate, the relatively untouched. Unlike the Lebanese Americans who make it out, we don’t leave homes and loved ones behind, we will get out and return to business as usual. To unbroken homes, intact families, friends and jobs. After a hideously disorganized cluster fuck at the eventual “assembly point” — a barely under control mob scene of fainting old people, crying babies, desperate families waving pink and white slips of paper, trying to get the attention of a few understaffed, underprepared and seemingly annoyed embassy personnel in baseball caps and casual clothes — we are put in the charge of the sailors and Marines of the USS Nashville who’ve hauled ass from Jordan on short notice to undertake a mission for which they are unrehearsed and inexperienced. Yet they perform brilliantly. The moment we pass through the last checkpoint into their control, all are treated with a kindness and humanity we can scarcely believe. Squared away, efficient, organized and caringly sensitive, the Marines break the crowd into sensibly spaced groups, give them shade and water, lead them single file to an open-ended landing craft at the water’s edge. They carry babies, children, heat-stroke victims, luggage. They are soft-spoken, casually friendly. They give out treats and fruit and water. They reassure us with their ease and professionalism.

    On the flight deck of the USS Nashville they’ve set up a refugee camp. I wake up on my folding cot and look around. With every group of traumatized evacuees — with every family, every group of children, there’s a Marine or two, chatting, exchanging stories, listening. They open their ship to us. They look so young. All of them. None looks over 17. “Where you from?” one asks me. I say, “New York” — and he tells me, “I ain’t ever been there. I’d like to.” His friends agree. They’ve never seen New York either. The mess serves tuna noodle casserole and mac and cheese and corn dogs. A sailor or Marine in a bright green dragon suit entertains children. We are kept informed. We are reassured. We are spoken to like adults. On the smoking deck, a Marine shows off a Reuter’s cover photo — taken only a few hours earlier — of himself, nuzzling two babies as he carries them through the surf to the landing craft. His buddies are razzing him, busting his balls for how intolerably big-headed he’s going to be — now that he’s “famous.” He looks at the picture and says, “You don’t know what it felt like, man.” His eyes well up.

    The last group from the beach is unloaded from the landing craft into the belly of the Nashville, and we’re off to Cyprus. Two battleships — including the USS Cole escorting us. A Lebanon I never got to know, a Beirut I didn’t get to show the world disappears slowly over the horizon — a beautiful dream turned nightmare. It’s not what I saw happen in Beirut that I feel like talking about, though that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? It’s not about what happened to me that remains an unfinished show, a not fully fleshed out story, or even a particularly interesting one. It feels shameful even writing this. It’s the story I didn’t get to tell. The Beirut I saw for two short days. The possibilities. The hope. Now only a dream.

    Visitors from Beirut

    July 30, 2006

    My friends who I wrote of before–Clare and John, and their son Georgio–are now “home” from Beirut, Lebanon. They were in church worshiping with us this morning. There are staying with John’s mother for the week, along with one of John’s sisters (the situation is complicated by the fact that John’s father, George, who was in church for the first time in a long time, lives in a home for people with Alzheimer’s).

    Of course, it was wonderful to have them safely with us today. But all they want to do is to go home.

    The students from AUB all got out safely, as well. Some of them got out over land. My friends tried to get out that way, too, but it was too difficult. And too dangerous.

    Clare’s father lives in Santa Barbara, and she looks forward to the rare opportunity to visit him while they are here. John “has some writing to do,” and a friend has offered him both workspace and living space in Chicago, so they will be spending some time there in the near future.

    But overall, they don’t know what it is they will be doing.

    All they want to do is to go home. And who can blame them?

    If war were to break out in Southern California and my hometown were to be bombed to the point that the only thing that made sense were for me and my family to leave, then that is what I/we would do. But I know that I would feel incomplete until I could return home.

    [By the way, I don't think that the idea of a war breaking out in Southern California--or any other place in the US--is unfathomable. People can only be pushed so far and so hard until they will start pushing back. How far are we from that point? Who knows... But it's all within the realm of possibility.]

    On the other hand, I would certainly like some kind assurance that there would be a “home” to return to. An assurance that Clare and John don’t have at this point.

    And so we prayed. We pray for peace every week. A special, dedicated prayer for peace that leads us into the closing of the service. Something that we can then do our best to try to carry out into the world with us. This morning we prayed a prayer excerpted from Arthur Waskow’s Kaddish. Maybe next week and the week after that and the week after that we should pray the same prayer…

    May the names of all who have died in violence and war
    be kept alight in our sight and in your Great Name,
    with sorrow that we were not yet able
    to shape a world in which they would have lived.

    May your Great Name lift Itself
    be still higher and more holy
    throughout the world that You have offered us,
    a world of majestic peaceful order
    that gives life to the Godwrestling folk
    through time and through eternity.

    You who make harmony
    in the ultimate reaches of the universe,
    teach us to make harmony
    within ourselves, among ourselves –

    and peace for the Godwrestling folk,
    the people Israel;
    for our cousins the children of Ishmael;
    and for all who dwell upon this planet.


    Focus on MY Human (and LGBT) Family!

    July 27, 2006

    I’m sure that by now, everyone has seen all of those cute little decals representing each of the family members on the rear windows of cars. I have an idea to put a zillion of them all over all of the windows of my car (I drive a Subaru Outback, BTW…), with the caption “My Family — The HUMAN Family.” These will be all kinds and shapes and sizes and ages and genders and whatever other variant I can think of (and find as a decal!).

    The following article was posted on The Advocate website. Shine on, Billy Porter!

    July 21, 2006

    Bully pulpit

    On Saturday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m., Broadway star Billy Porter will protest in song outside Focus on the Family as Soulforce completes its 1,000-watt March, Vigil, and Concert, confronting the antigay bigotry of James Dobson. As Porter prepares for the demonstration, he looks back at how Christianity affected his younger self.

    By Billy Porter

    There’s an old hymn that says, “This little light of mine / I’m going to let it shine / Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!” I used to sing this song in church when I was a little boy armed with the belief that the light inside of me was one that was worth shining. My voice was my direct connection to God, and I sang proudly in my Pentecostal church choir every week with the unwavering impression that God was a loving God and that I was one of his children. I was taught that God’s love was unconditional and that anyone could be the recipient of it—as long as they “believed in their hearts and spoke with their mouths.”

    As early as the age of 7 I remember the adults in my life engaging in conversations behind closed doors, whispering to my mother about how “my light” might be shining just a little too brightly. For you see, my light was not a small simple light, it was opalescent—a rainbow of effulgent light whose colors were synonymous with sin. I didn’t know why I felt sinful at the time; I just knew somewhere deep inside that I was. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for a healing. I prayed for my light to shine an appropriate and subtle white: “Dear Lord, whatever is inside of me that’s not pleasing to you—take it out.” Then puberty hit, and I realized what all the fuss was about. The whispering and private conversations even became personal attacks from the pulpit. It seemed like not a single service could go by without some passive-aggressive minister or evangelist brandishing Leviticus 18:22 in my face. It became so toxic that I stopped wanting even to go to church since every time I was there I was either being told that I was an abomination and a disgrace or that AIDS was punishment for my homosexual urges. Something I didn’t even have control over was causing an international plague. My light was dimming.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back came at the Believers Convention, where the now-famous televangelist Joyce Meyer was the headlining minister of the evening. The conference was happening in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and I was invited to be the soloist. Something in my spirit told me not to go, but my mother really wanted me to, so I accepted the invitation. My solo was situated in the service directly before Meyer was to bring forth “the word.” After finishing my song, I returned to my seat in the congregation, which was about three fourths of the way towards the back of the sanctuary. Meyer rose from her seat in the pulpit to preach, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Brother Porter, I want to talk to you. Won’t you stand up for me?”

    I stood.

    “The Lord spoke to me, and I have a word from Him. He told me to tell you that every time you come into the house of the Lord, you need to sit in the front pew. Because if you sit in the front pew every time you come into the house of the Lord, it’ll keep you straight.”

    There were audible gasps. I took the walk of shame to the front pew as the multiple thousands in the congregation glared in pious silence. Pastor Meyer proceeded to dive into her sermon and skillfully pull out some Bible verse that swirled her public outing of me into some message about living on the “straight and narrow.” My light was officially out.

    “This little light of mine / I’m going to let it…”

    I prayed to be fixed, but He didn’t do it. I prayed to be healed, but I was still a homo. I spent a decade rejecting religion. I took my inappropriate light and decided to shine her elsewhere. There was no place for me at the table where the feast of the Lord was going on. I allowed the dogmas and arbiters of the religious right to take my God away. I lurked silently in the shadows of shame while my gay brothers and sisters were dying. And then on September 12, 2001, I woke up and my voice was gone. The only thing that made me want to live was gone. I prayed. I asked the Lord why. And then came Jerry Falwell’s blame: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”

    And there it was again: my sexuality exposed as the cause of all the world’s horrors. The Lord spoke to me this time—directly—and I finally listened. “Speak up, and speak out, and I will give you voice.” So here I stand. Speaking up, speaking out, and letting my glorious light shine like it should. I recently sat in the New York City hospital room of my dear friend Kevin Aviance after he was savagely beaten on an East Village street for being gay, and I thought to myself, Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? I am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed with our nation. But I am the most disappointed with my African-American ‘Christian’ brothers and sisters who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the Bible to regurgitate the very same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago.

    I never considered myself an activist in the past. I respect that title too much to take it lightly. But with the recent increase in hate-bias attacks directed toward our community, and the struggle for us to gain the simplest of civil rights, I am filled with a raging sense of activism. Our bodies, our health, and our basic civil liberties are at stake. It is time to let the world know: We will not let you take our God away. We will not be ignored! We will not be denied! And if God is going to send us to a burning hell for being the people that He created us to be—we’ll see each and every one of you there.

    “Shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”

    • To find out more about the Soulforce 1,000-watt March, Vigil, and Concert, go to
    • Porter is a singer, dancer, actor, director, songwriter, and playwright whose most recent project was the lauded Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am. © 2006 LPI Media Inc.

    Bill Moyers for President?

    July 26, 2006

    Molly Ivins and others are talking about Bill Moyers running for President. She talks of his candidacy as being a way of addressing moral issues, but as if it were doomed to failure — even failure to get the Democratic Party nomination. The article below from “The Nation” addresses this, and says that Moyers could be a viable candidate. Who knows? It appears that Bill Moyers has quashed discussion on the subject (go to But stranger things have happened in American politics…

    There are not many people of Moyers’s status and caliber in American politics these days. Scroll down to read “There is No Tomorrow.” In this January, 2005 article, he talks of the American political landscape littered with elected officials whose constituents “are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act… For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed – an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.” He talks about Karl Rove whistling “Onward, Christian Soldiers” in the hallways of the White House. And he asks the critical question, “What has happened to our moral imagination?”

    Molly Ivins concludes her article by saying: To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at P.O. Box 309, Bernardsville, NJ 07924. I have an envelope and a stamp, and plenty of free return address labels… I think I’ll write to him myself!


    Bill Moyers for President? Absolutely!

    John Nichols Tue July 25

    The Nation — Molly Ivins is trying to get Democrats excited about the prospect of running Bill Moyers for president.

    “Dear desperate Democrats,” the nation’s most widely-read liberal newspaper columnist begins her latest missive. “Here’s what we do: We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It’s simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.”

    Ivins makes a great case for why her fellow Texan ought to be on the ballot in 2008.

    “Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War,” she writes. “Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He’s no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds–he doesn’t scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.”

    After making her case, however, Ivins adds what appears to be the “reality” section:

    “Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.”

    Ivins wants Moyers to make a sympbolic run, with the purpose of shaking up the Democratic party, and perhaps the nation.

    “It won’t take much money — file for him in a couple of early primaries and just get him into the debates,” the columnist explains. “Think about the potential Democratic candidates. Every single one of them needs spine, needs political courage. What Moyers can do is not only show them what it looks like and indeed what it is, but also how people respond to it. I’m damned if I want to go through another presidential primary with everyone trying to figure out who has the best chance to win instead of who’s right. I want to vote for somebody who’s good and brave and who should win.”

    But why limit this quest?

    Why ask Democratic primary voters to send a message when they can send the best man into the November competition and, if the stars align correctly, perhaps even to the White House?

    With all due regard to one of the finest journalists and finest Americans I know, I respectfully disagree with Molly Ivins — not on the merits of a Moyers candidacy, but on the potential.

    I’m not suggesting that Bill Moyers — with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working in recent years on media reform issues — is a sure bet to win the Democratic nomination or the presidency in 2008. I’m not even suggesting that he would be a good bet. But the politics of 2008 are already so muddled, so quirky and so potentially volatile that I believe — as someone who has covered my share of presidential campaigns — that Moyers could be a contender.

    Moyers would enter the 2008 race with far more Washington political experience than Dwight Eisenhower had in 1952, far more national name recognition than Jimmy Carter had in 1976 and far more to offer the country than most of our recent chief executives.

    Against the candidates who are lining up for the 2008 contest, Bill Moyers and his supporters would not need to make any excuses.

    After all, the supposed Democratic frontrunner is a former First Lady who ran her first election campaign just six years ago. One of the leading Republican contenders is a guy whose main claim to fame is that he did a good job of running the Olympics in Salt Lake City, while another is still best known as the son of a famous football coach. And the strongest Republican prospect, John McCain, is actually more popular with Democrats than with his own partisans.

    Consider the fact that a professional body builder is the governor of the largest state in the union, and that the list of serious contenders for seats in Congress and for governorships this year is packed with retired athletes, former television anchorpersons and bored millionaires, and it simply is not that big a stretch to suggest that someone with the government and private-sector experience, the national recognition and the broad respect that Bill Moyers has attained across five decades of public life could not make a serious run for the presidency.

    So, Molly, I’ll see your suggestion of Bill Moyers, and up the ante to suggest that Moyers really could be a contender.

    Copyright © 2006 The Nation


    There Is No Tomorrow
    By Bill Moyers
    The Star TribuneSunday 30 January 2005

    One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress.

    For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The offspring of ideology and theology are not always bad but they are always blind. And that is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

    One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the “rapture index.”

    These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre: Once Israel has occupied the rest of its “biblical lands,” legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

    I’ve reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation, where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man.” For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed – an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The rapture index – “the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity” – now stands at 153.

    So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? As Glenn Scherer reports in the online environmental journal Grist, millions of Christian fundamentalists believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but hastened as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

    We’re not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half of the members of Congress are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian-right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian Coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who before his recent retirement quoted from the biblical Book of Amos on the Senate floor: “The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land.” He seemed to relish the thought.

    Onward Christian Soldiers

    And why not? There’s a constituency for it. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Tune in to any of the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or flip on one of the 250 Christian TV stations across the country and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, “to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible?”

    These people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, America’s Providential History, which contains the following: “The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie … that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece.” However, “the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God’s earth … while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people.” No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” He turned out millions of the foot soldiers in this past election, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

    Once upon a time I thought that people would protect the natural environment when they realized its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It’s not that I don’t want to believe that – it’s just that I read the news and connect the dots.

    Immoral Imagination

    Mike Leavitt, the former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment – a mandate for an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources.

    The Environmental Protection Agency had even planned to spend $9 million – $2 million of it from the administration’s friends at the American Chemistry Council – to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children’s clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

    I read all this and then look at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer – pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; Thomas, age 10; Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, “Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.” And then I am stopped short by the thought: “That’s not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world.”

    And I ask myself: “Why? Is it because we don’t care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?”

    What has happened to our moral imagination?

    The news is not good these days. I can tell you that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free – free to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk.

    What we need is what the ancient Israelites called “hocma” – the science of the heart, the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does

    Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series “NOW with Bill Moyers” on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers’ remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

    10 Ways to Save the Lives of Abraham’s Children-Mourners’ Kaddish in Time of War

    July 25, 2006

    A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life

    Dear Friends,

    Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all the children of Abraham. Now they are dying at each others’ hands – in Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine as well as Iraq. Last week a rabbi wrote me asking for ten suggestions on how to protect lives in the present Middle East explosion. I wrote this list – which can be used by individuals or by religious congregations of any tradition.

    Just beneath it you will also find a Mourners Prayer – Kaddish – for Use in Time of War. It is rooted in a Jewish prayer, but the English interpretive version could be used by anyone.

    Please pass these on to anyone who might want to use them. Early tomorrow (Wednesday, July 26) morning I will be arraigned in NYC with 25 others on charges of refusing to disperse, for our protest opposing the use of torture as US policy and demanding the closure of Guantanamo. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    With blessings of shalom,

    Rabbi Arthur Waskow
    The Shalom Center



    1. Ask your US Senator to urge an immediate cease-fire and the creation of a strong UN force guarding against attacks in either direction across the Lebanese-Israeli boundary. For convenient letter-writing, go to –

    2. Send money to support Physicians for Human Rights in Israel in their work to take medical supplies to Palestinian hospitals in crisis. You can click to – http://www/, then click on the blue “Donate Now” button and be sure to write “Hospitals” in the “On behalf of” box.

    3. Send money to two trustworthy Lebanese relief organizations struggling to deal with the disaster:

  • A – Beneficiary: Lebanese Red Cross (Lebanon)
    Bank name: Audi Bank, Bab Idriss
    Account number: 841500
    Swift: audblbbx
  • B – Beneficiary: Hariri Foundation Lebanon Relief Fund
    (the money will be wired from the US to Lebanon;
    the foundation honors the Lebanese statesman who opposed Syrian domination and was assassinated.)
    Bank Name: Citibank
    8001 Wisconsin Avenue
    Bethesda, MD 20814
    Account #: 240 70249
    ABA#: 254070116
  • 4. Donate to Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, to heal those wounded in attacks on Israeli cities. Go to –

    5. Start receiving information from at least one of the American Jewish organizations dedicated to seeking peace through achieving a secure Israel, a viable Palestine, and an independent Lebanon. This list represents a wide spectrum of approaches within that understanding. Even if one disagrees with some aspects of their policy positions (and The Shalom Center often does), they carry valuable information.

  • Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice & Peace)
  • Tikkun Community / Network of Spiritual Activists
  • Americans for Peace Now
  • Israel Policy Forum Meretz USA (affiliated with a peace-oriented Israeli political party, Meretz).
  • The Shalom Center – subscribe to the free on-line SHALOM REPORT: click to –
  • Jewish Peace News. On-line reports sent by Jewish Voice for Peace, more critical of Israel than those groups listed above, but conduit for useful news reports.
  • 6. Read two quite different Israeli news sources:

  • One is the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on-line in English. It has a mildly dovish view of Israeli policy, and often carries reports of life in the occupied Palestinian territories. Check it out on –
  • Second: Subscribe (free) to Uri Avnery’s vigorous English-language on-line commentary on Israeli-Palestinian relationships:,
  • 7. Subscribe (free) to the on-line news service of Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), a Jerusalem-based source for a wide variety of news, analysis, and ideas. IPCRI is rooted in concern for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Go to – and click on “sign up.”

    8. Donate to support independent Israeli grass-roots organizations through the New Israel Fund.

    9. Use the book The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Muslims, and Christians (Beacon Press, 2006) as a guidebook to bringing American Jews, Christians, and Muslims together for discussion and after deep connection, possible action for peace. You can buy the book at 10% discount and free shipping by clicking to –

    10. Begin planning now for the shared sacred seasons in the fall of 2006 that include the Jewish sacred month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot); the Muslim sacred month of Ramadan; the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, and Worldwide Communion Sunday for Protestant and Orthodox Christians – bring the three Abrahamic communities together in prayer, learning, conversation, and if possible shared action. Look at – and

    11. (Like a baker’s dozen:) Pray for peace, making explicit that you mean not only peace in general but also specifically peace among the families of Abraham. For example: In the Jewish prayer of the kaddish, the last sentence traditionally asks for peace “among us and all the people of Israel.” Some communities have been adding also “for all the children of Ishmael and all those who love upon this planet,” thus – Oseh shalom bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom alenu – v’al kol Yisrael, V’al kol Yishmael, V’al kol yoshvei tevel – v’imru Ameyn!


    This kaddish includes changes in the last line of the Hebrew text. The interpretive English addresses the meaning of “shmei rabbah,” the “Great Name,” which is interpreted as that name which includes all the names of all beings in the universe; it addresses why in the midst of saying we cannot praise, celebrate, or sing to God enough to meet the Reality, we also say we cannot CONSOLE (nechamot) God enough; it focuses the next-to-last paragraph of the Sh’ma on the loss of Jewish life, in our own family; and in the last verse prays for shalom for us and for the children of Ishmael and for all peoples. – AW


    Yitgadal V’yit’kadash Shmei Rabah May the Great Name,
    through our expanding awareness and our fuller action,
    lift Itself to become still higher and more holy;May our names,
    along with all the names of all the beings in the universe,
    live within the Great Name;May the names of all whom we can no longer touch but who have touched our hearts and lives,
    remain alight within our memories and in the Great Name;May the names of all who have died in violence and war
    be kept alight in our sight and in the Great Name,
    with sorrow that we were not yet able
    to shape a world in which they would have lived.Congregation: AmeinB’alma di vra chi’rooteh v’yamlich malchuteh b’chayeichun,
    u’v’yomeichun, u’v’chayei d’chol beit yisrael, b’agalah u’vzman kariv, v’imru: –
    May Your Great Name lift Itself
    still higher and more holy
    throughout the world that You have offered us,
    a world of majestic peaceful order
    that gives life to the Godwrestling folk
    through time and through eternity –
    And let’s say, Amein.

    Congregation: Amein

    Y’hei sh’mei rabbah me’vorach
    l’olam almei almaya.
    So therefore may the Great Name be blessed,
    through every Mystery and Mastery
    of every universe.

    Yitbarach, v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar, v’yitromam, v’yitnasei,
    v’yithadar, v’yit’aleh, v’yithalal – Shmei di’kudshah, – Brich hu,

    Congregation: Brich Hu

    May the Great Name be blessed and celebrated,
    Its beauty honored and raised high;
    may It be lifted and carried,
    may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness – Blessed be!

    L’eylah min kol bir’chatah v’shir’atah tush’be’chatah v’nechematah,
    de’amiran be’alma, v’imru: Amein

    Congregation: Amein

    Even though we cannot give You
    enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation
    to match what we wish to lay before You –
    and though we know that today there is
    no way to console You
    when among us some who bear Your Image in our being
    are slaughtering others
    who bear Your Image in our being.

    Yehei Shlama Rabah min Shemaya v’chayyim aleinu v’al kol Yisrael,
    v’imru Amein.

    Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name
    flow a great and joyful harmony and life for us and for all our family,
    the Godwrestling folk;

    Congregation: Amein

    Oseh Shalom bi’m’romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael
    v’al kol yishmael v’al kol yoshvei tevel – v’imru: Amein.

    You who make harmony
    in the ultimate reaches of the universe,
    teach us to make harmony
    within ourselves, among ourselves –
    and peace for the Godwrestling folk,
    the people Israel;
    for our cousins the children of Ishmael;
    and for all who dwell upon this planet.

    Congregation: Amein

    Re: Note from Lebanon

    July 24, 2006

    My friends who were in Beirut–the whole family–have been safely evacuated from Lebanon and are either en route to or in Cyprus. I learned this from other friends, and not directly. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to contact your elected officials about the situation and steps that can be taken to establish a cease-fire and move toward peace. If you haven’t, please take a minute right now to do so.

    Note from Lebanon

    July 17, 2006

    [AUB is American University of Beirut - . The woman writing the note is Clare. John is her husband, and the son of a couple at my church; they were educational missionaries and he grew up in Alexandria, Egypt--he has never felt comfortable in the US, and can never be anything but an American in the Middle East. Georgio is their 7-ish year old son, who was the first American child born in post-Civil War Lebanon, after Americans were allowed to return to the country.]

    It’s best to make a telephone call the offices of elected officials or to send a telegram. Second most effective is to fax or send a regular letter. Third is to send e-mails. For contact information, go to No matter: do something!

    Dear Sonnie,

    Thanks so much for your note. Yeah, so you know that they blew up the airport runways the day before Georgio and I were supposed to leave? And they just keep blowing things up. It’s incredible. But of course they’re focusing on those most heavily populated, poorest areas, rather than where we live. We just get the big booms and bangs off and on, day and night. It’s a remarkable experience. I’m fascinated by my own reactions, as well as those of the people around me. Sometimes I’m laughing and other times crying. We’re part of a nice community that already was pretty close. Everyone is constantly calling one another for news updates and clarification of the countless rumors that are going around, and just being generally supportive.

    Unfortunately, both John and I can only access email and the internet from work. My computer at home died about a month ago, and I didn’t get a chance to replace it, but we’re all fine. Since we live in AUB faculty housing we have enough water and generator-powered electricity (while the rest of the city goes
    without much of the time). They say AUB has supplies to keep electricity and water running for 3 weeks. And we feel safe on campus. So I haven’t felt any
    overwhelming urge to leave. As long as we’re in our home and together and feeling safe, I’m fine (well, relatively speaking; it’s still stressful and particularly hard to give Georgio the time and patience and attention that he needs).

    John can’t leave until he’s taken care of the 70 or so students from abroad enrolled in the summer Arabic program here (since he’s the Director). He’s at the office from about 7am to 7pm, dealing with their needs and their parents’ concerns. We may end up having to leave without him, in which case I’ll be upset. Here too is where it’s really hard being a parent. We need to get Georgio away from this; it’s not good to hear him talk about wanting to kill Israelis. I keep saying that they are moms and dads, and have moms and dads too, and we need to stop the killing rather than having more. Why can’t the guys doing the shooting get that through their heads?

    So, that’s where we are right now. People keep asking what I’m going to do. I don’t know. I’m just taking it a day at a time. Somehow I’m sleeping well, as is Georgio, who’s also drinking tons of milk. I guess his body instinctively knows that the calcium will help deal with the stress. We put him to sleep in our bed, then move him into a “nest” on the floor between the bed and the closet, and far from the windows just in case. So many precautions to take that you’d never think of normally.

    I’m hopping mad at the US government, which of course is nothing new. They’re sending an aircraft carrier to evacuate the Americans here, and they’re going
    to charge us to get on that boat, and all the while they’re footing the bill for all those bombs they’re dropping here, and they’re re-fueling the jets that drop the bombs. I called my senators and congressman to protest our support for Israeli actions here and to beg them to take a stand against what Israel is doing. You’d be doing me a favor if you did the same. Perhaps you already have.

    It’s terribly sad what’s happening here. I guess we’ll be there soon, and then we’ll have to figure out how to get back to our lives here… somehow.

    Bye now. Love, Clare

    NY Times Op-Ed: Too Good for Marriage

    July 15, 2006

    July 14, 2006
    Op-Ed Contributor

    Too Good for Marriage

    New Haven

    LAST week, New York’s highest court voted 4-to-2 that a legislative ban on same-sex marriage did not violate the state Constitution. In doing so, it added to the patchwork of state rulings on the issue, including those of Indiana and Arizona (which similarly upheld legislative bans) and Massachusetts (which struck down a legislative ban).

    What’s noteworthy about the New York decision, however, is that it became the second ruling by a state high court to assert a startling rationale for prohibiting same-sex marriage — that straight couples may be less stable parents than their gay counterparts and consequently require the benefits of marriage to assist them.

    The critical question, expressed in a plurality opinion by three members of the New York court, is whether a “rational legislature” could decide that the benefits of marriage should be granted to opposite-sex couples but not to same-sex couples. The opinion then answered in the affirmative with two different arguments. While both related to the interests of children, they differed significantly in vintage and tone.

    The more traditional argument stated that the Legislature could reasonably suppose that children would fare better under the care of a mother and father. Like most arguments against gay marriage, this “role model” argument assumes straight couples are better guides to life than gay couples.

    And like other blatantly anti-gay arguments, it falls apart under examination. In a decision last month in a case concerning gay foster parents, the Arkansas Supreme Court found no evidence that children raised by gay couples were disadvantaged compared with children raised by straight couples.

    But the New York court also put forth another argument, sometimes called the “reckless procreation” rationale. “Heterosexual intercourse,” the plurality opinion stated, “has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not.” Gays become parents, the opinion said, in a variety of ways, including adoption and artificial insemination, “but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.”

    Consequently, “the Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples.”

    To shore up those rickety heterosexual arrangements, “the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only.” Lest we miss the inversion of stereotypes about gay relationships here, the opinion lamented that straight relationships are “all too often casual or temporary.”

    When an Indiana court introduced this seemingly heterophobic logic last year in upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage, I thought it was a cockeyed aberration. But after both New York City and New York State presented similar logic in oral arguments, and the court followed suit, I began to understand the argument’s appeal: it sounds nicer to gays.

    It also sounds more desperate. New York’s ban on same-sex marriage is based on provisions enacted in 1909. It is preposterous to suggest the Legislature promulgated and retained the law because it believed gays to be better parents. Moreover, as New York’s chief judge, Judith Kaye, pointed out in her dissent, even if marriage were a response to the dangers of “reckless procreation,” excluding gay couples from marriage in no way advances the goal of responsible heterosexual child-rearing. “There are enough marriage licenses to go around for everyone,” Judge Kaye noted.

    This is not the first time courts have restricted rights with a flourish of fond regards. In 1873, the United States Supreme Court upheld an Illinois statute prohibiting women from practicing law. Concurring in that judgment, Justice Joseph Bradley observed that the “natural and proper timidity and delicacy” of women better suited them to “the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.”

    Hostile rulings delivered in friendly tones can take longer to overturn, as evidenced by the century that passed before members of the Supreme Court reversed their thinking about women and, in a 1973 opinion in a sex discrimination case, recognized that confining women in the name of cherishing them put them “not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”

    We should not need a century to unmask the “reckless procreation” argument as a new guise for an old prejudice. The “reckless procreation” argument sounds nicer — and may even be nicer — than the plainly derogatory “role model” argument. But equality would be nicer still.

    Kenji Yoshino,a professor at Yale Law School,is the author of “Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights.’’

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

    Real Christians Don’t Gay-Bash (by Jim Rigby)

    July 13, 2006

    cross posted from:


    Real Christians Don’t Gay Bash

    Progressive Christians tend to be nonjudgmental and to feel that challenging the intolerance of others is itself intolerant. For that reason we often sit by silently when Fundamentalist Christians criticize homosexual persons. We tend to think of this as being open minded.

    Not that long ago, it was considered consistent to be a Christian, and yet, hold slaves.

    The day came when slavery was understood as an affront to the gospel itself. I want to suggest that the day has come when Christians must declare that gay bashing is an attack on the gospel and that real Christians do not participate in any form of discrimination.

    Several years ago, I was asked to do the funeral of a gay man who had been beaten to death in a hate crime. At that time, I had never thought deeply about the danger many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face in this culture. That week as I worked on the service, I kept hearing a local “Christian” radio station blaming gay and lesbian people for everything wrong in America. By the end of the week I understood the link between religious hate speech and the funeral I was performing.

    I know that critics of homosexuality do not consider themselves to be hateful. They would say they “love the sinner but hate the sin.” If the shoe were on the other foot, however, and someone were attacking their families, trying to take their children away, and constantly working to pass legislation to deprive them of basic civil rights, at some point they would understand that “homophobia” is too mild a word for such harassment. “Hatred” is the only proper term.

    I was raised in Dallas, Texas and had classmates who were in the Klan. I remember that they did not consider themselves to be attacking other people. They perceived themselves to be defenders of Christian America. Their “religion” consisted of an unrelenting attack on people who were black, Jewish or homosexual. If anyone challenged these views, these Klan members considered themselves under attack and believed that their right to free exercise of religion was being threatened. In other words, they felt that harassing other people was a protected expression of their own religious faith.

    In the Gospel, biblical literalists and judgmental people were the negative example in many of the stories. The point of those stories was to teach us the hypocrisy of judgmental religion. When a woman was caught in adultery, the Biblical literalists lined up to protect family values. They pointed out that the Bible literally says that adulterers are to be stoned. If Jesus took the Bible seriously, they claimed, he would have to participate in the mandated biblical punishment of an adulteress.

    Instead of following scripture, Jesus tells the woman to get her life together and tells everyone else to drop their stones of judgment. The only way to take this story seriously is to conclude that real Christians don’t use the bible to condemn other people.

    It violates the teaching of Christ to say that God will get angry if America does not confront homosexuality as a sin. Jesus did not mention homosexuality and it is a lie to say he did. Furthermore, Jesus said “judge not or you will be judged.” These false prophets are saying “judge or else you will be judged.”

    Jesus was kind and understanding, but he was not silent about those who abused the vulnerable. He called them “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Christians must follow the example of Jesus and confront those vicious predators who use the Christian religion as a camouflage for bullying. We must be as understanding and kind as we can be, but to be tolerant of the oppression of others is not true tolerance.

    I believe the time has come to say that genuine followers of Jesus Christ do not participate in discrimination against gay and lesbian persons. Is it intolerant to challenge intolerance? Are we doing the same thing as those we are challenging?

    Gay bashing is not just an opinion, it is an assault. Just as the Klan did, religious fundamentalists have a right to believe that homosexuality is a sin. They even have a right to preach a message of hate. But when they harass people in public, it is time for Christians to rise to challenge their intolerance. We have an obligation to protect our neighbors from harassment and slander, especially when it is done in our name.

    It is time to say that gay bashing is not only wrong, it is unchristian. If Christianity is grace, then judgment is the ultimate apostasy. If Christianity is love, then cruelty is the ultimate heresy.

    Watch California marriage equality hearing online Monday 7/10

    July 7, 2006

    News from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

    The California Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments in Woo v. California and five other cases that will decide whether excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution on Monday, July 10, 2006. The proceedings will be from 9am to 12 noon and 1:30pm to 3:30pm PST.

    The California Channel will offer a satellite link for other television networks as well as a live streaming videocast of the oral arguments on its Web site at A live audiocast of the oral arguments will be available at the “Press Release” link of the First Appellate District’s Web site located here. –>

    NCLR Legal Director, Shannon Minter will be arguing before the Court of Appeal in Woo v. California and three other cases, representing Equality California, Our Family Coalition, and sixteen same-sex couples. NCLR’s co-counsel are Heller Ehrman LLP, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the Law Firm of David C. Codell.

    The National Center for Lesbian Rights website is

    Equality advocates look to California

    July 6, 2006

    Ignorance is one thing… LYING is something altogether different. It’s the extension of the Bush big lie philosophy: tell a lie often enough and people will believe it. That has always been a critical element of the war on LGBT people.

    Equality advocates look to California
    Ann Rostow, PlanetOut Network
    Thursday, July 6, 2006 / 10:30 AM
    SUMMARY: Activists condemn the N.Y. anti-marriage ruling and pin hope on a case unfolding in California, where existing law is more gay-friendly.

    New York activists staged rallies across the state Thursday night as the community digested the discouraging 4-2 high court ruling upholding the state’s biased marriage laws.

    Throughout the day, LGBT groups and allies condemned the lightly reasoned majority decision, both for its end result and for its reliance on prejudiced notions of gay families. And they looked to California, where equality advocates will argue Monday for same-sex marriage before a state appellate court in San Francisco.

    The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Matt Foreman called Thursday’s decision “insulting,” “tortured” and “intellectually strained.” The Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese characterized the majority analysis as “archaic,” “rooted in ignorance and completely contradicted by the facts of today.” The ACLU said the high court “ignored the advice of the leading child health and welfare organizations as well as decades of social science research.”

    In San Francisco, the National Center for Lesbian Rights wrote that the courts in California are “unlikely” to follow New York’s lead.

    On Monday, NCLR legal director Shannon Minter will argue the case for same-sex marriage before a three-judge panel of the San Francisco area appellate court. The court is expected to spend six hours listening to debate in a coordinated group of six marriage cases, led by the NCLR’s Woo v. Lockyer.

    As Minter pointed out Thursday, California is well ahead of New York in terms of its civil rights policies, and now offers a domestic partner program that carries virtually all of the rights of marriage in the state. Unlike in New York, the state’s attorneys are not advancing specifically anti-gay arguments. Instead, they are trying to insist that California already treats both gay and straight couples equally, and that retaining the historical definition of marriage is a harmless bow to tradition.

    As they challenge the very concept of a separate-but-equal institution, Minter and his colleagues will be able to remind the court of what Minter called “a proud legacy of standing up for personal dignity and individual freedom.” In 1948, the California Supreme Court was the first state tribunal to rule that bans on mixed race marriages were unconstitutional, taking that unpopular stand fully 20 years before the U.S. Supreme Court struck miscegenation laws throughout the country.

    Long before the California cases make their way through the appellate court and into the California Supreme Court, marriage rulings will be handed down by two other top courts.

    In Washington, marriage advocates have been waiting over 16 months for a decision in two combined marriage cases that were argued before the justices in March 2005. By contrast, the New York Court of Appeals issued its ruling barely a month after oral arguments were conducted last May.

    In New Jersey, oral arguments were held last February, and a decision is expected late this summer, perhaps in August.

    Hopes for a marriage victory have always been high in New Jersey, where the court and the state have a reputation for courage and respect for civil rights. Washington was once considered a toss up, but the lengthy delay has encouraged some community leaders, who reason that the court would have ruled quickly had the majority decided to uphold the status quo.

    A ruling from California is well down the road, but as Minter indicated, the state Legislature and the state courts have a history of blazing trails and advancing gay rights. In November, California’s Legislature became the first in the country to legalize same-sex marriage by statute, passing a bill that was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Marriage equality cases are also under way at the appellate court level in Maryland, and in the lower courts of Connecticut and Iowa.

    Copyright © 1995-1999 PlanetOut Corporation. All Copyright & Trademark Rights Reserved.

    The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children

    July 6, 2006

    COMMENTARY (from the American Academy of Pediatrics)

    In all its work, the AAP is committed to calling attention to the inextricable link between the health and well-being of all children, the support and encouragement of all parents, and the protection of strong family relationships. This analysis was prepared to bring to light the legal, financial, and psychosocial ramifications of recent and proposed public-policy initiatives affecting same-gender parents and their children.

    Civil marriage is a legal status that promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means. Civil marriage can help foster financial and legal security, psychosocial stability, and an augmented sense of societal acceptance and support. Legal recognition of a spouse can increase the ability of adult couples to provide and care for one another and fosters a nurturing and secure environment for their children. Children who are raised by civilly married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents.

    Gay and lesbian people have been raising children for many years and will continue to do so in the future; the issue is whether these children will be raised by parents who have the rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage. Same-gender couples are denied the right to civil marriage in every state except Massachusetts and the right to civil union except in Connecticut and Vermont. The federal government and other state governments do not recognize those civil marriages and civil unions.

    There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and any measure of a child’s emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.

    “The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children” (see the complete article at


    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.