Sunday, March 9, 2014

Where should the birds fly?


Anna comes in for a long conversation. And brings chocolates.

Marc is running the movie, making sure that everything is set for tonight’s screening of Where Should the Birds Fly?

Danielle and I are working hard to get everything ready for the film and Rachel keeps wanting to help. An early arriver for the film wants to help too. Rachel of course attaching herself to the volunteer.

After our shopping, I break away to join in a national conference call with my PHEWA colleagues, working on maintaining our place in the natural church. (

Soon it’s time for the movie. Tonight is special because we have the filmmaker, Fida Qish with us. It’s a devastating movie about the siege of Gaza, and especially the Cast Lead operation which killed over 500 Palestinian combatants and over deaths of 900 unarmed civilians as opposed to 3 Israelis. The story is told through the eyes of 9 year old Mona as she is witness to the deaths of her parents and other family members.

I remember my own visits to Gaza, first in 1979 following the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and then in the 1980’s after the Sinai had been returned. I remember the hulking Israeli watching towers ominously looming over the urban centers, container after container of rotting oranges prevented from being exported and the sense of being in a constricted prison in one of the most densely populated areas globally.

The film shows the effects of the giant militarized caterpillar bulldozers crushing homes, even with people in them. After the movie, as I led the q&a, I talked about our denomination’s intention of bringing a motion to its General Assembly this summer to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlitt-Packard for their tactical and material support of the occupation. (

This is also the week  the New York Times broke the story of new mayor Di Blasio’s secret meeting with the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and his promise to do whatever he could to help them.(

Our neighbor rabbis at B’nai Jeshurun wrote a letter of protest that Aipac did not speak for them or all Jews and the predictable firestorm of threats and reprisals followed. What was encouraging was the letter of support from over 100 rabbis. (

Sometimes from our audience after screenings, voices arise accusing us of not showing a balanced view. Stories like this demonstrate how difficult it is in the US to get a perspective sympathetic to Palestinians presented in public.

Russ and friends
The question for us as Americans, is of course, what is our responsibility? What would the situation be like if Israel did not have the 4 billion dollars a year in aid from the US? The fact is, the occupation is primarily funded by our tax dollars publicly and our investments privately. To hold our elected officials accountable, including Mayor Di Blasio, is a daunting challenge. But we can’t criticize Israeli policies without looking at our own responsibility.

I visit with Palestinians who have come. An Armenian Christian hair stylist. A woman doctor from Ramallah who has come with an Israeli colleague and of course, the filmmaker Fida. We’ll be back again, next week. 
Bob Brashear, Fida Qish and Russ Jennings

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