Guide to Conducting Ta’anit Teshuvah
A Public Fast During the Jewish High Holy Days
For Palestinian Human Rights
An initiative of Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
and Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
with Ta’anit Tzedek/Fast for Gaza
and The Fellowship of Reconciliation
It is a tradition for the pious to fast from morning until evening during the Ten Days of Teshuvah, as it is written, “I am with them in distress.” (Psalm 91:15)
In order to prepare for these days of reflection, we ask:
Who is driven from the land and who is invited to settle?
Who weeps amidst the rubble of her house and who destroys the family home?
Who uproots a neighbor’s tree and who replants them in the ground?
Who must choose between washing her body and a cup of tea
and who waters her lawn?
Who is crushed by bulldozer and who drives the tank?
Whose is left to bleed to death and who is rushed to the hospital?
Who sits in prison and who locks the prison door.
Who is detained at checkpoints and who travels freely throughout the land?
Who is blind folded and who ties the knot?
Whose skin burns and who drops the bomb?
Who is shot dead harvesting wheat and who fires the gun?
Only acts of courageous love will annul injustice
And spread peace throughout the land.
In light of the massive violation of Palestinian human rights, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence and Ta’anit Tzedek invite concerned individuals to participate in a seven day public fast to end the violation of Palestinian human rights.
Fasting gives witness to public calamities. The ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights is a public calamity. We are fasting to lament the disastrous closure of Gaza, the constant seizure of Palestinian lands, the lack of freedom of movement that endangers Palestinian health and welfare and the ongoing use of combat weapons against innocent civilians.
Fasting is a form of lament. We mourn the death and injury of tens of thousands of people caused by Israeli enforcement of the infrastructure of occupation. We call on an end to the systematic violence described in The Goldstone Report and many other first hand accounts of occupation.
Fasting is an act of remorse. How can we observe The Ten Days of Repentance without a detailed acknowledgment of the misdeeds committed against the Palestinian people in our name? Al chet sheh chatanu. For these misdeeds we ask forgiveness. We regret and ask forgiveness for home demolitions, uprooting olive trees, destruction of wells and cisterns, denial of access to health care, deportation, internal transfer, forced closure, curfew, military checkpoints, separation barriers, verbal abuse, beatings, destruction of personal property, torture, targeted killings, administrative detention; bulldozing of entire villages, use of human shields, refugee camps, firing live ammunition at children, stripping people naked in the street, dropping phosphorus bombs and the systematic targeting of water treatment centers, sewage plants, hospitals, mosques, schools, universities, businesses and fields for destruction. These things and more we regret.
Fasting is a call to action. We are fasting to promote a call for meaningful nonviolent action dedicated to ending occupation. We are inspired by the Palestinian community along with their Israeli solidarity partners to recommend the following actions:
a) Undertake a public fast to give witness to the violation of Palestinian human rights
b) Send boats with humanitarian aid to break the siege of Gaza
c) Use the media and public forums to advocate for Palestinian human rights. Write letters to the editor, use facebook, create You Tube videos, oranize a speaking tour for Palestinian activists.
d) Take part in direct nonviolent protest in the streets of your city or in the streets of Israel and Palestine. Use puppets and theatre to make a point.
e) Participate in and support boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns
f) Lobby Congress, local politicians and opinion makers to cut military spending to Israel until it abides by human rights
g) Strengthen the solidarity movement by networking with others. Create a multifaith, multicultural and intergenerational solidarity circle in your community.
h) Support women and youth as leaders in the movement.
i) Challenge Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-semetic racism.
j) Plant a peace garden, draw a public mural, organize your campus, go on a delegation, sell Palestinian products in your local co-op.
Fasting is an act of solidarity. People of all faith and cultural traditions are invited to join a morning to evening public fast from the third of Tishri through the fast of Yom Kippur in order to demand a new era of respect for Palestinian human rights. You are welcome to fast for all or any part of this period of time. We hope to attract a minyan of ten individuals around the country who will fast during the entire period.
Ta’anit Teshuvah: Fasting is an act of reconciliation
Fasting is regarded as an act of reconciliation if it is undertaken as part of a series of meaningful actions that remedy an unjust situation. As it is written,
“ It is not sackcloth and fasting that enables teshuvah~reconciliation, but acts of goodness and meaningful transformation.” (BT Tan’anit 16a)
Reconciliation is the primary religious obligation associated with the High Holy Days. In order to fulfill the obligation to reconcile after a relationship has sustained injury we are called upon to undertake four sets of actions:
1) Haratah: Cultivate empathy for the injured party. In order to feel empathy we have to overcome layers of denial that include blaming the victim, minimizing the extent of the damage, feeling helpless to change the situation, and moving beyond symbolic action in behalf of change. This requires an personal commitment to facing the problem with the full force of our spiritual capacity.
It involves healing our own wounds and empowering ourselves to become agents of change instead of victims of circumstance.
2) Vidui: Acknowledge the source and extent of the injury. This is the truth telling stage. Once we have accepted the dimensions of our role in the conflict, we can begin to educate ourselves and others about the dimensions of the confict. Education comes through acts of solidarity and relationship building with those directly targeted by the system of injustice.
“Those who benefit from the structures of oppression are dependent on the people they oppress and are equally in need of liberation. The will and strength to end the oppression and violence comes from those who bear the oppression and violence in their own lives and very rarely from privileged and powerful persons and nations… In facing nonviolence, should we ‘submit, become bitter, collaborate, do nothing about the forces that control our lives? Do we accommodate, comply or manipulate?
The alternative is to resist. Resistance challenges the system’s values and categories. Resistance speaks its own truth to power, and shifts the ground of struggle to its own terrain. Resistance is often thought of as negative. However, resistance is the refusal to be neglected and disregarded. To resist is to be human.
None of us can resist all the time, in every area of life. We must choose our battles, meaning we must choose the priorities of struggle.”
Jean Zaru, Palestinian Quaker
Vidui or truth telling can be a painful process. We have to prepare ourselves for push back, silencing and hate speech in response to the public fast. Work in support of Palestinian human rights will inevitably draw us into a broader anti-oppresion framework. We will most likely experience Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism and, in some cases, anti-semitism. The need for clarity and compassion is an important antidote.
3) Engage in acts of reparative justice in order to heal the injury.
“The process of searching for common ground and learning to respect each other as individuals are important and often result in comforting personal feels. However, in order to build and sustain alliances, inequalities in power and privilege rooted in the broader sociopolitical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be addressed. Experiences of oppression cannot be reconciled simply through interpersonal processes that focus on how we treat each other as individuals in an artificially controlled environment of a dialogue group.”*
This is not the time for dialogue without action. The degree of injury is so severe, that we must first and foremost recognize the need to engage in acts of non-cooperation that relieve suffering and promote constructive peace building.
This requires waging a liberation campaign that disturbs the status quo. That is why the vast majority of Palestinians along with Israeli resisters support some form of boycott, divestment or sanctions. The use of BDS moves us beyond symbolic acts to efforts that confront state and institutional power with the power of the grassroots. Although not widely accepted, boycott, divestment and sanctions is the next step in creating a movement for change. There are of course other options. However, humanitarian aid does not alter an unjust situation. If fact, it preserves the status quo. That is why Palestinian civil society prefers the nonviolent option of exerting economic pressure: to make institutional and policy changes in the status quo.
4) When confronted with the same set of circumstances, do not repeat the misdeed. Rather, acts in ways that build peace instead of causing public harm.
Fourteen peace plans including the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Accords, the Saudi Plan, the Road Map and other initiatives have not alleviated occupation
or produced a peace treaty. Greater Israel is an on-the-ground reality. The West Bank and Gaza are isolated from each other. Refugees remain invisible and the settlement process continues unabated. The two-state solution is in serious trouble
and the majority of Israelis and Palestinians no longer believe it will happen. Therefore, our actions from this point onward need to be conducted in a new way. We have to think outside the box. We cannot think outside the box without forming enduring relationships with Palestinians and Israelis who are working together to create meaningful change.
May this public fast encourage us to form new partnerships and take new steps. The future we shape is one where people live together as good neighbors, no matter what political solution finally emerges that establishes the parameters of peace. Peace on the ground will be shaped by civil society. How are we preparing the way?
Suggested Calendar of Events for Seven Days of Public Fasting
from Saturday evening September 11th through Yom Hakippurim
Jewish days begin at sundown and lasts until the appearance of three starts on the evening of the following day. Each day of the fast includes a public fast site along designated for fasting and conversation as well as at least one public action.
Saturday Evening September 11th: The initiatory multifaith meal and declaration of intention
Sunday September 12th: Taschlich: Launching of a symbolic flotilla
Monday September 13th: A public action in front of a Jewish Federation, Israeli consulate or US government building
Tuesday September 14th: lobby local government officials
Wednesday September 15th: a conversation or action in support of a local BDS initiative, or other Palestinian initiative for change
Thursday September 16th: a public action on a local campus
Friday September 17th
Day time: Workshop on the Palestinian nonviolent movement and Israeli conscientious objection: sumud, intifada and breaking the silence
Kol Nidre: taking of the Shomer Shalom vow of Jewish nonviolence
Saturday September 18th The Day of Atonement
Afternoon workshop on Jewish Nonviolence
Public breaking of the fast at sundown. Next steps
Saturday evening September 11th
The initatory meal and ceremony:
Organizers and participants in the public fast are invited to begin with a meal in honor of the vision of peace and reconciliation we are trying to establish. If you are scheduled for a multifaith gathering in honor of September 11th, you can include your declaration of the public fast as part of your witness.
Declaration of the Ta’anit Teshuvah: A Fast of Reconciliation
I, ______________, take upon myself a public fast from the third of Tishri through Yom Hakippurim in order to fulfill the obligation of Ta’anit Teshuvah. May this fast purify my heart so I can serve the cause of reparative justice with compassion and truth. I undertake this fast to call for an end to the closure of Gaza, an end to the seizure of Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and throughout Israel, an end to the use of combat weapons against innocent civilians and an end to occupation. When the period of fasting is over, I will continue to fulfill my obligation to engage in acts of reparative justice. May this fast be for a blessing. Amen.
Guide to Fasting from morning to evening:
All eating and drinking is prohibited from sun up to sundown. Sick and very weak people whose health requires eating or drinking are exempt. One is required to eat if there are health reasons to do so, especially in the case of serious illness. A person who may become sick by fasting is also exempt. All necessary medicine must be taken. Pregnant women are exempt as are those who gave birth within twenty four months before the fast or are nursing children. Children are discouraged from fasting. B’nai mitzvah age children can fast. If one mistakenly eats, regardless of how much, continue the fast from the moment you remember. Bathing, washing and other regular behavior is permitted.
On Yom Kippur we also refrain from eating for 24 hours and do not wear leather, anoint with perfume or oil, engage in sexual activity.
Wearing white: For those who want to publicize the fast, you are invited to wear white, which is a custom of this time of year. You can also create a wearable sign with a name tag that says: Ta’anit Teshuvah: Fast for Palestinian Human Rights
A public fast each day
During part of each day, find a public park or meeting place to set up
an information table or tent as part of your fast. You can use this opportunity
to create informal conversations related to your local organizing work.
Invite individuals from all the groups in your local area you think would like to participate in supporting the fast to join you in your chosen site.
Jewish texts on fasting
“You fast and yet you complain, I cannot see!”
You piously afflict yourselves, bow your heads, wear sackcloth,
rub yourself in ashes, yet you know nothing.
You fast and then you fight with each other.
You afflict your soul and then beat each other with a violent fist!
You do not fast to bring Me into your life.
Is this the fast I have chosen?
You call (what you do) a fast acceptable to Adonai?
This is the fast Adonai has chosen.
Shatter the hold of oppression
Unbind the yoke of unethical action from around your neck.
Let the oppressed go free
Break the hold of greed
And give your bread to the hungry.
Bring the poor cast out in the street into your house.
Cover those who are naked and do not withhold a helping hand
from your kin, from all of humanity.
Then shall your inner light break forth as the light of dawn.”
from the book of Isaiah 58
Mishneh Taanit 2:1
What was the ritual performed during fast days?
They would bring out the ark into the town square
and put dust and ashes upon it, and on the head of the mayor
and the head of the religious authority
and on each and every person present
covered their heads in dust and ashes.
The elder would speak words of rebuke:
It does not say about the people of Nineveh that Adonai
saw their sackcloth and their fasting
bur rather that God saw their deeds
for they turned away from their misdeeds.
As it is written, “Rend your hearts, not your clothes.” (Joel 2)
How shall we observe the fast days?
Abaye said: From morning until midday, we deal with local matters.
(Masekhet Ta’anit 12b) Rashi comments: a thorough examination of witnesses, to look into the dealings of the people of the city, if they have stolen, if there is theft or violence between them, and then we create reconciliation between them.
SUPPORTERS OF THE FAST
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, author of the Handbook, is one of the first eight women to serve as rabbi. She currently lives at the Community of Living Traditions in Stonypoint, NY. CLT is a multifaith residential community dedicated to nonviolence and peace advocacy.Lynn is co-founder of the Muslim Jewish Peacewalk, on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a contributing editor of Fellowship Magazine and co-founder of Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence. Lynn is a storyteller, percussionist and peace activist.
Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence celebrates a compassion centered, eco-kosher, wildly creative, human rights honoring, inter-generational, multi-cultural and mulitfaith welcoming, lgbtq embracing, text studying, story telling, ceremonial making and nonviolent Jewish way of life.
Shomer Shalom supports individuals who are part of the Palestine Solidarity Movement including Israeli conscientious objects, practitioners of BDS,
and all those struggling to end all forms of oppression and occupation. The Shomer Shalom House at Stonypoint Center is open to residential fellows.
The Jewish Fast for Gaza is an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza.
Fellowship of Reconciliation is the oldest interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence and peace and justice advocacy. They publish Fellowship Magazine.
*Shomer Shalom: shomershalom.org
*Ta’anit Tzedek: http://fastforgaza.net/
*FORUSA.org Fellowship of Reconciliation
*Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb’s letter in support of the Olympia Food Boycott
*JVP TIAA CREF campaign jvp.org
*Rabbi Brant Rosen’s Shalom Rav blog: http://rabbibrant.com/
Israeli Occupation Archives www.israeli-occupation.org