Program Particulars: Two Narratives, Pt. 1
*Times indicated refer to Web version of audio
(2:00) Music Element
"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale
(01:50) Founding of State of Israel
The modern Zionist movement was founded in 1896 with the publication of The Jewish State by an Austrian Jew, Theodore Herzl. In the face of rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe, Herzl became a diplomat for the creation of a secular, cosmopolitan Jewish homeland free of anti-Semitism. Great Britain was the first major power to support the creation of this state in the area then known as Palestine, the spiritual homeland of ancient Israel. Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour announced the new policy in a 1917 letter which became known as The Balfour Declaration:
Foreign Office November 2nd, 1917 Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet."His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation. Yours sincerely, Arthur James Balfour
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations approved a plan that partitioned Palestine (which was under British control) and established the independent state of Israel. The UN plan also created an Arab state controlled by Egypt and Transjordan and designated that greater Jerusalem would fall under international control. Some Jewish and Arab groups rejected the plan: Jewish leaders wanted more territorial continuity and the Arab leaders argued that the amount and quality of the land was disproportionately given to the Jews.
Shortly thereafter, intermittent fighting broke out between various Jewish and Arabic factions until May 14, 1948, when the British relinquished their authority. That same day, the provisional government declared the independent state of Israel. The United States, under President Truman, immediately recognized the de facto government of the new Jewish state. The Soviet Union and other countries followed several days later.
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War was fought over the next year — interrupted briefly by several truces — until Israel signed a series of cease-fire agreements in 1949 with Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Syria. As a result, Israel occupied 50 percent more land than the original partition proposed under the U.N. plan. These borders are known as the "Green Line."
(02:25) The Oslo Peace Process
After many years of failed attempts at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a series of secret negotiations were orchestrated under the guise of an academic exercise in Oslo, Norway, which began in January 1993. In order to proceed toward mutual discussions, negotiators from both sides agreed to ignore long-standing grievances and focus on areas where agreement was a distinct possibility. The Norwegian organizers emphasized the social aspects of personal relationships between the two sides and stressed an informal arrangement for the meetings.
In August 1993, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Abu Ala, and his Israeli counterpart, Uri Savir, initialed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, commonly referred to as the Oslo Peace Accord, in a private ceremony. The Accord provided a framework for establishing peace between Israelis and the Palestinians by creating a timetable for general outcomes to be met. A month later, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the formal agreement and shook hands on the White House lawn.
Two important tenets of the Accord were the right of recognition and troop withdrawal. Israel recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the official representative of the Palestinian people and the PLO recognized the right of the state of Israel to exist. Israeli forces would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and a Palestinian government would be transitionally installed within five years. Issues such as the status of Jerusalem, water, transportation, and Jewish settlers in occupied territory intentionally remained ambiguous but were acknowledged as areas requiring cooperation.
(02:55) Actualities from News Reports
The first — including statements by Rabin and Arafat — third, and tenth clips were excerpted from a part six of a 2002 series on the Middle East conflict on NPR's Morning Edition. Correspondent Mike Shuster reports on events from the time of the first Intifada to the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993.
The second, fourth, sixth, and eighth clips were taken from a September 13, 1993 report from BBC News. Correspondent Paul Adams reviews the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process five years after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The fifth actuality comes from Susan Stamberg's piece on NPR's Morning Edition. Here, she reports on the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Arafat, Rabin, and Peres.
The seventh audio clip was excerpted from a report on NPR's All Things Considered with Robert Siegel.
The ninth actuality was taken from Mike Shuster's report from Jerusalem on violence in the Middle East, which aired on NPR's All Things Considered on October 19, 2000.
(04:58) Music Element
"Abidan" from Bar Kokhba, performed by John Zorn's Masada Chamber Ensembles
(05:10) Halevi's Book and History
Published on September 11, 2001, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land recounts Halevi's journey in 1998 to discover his land in all its religious complexity:
My pilgrimage was an attempt at religious empathy: I was hoping to encounter, as an Israeli Jew, my Christian and Muslim neighbors in their intimate devotions. For the next two years, through the turn of the millennium, I visited monasteries and mosques and holy sites, discovering hidden corners of this land. My sense of sacred time expanded to include Christian and Muslim holidays, which I tried to experience in the company of monks and nuns and Islamic Sufi mystics. My intention wasn't to blur the differences between the faiths but to discover points of commonality. Nor was I seeking complex theological exchanges, which in any case were beyond my expertise as a journalist. Instead, I wanted to test whether faith could be a means of healing rather than intensifying the conflicts in this land. My hope was to pray and meditate with my Christian and Muslim fellow believers. That approach was a conscious refutation of the way we religious people of different faiths have always judged each other — by what we believe about God, rather than how we experience God's presence. Theology distinguishes between truth and untruth; prayer only knows different measures of depth.
About his childhood in the United States, Halevi writes:
My upbringing hardly prepared me for the interfaith encounter. I was raised in the heartland of Jewish isolationism, a Brooklyn neighborhood called Borough Park, populated mostly by Orthodox Holocaust survivors. My father, a survivor from Hungary, taught me that the non-Jewish world was divided between those who actively wanted to kill the Jews and those who were indifferent to our fate. Auschwitz, after all, had been allowed to run unimpeded for four years, and even the Allies couldn't spare a few bombs to destroy the train tracks leading to the death camps. No less than the actual killing, the great Jewish wound of the Holocaust was that sense of total abandonment. I grew up seeing myself as a stranger in a hostile world, a member of a people related only formally to humanity, in effect a separate species. My father reserved a special rage for Christianity, which he blamed for preparing the ground of the Holocaust by demonizing the Jews. No phrase struck him as more ironic than "Christian love." When Christians spoke of love, he said, they meant "everyone but Jews." The church leaders my father and his friends remembered from Hungary and Poland were Jew-haters and pogromists; for survivors, Hitler wasn't a pagan but a Christian.
Halevi was a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League and the militant extremist group, Kach, which sought to change the image of Jews as "weak and vulnerable" to one of a "mighty fighter, who strikes back fiercely against tyrants." Israeli's Knesset considered Kach a fringe party and outlawed it in 1988 because of its racist platform that wished to expel all Arabs from the occupied territories. Kahane was assassinated by an Egyptian in 1990. It was a Kahane sympathizer, Yigal Amir, who murdered the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, two years after Rabin had signed the historic Oslo Peace Agreement.
In 1982, Halevi moved with his wife, a former Episcopalian who converted to Judaism, to Israel. As he writes, immersing himself in the diverse Jewish ethnicities liberated him from his self-consciousness of being a Diaspora Jew in New York:
My Jewish present became so vital that it held little place for inherited wounds. I immersed myself in an ethnic Jewish diversity that was far more exhilarating and bewildering than the constricted Ashkenazi remnant of my childhood, and in a frenetic Hebrew culture that sanctified the mundane and scandalized the sacred. I learned to relax into a Jewish majority and gradually forgot the self-consciousness of the Diaspora. The disillusionments of homecoming were no less essential in turning me from an insecure and self-righteous victim into an Israeli. There was the humbling experience of Jewish power: I was drafted into the army during the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation in the late 1980s and early '90s, and for one month a year served in West Bank towns and in Gaza refugee camps, policing a hostile civilian population. The dilemmas of Jewish power, along with the pleasures of Jewish sovereignty, reinforced the same message: We were no longer victims. Zionism's hard gift to the Jews was to force us to assume our place among the morally ambiguous nations, pry us from the comfortable self-image of a helpless people to accept responsibility for our fate. Overcoming the victim's compensatory sense of superiority was a kind of initiation for me into Israeli identity. The goal of Zionism, after all, hadn't been to return us only to the land of Israel but also to the community of nations, to end the exile of the Jewish people from humanity. I could now approach other peoples and faiths with the curiosity and self-confidence of a free person.
For an inside look at Halevi's life during his early adulthood, check out the 1985 documentary Kaddish.
(06:24) Sharon's Evacuation from Palestinian Territories
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the military to evacuate thousands of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip and hundreds more from select West Bank areas in August 2005. It's the first time Israel has removed settlements from occupied territory since its decision to return the Sinai peninsula to Egypt in 1982. The removal was strongly resisted by the settlers as well as by certain members of the Israeli military.
(06:30) Israeli Security Wall
After years of discussion, the Israeli government decided to erect the separation barrier in June 2002, after an unprecedented number of suicide bombings launched from the West Bank in the spring and early summer of that year. Palestinians object to the barrier for many reasons. For some, it inhibits daily passage from home to work and schools. Others condemn the wall being built on Palestinian land east of the pre-1967 Green Line border. President Bush has called the route of the fence "a problem" and urged Israel to change it because the barrier lies several hundred yards within the West Bank land. Many Palestinians view it as a land grab by the Israelis. PBS' Online NewsHour provides a clean, interactive map of the controversial wall between the West Bank and Israel.
Ted Conover's report in the March 2006 issue of The Atlantic Monthly gives an up close and personal view of Israeli checkpoints. Conover shows the dull and stressful daily life of Israeli guards and the dehumanizing and frustrating experiences of Palestinians trying to cross.
(06:44) Hamas and Elections
Hamas, literally meaning "zeal" or "courage" in Arabic, is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement. The militant Palestinian organization was founded in 1987. Hamas opposes the existence of the state of Israel and favors the creation of the Islamic state of Palestine. Hamas attacked Israeli citizens, soldiers, and settlers from the late 1980s until 2005 and was active in both the first and second intifadas. In January 2006, Hamas won a clear majority of seats in the Palestinian parliamentary elections — unseating Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and the party of Yasser Arafat after 40 years of rule.
(06:52) Palestinian Intifadas
The term "intifada" literally means "shaking off" in Arabic — as Mohammed Abu-Nimer says "shaking something off your shoulder." The first Palestinian Intifada began in 1987. It brought men, women, and children onto the streets in the Palestinian territories in protest against the Israeli military presence in their midst. Their protests generally took the form of civil disobedience — strikes, boycotts, graffiti, and barricades. But stone-throwing demonstrations against heavily armed Israeli troops captured international attention. Israeli forces responded violently against demonstrators, and Palestinian civilians died. This spiral of events led many Israelis to reexamine their attitudes and government policies towards Palestinians. It strongly contributed to the momentum that led to the Oslo peace process from 1993 to 2000.
By contrast, the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005 targeted civilians inside Israel with suicide bombs. The Islamist movement Hamas, which won a government majority in recent Palestinian elections, was a key architect of that campaign. This Intifada helped bring the already beleaguered Oslo peace process to a bitter end.
(07:42) Sufism and the Zikr
Sufism is the mystical expression of Islam. It emphasizes a contemplative life focused on obeying and experiencing God. Sufism is comprised of many differing orders within the Muslim community. The Arabic term tariqa is a Sufi brotherhood and devotional tradition that literally means "path."
The Arabic word zikr means "reminding oneself" or "mention." It is rooted in several Qur'anic passages, such as the Sura Al-Baqara (2:152): "Then do you remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and reject not faith." Zikr is the ritual prayer practiced by Sufis with the intent of glorifying Allah and striving to achieve oneness with God. It represents not only a ritual but a state of mind and a state of heart. The ceremony takes many forms but often includes whirling dances and transporting chants, which include la ilaha illa 'llah, "there is no god but God"; Allahu akbar, "God is greatest"; al-hamdu li'llah, "praise be to God"; astaghfiru 'llah, "I ask God's forgiveness." It can last anywhere from a few minutes to many hours. The various Sufi brotherhoods, or tariqahs, practice their own form of zikr.
(07:56) Reference to Kippah
Kippah, the Hebrew word for "skullcap" worn by observant Jewish males is also known by its Yiddish name, yarmulkah. The kippah is worn as a sign of respect before God.
(09:00) East Jerusalem and the Muezzin
The muezzin is the person who calls out for Muslims to perform salat — the daily prayer at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. The muezzin, chosen for his good character, will call out from the top of a mosque's minaret or at the mosque's door. He faces each of the four directions: east, west, north, and south and recites: "Allah is most great. I testify that there is no God but Allah. I testify that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah. Come to prayer. Come to salvation. Allah is most great. There is no God but Allah."
(10:04) Foundational Charter of Hamas
The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement is the foundational charter of Hamas that was signed on August 18, 1988. The document cites several texts, inciting Muslims to fight against the state of Israel and the Jewish people: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)." "Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem)."
(12:22) Religious Right in Israel
Israel is a secular democracy. The phrase "religious right" in Israel usually refers to ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups who would advocate a clerical state, with the Torah guiding the laws of the land. Such groups have supported settlers in Palestinian territories as a biblical mandate. Israel's parliamentary democracy is composed of a plethora of political parties. The Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel provides a thorough breakdown and analysis of the political and religious affiliations of current parties in government.
(13:10) Story from Ramakrishna
Râmakrishna (1833-86) was a Bengali Hindu sage who is known for his aphorisms and wise sayings. His short sayings and fables often use vivid metaphors of common life that capture deeper truths found in Hindu concepts. Râmakrishna counseled an openness to other religions and their followers: "Creeds and sects matter nothing. Let every one perform with faith the devotions and practices of his creed. Faith is the only clue to get to God."
(14:34) Hamas' Stance on Israel
In a February 26, 2006 interview with the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth, Hamas' newly appointed prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, bluntly answered a series of pointed questions about the right of Israel to exist in the Middle East.
(15:24) Music Element
"Bikkurim" from Masada Guitars, performed by Bill Frisell
(16:06) 22 Arab Countries
The definition of "Arab" has changed over the centuries. It was the name given to the ancient and present-day inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and often applied to the peoples closely allied to them in ancestry, language, religion, and culture. Today, the unifying symbol is the native language of Arabic shared by these people. Islam also serves as another common bond among Arabs. More than 200 million Arabs live in the vast region from Mauritania on the Atlantic coast of Africa to southwestern Iran, spanning 22 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen.
(16:25) Modern-day Version of the Crusades
The Crusades were a series of military expeditions organized and fought by Western Christians beginning in the 11th century and ending in the 16th century. Many participants in the Crusades fought these "holy wars" to combat the spread of Islam; and, by doing so, they believed they would receive salvation and redemption for their sins.
(17:42) Former Conversation with Halevi
In a On Being program exploring the appeal of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Krista spoke with Halevi about how he experienced it as a teenager from the inside. Also, listen to an exclusive conversation in which Halevi gives profoundly original insight into the religious dimension of life and war in the Holy Land.
(19:51) Israelis Observation of a Palestinian State
On September 15, 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the United Nations General Assembly:
The Land of Israel is precious to me, precious to us, the Jewish people, more than anything. Relinquishing any part of our forefathers' legacy is heartbreaking, as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. Every inch of land, every hill and valley, every stream and rock, is saturated with Jewish history, replete with memories. The continuity of Jewish presence in the Land of Israel never ceased. Even those of us who were exiled from our land, against their will, to the ends of the earth — their souls, for all generations, remained connected to their homeland, by thousands of hidden threads of yearning and love, expressed three times a day in prayer and songs of longing. The Land of Israel is the open Bible, the written testimony, the identity and right of the Jewish people. Under its skies, the prophets of Israel expressed their claims for social justice, and their eternal vision for alliances between peoples, in a world which would know no more war. Its cities, villages, vistas, ridges, deserts, and plains preserve as loyal witnesses its ancient Hebrew names. Page after page, our unique land is unfurled, and at its heart is united Jerusalem, the city of the Temple upon Mount Moriah, the axis of the life of the Jewish people throughout all generations, and the seat of its yearnings and prayers for 3,000 years. The city to which we pledged an eternal vow of faithfulness, which forever beats in every Jewish heart: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning!" I say these things to you because they are the essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors. The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.
(22:40) Passage from Halevi's Book
The following passage cited by Krista was excerpted from the epilogue to Halevi's 2001 book, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land:
When I become too immersed in the political work of a journalist, I sometimes hear the admonition of Sheykh Ibrahim: "There are enough politicians in the land of the prophets. But where are the prophets in the land of the prophets?" I tell myself that it is precisely in times like these that the beautiful teachings of faith become either real or mere sentiment. More than ever, the goal of a spiritual life in the Holy Land is to live with an open heart at the center of unbearable tension. Still, I regularly disappoint myself, unable to exorcise, except for brief interludes, the jinns of fear and rage. The best that I can say is that I'm struggling, and that maintaining a painful awareness of the gap between what I've been taught and my inability to embody those teachings defines my spiritual life. The one enduring transformation that I carry with me from my journey is that I learned to venerate — to love — Christianity and Islam. I learned to feel at home in a church, even on Good Friday, and in a mosque, even in Nuseirat. The cross and the minaret have become for me cherished symbols of God's presence, reminders that He speaks to us in multiple languages — that He speaks to us at all. Even if much of Arab Islam has descended into the kind of Jewish hatred for which Christianity is now trying to atone, I insist on revering Islam and its fearless heart. The fanatics will not deprive me of that victory.
(23:12) Music Element
"Mahshav" from Masada Recital, performed by John Zorn, Mark Feldman & Sylvie Courvoisier
(23:49) Joint Arab-Jewish Group to Auschwitz
Halevi documents his journey with a joint Arab-Jewish group in his column, Auschwitz Diarist: Pilgrim's Progress, originally published in The New Republic, Halevi wrote:
"You are trapped in the pathology of our Jewish story," I say to Abuna. "We can free each other," he replies. Arabs hold the hands of elderly survivors; Jews weep on Abuna's shoulder. For Arabs to mourn Jewish suffering and for Jews to trust Arabs in Auschwitz is subversive. I confess, I had wanted Arabs to emerge from this journey "understanding" Israel's predicament. No doubt some of our Arab Israeli partners had similar hidden hopes about us. Now those expectations seem vulgar. For now, I want nothing more than to be together with these people in this place.
(24:35) Arab-Israeli Citizens
For a perspective of a Palestinian citizen of Israel, listen to the second part of this program to be broadcast on March 16, 2006. On Being will feature the voice of Mohammed Abu-Nimer, who describes his experiences working for reconciliation as a minority member in the state of Israel. Also, Sami Adwan, a Palestinian living in the West Bank, talks about his joint effort with an Israeli professor to write textbooks that present the conflicting narratives of each people side-by-side.
(28:53) Music Element
"Requiem Pour Un Con" from Great Jewish Music: Serge Gainsbourg, performed by Franz Treichler
(32:25) Open House Initiative
Halevi serves as the chairman of the board of Open House. The organization seeks to improve social services for Arab citizens in the Israeli town of Ramle and to provide a place for encounter and cooperation between Jewish and Arab citizens there. Ramle is home to many new Jewish immigrants from Africa and the former Soviet Union, and like the whole of Israel its population is approximately 20 percent Arab, and mostly Palestinian. An affiliate organization, Friends of Open House, has formally organized chapters in Cincinnati, Ohio and Boston, Massachusetts. Read the story of Dalia Landau and the origins of Open House and listen to a report about the initiative by by NPR's Linda Gradstein.
(36:00) Music Element
"Under the Moes Tree" from Queen's Dominion, performed by Basya Schechter
(38:17) Danish Cartoon Incident
For a more in-depth look at the controversy surrounding the publication of the Danish cartoons, listen to On Being's "The Face of the Prophet: Cartoons and Chasm." Vincent Cornell, an American Muslim and religious scholar, helps untangle the knot of violent and bewildered reactions to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
(44:45) Muslim Prayer
Gain an aural glimpse into Muslim prayer with the poetic recitations of the Qur'an by Seemi Bushra Ghazi as part of the On Being program, "The Spirit of Islam."
(45:42) Music Element
"Kedem" from Masada Guitars, performed by Marc Ribot
(50:07) Music Element
"Abidan" from Masada Guitars, performed by Bill Frisell
(50:57) Music Element
"By Way of Haran" from Queen's Dominion, performed by Basya Schechter
is a correspondent for The New Republic, senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.