My friend Aviva Schwartz, whose IfNotNow assignment is apparently to harass the campers and managers of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, just sent me the sweetest email with the subject: “Good news and bad news.” I clicked quickly and discovered that by “good news” Aviva meant: “Today I am happy to join with other Ramah alumni to announce the dates and locations of the Combatants for Peace Ramah Community Summer Tour!”
Well, first of all, yeah! Summer tour! In fact, here are those D&Ls:
July 21: DC (near Ramah Poconos)
July 28: LA (near Ramah California)
August 8: NYC (near Ramah Berkshires)
I right away started thinking about grassy rolling hills and thick woods we’d see through the windows of our our old VW van, maybe pick up a nice hitchhiker with a banjo, boil a mess o’ beans over an open fire. Aviva even asked her Facebook friends if they have xFi Pods lying around they don’t need, you know, those useful devices you can use to set up WiFi service anywhere.
But then I realized that my friend Aviva was sad.
She continued, and it hurts me even now to copy and paste it ever so diligently:
“Now for some bad news: So far, the directors at these camps have refused to host the tour, forbidding their campers and counselors to get a first-hand education on one of the most important parts of modern Israel: the Occupation of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. This refusal comes after thousands of dollars have been raised and hundreds of petition signatures collected by members of the Ramah community who want to see this tour happen at Ramah camps.”
Drat, I say, drat! Especially about that most important part of modern Israel that has to do with the occupation of Gaza – but wait a minute, didn’t we bus all the Jews of Gaza out in like 2005? I should remember to ask Aviva, she probably just took the course and her memory should be better than mine.
How dare those directors of those camps ignore the fact that my friend Aviva and her friends have raised thousands of dollars and signed petitions by the hundreds? Shouldn’t that effort alone be good enough a reason to let Aviva and her pals walk into the Ramah camps and teach the children about the bad modern Israel and its bad occupation?
So Aviva told me that she’s warning those directors, like she said: “Now that the dates and locations have been announced, there is one final chance to get these camp directors to change their minds and allow their campers and counselors to have an honest education.”
Man, I also want an honest education, like the one Aviva received, back home, in Seattle, where she used to be the director of Jewish Students Life at the University of Washington Hillel.
OK, you get the point, I invaded Aviva’s Facebook page to try and find out what would drive a young Jewish woman to devote her summer to inflicting misery on her fellow Jews living far, far away, and I admit it’s too creepy even for me at this point. But I honestly wish to understand why, of all the ills plaguing the planet, from climate change to measles, is she so dedicated to get half a million Jews, two thirds of whom are children, to leave their homes in favor of people she never met and whose language she can’t speak (Aviva speaks English, Hebrew, Spanish and Éwé – no Arabic, I looked).
She wrote kind of an explanation in her email to me, which I doubt even she understands, I know I didn’t:
“Combatants for Peace […] know that co-existence will be built on co-resistance to the occupation. Their work is guided by the understanding that a solution must allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in freedom, security, democracy, and dignity in their homeland.”
But, naturally, she insists that must happen on either side of the randomly drawn armistice line of 1949, otherwise no deal.
My friend Aviva concluded this week’s email (Gee, I hope there’ll be more), saying: “I have a sincere hope that, once they hear from us, the Directors of Ramah Poconos, California, and Berkshires will change their minds and allow that vision to be presented to their camps.”
And she signs off with “Looking forward to a summer full of learning!”
I fear that this last one is inevitable.