It was clear to me within the first week of the now historic date of 25 January that most of my fellow Jews felt surges of hope for the burgeoning wave of freedom and democracy. But I also recognised with dismay that, in the political and media worlds, such hope was lost in fear and speculation.
All that talking heads seemed to ask or offer were opinions on what a new Egyptian regime would mean for Israel. As if anybody knew. What I wanted to know was, is this all Egyptians or others in the Arab world would know of Jewish opinion? The frustration was maddening. Here was a golden opportunity to express positive feelings that go beyond the politics, beyond the conflicts. A chance at healing not just for Egyptians, but for those that stand by them.
So what was a person with no political or media connections, no Twitter or Facebook account, and little social action experience to do? I knew I could write, and I knew that my fellow Jews would support a positive message if given a chance. I sought the advice and support of rabbis, congregational leaders, and organisational voices. This is the resulting letter:
Dear Citizens and Friends of Egypt,
We the undersigned are Jews living in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere around the world. We are rabbis and laypeople, religious and secular. We do not have ties to any government. We simply come together to speak as private citizens and as Jews to voice solidarity with the many Arab citizens involved in the recent uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere.
Too many voices of reason and moderation have long been frustrated or silenced by oppression, tyranny, and corruption. These proud voices have our empathy and our respect.
We harbor deep hopes for the Egyptian people and the many citizens rising against ruthless regimes around the world. Jews have struggled against oppression for millennia. It is true that we want Egypt and Israel to continue or even strengthen their peace and cooperation. But we also feel unity by witnessing the extraordinary events of recent days. When a people cries out for freedom and democracy, we see a reflection of our own heritage.
We cannot tell the Egyptian people or world leaders how to deal with the old regime or how to bring about change. But in the meantime, we pray. We pray for the healing of any man, woman, or child injured in the recent struggles in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. We pray for the souls of the lives lost and for the comfort of their mourners. And we pray that peace comes not only to Egypt and to Israel, but to all of their neighbors.
May the children of Abraham, of Sarah and of Hagar, of Ishmael and of Isaac, be blessed with prosperity, light, joy, and friendship.
The letter ends is followed by the names of several notable rabbis. It can be found here and is now gathering Jewish signatures throughout the world. It may be a small effort, but I am encouraged by how diverse the voices are who have signed it: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Reconstructionist, secular, and from many corners of the globe. I am also encouraged by the inspirational words and efforts of the many people that signed on. By the time Israeli musician Lee Ziv signed, she and her friends had created the following music video in support of the revolution.
Signatory Alden Solovny had already written a Prayer for Egypt. And the words of hope that the signatories added where truly inspiring, some coming off the heels of Mubarak’s resignation. Some of them are represented here, and I will yield to them in conclusion:
“My heart is singing with the Egyptian people. I have not been so happy in a long time. There is much hope now for the whole world.” Dr Sheila Parks, Belmont, MA, United States.
“As a father of a fallen Israeli soldier (Noam Barnea, Lebanon, 1999), I wish to express my special solidarity with the bereaved Egyptian families who lost their beloveds in the wars and in the struggle for achieving democracy and freedom. With my Israeli and Palestinian friends, we pray for our joint success in building a peaceful, free and prosperous community of peoples in our region.”Aaron Barnea, Holon, Israel.
“An historic day for the people of Egypt. My prayers and admiration to the brave Egyptian young men and women.” Linda Elul, Orlando, FL, United States
“I pray for the success of the forces of democracy and humanity in Egypt. May they continue to inspire the rest of us here in the Middle East.” Rabbi Yechiel Greniman, Jerusalem, Israel.
“Congratulations! You have led not only your own country and people, but the whole world into an unprecedented model of Tahrir-making. May we all be guided likewise to a new era of sustainable living in peace.” Narda Azaria, Hawick, Scotland, United Kingdom.
“Your peaceful outpouring is incredible. Continue to pursue your passion in obtaining the government you deserve.” Marylin Schnal, Portland, OR, United States.
“I wish for you, my Egyptian brothers, that you show the world, that you lead the world in the walk towards liberty, towards the rule of love and trust, and faith in the great Oneness. May your revolution be part of the love and trust revolution of mankind.” Jivan Ari Bustan, Ramat Hasharon, Israel