jordan valley
A view shows Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho . (photo credit:REUTERS)


NEW YORK – The US-based Jewish organization T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and the controversial left wing group Breaking the Silence will be offering American Jewish groups visiting Israel daytrips to meet Palestinians in the West Bank.

The joint initiative, announced on Wednesday and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, aims to “empower more American Jews to meet both Palestinians and IDF veterans who have served in the territories, to listen deeply to their narratives, and to bring these perspectives into working toward a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.”

The “Go and see” trips will be offered to synagogue congregations and other Jewish groups as part of their Israel trip itineraries. During the excursions, former IDF soldiers from Breaking the Silence will share their perspective. T’ruah will also engage participants in Jewish learnings that relate to the issue of the Palestinian territories and the conflict. Breaking the Silence has often come under fire in Israel from the political right and center for testimonies, some published anonymously, that accuse the Israeli military of excessive force and corruption.

Executive director of T’ruah Rabbi Jill Jacobs told the Jerusalem Post the idea came about after T’ruah had already conducted such trips for rabbis and rabbinical students, but realized that they had “to go beyond the level of the rabbis”.

“It was important for rabbis and rabbinical students to have these experiences but they need to bring their communities along,” Jacobs explained.

“Sometimes there is this dichotomy that either you care about Palestinians or you care about Israelis but what’s actually true is that we need a solution that’s going to protect everybody,” she added. “So It’s very important to hear that the occupation is not only affecting the Palestinians who are trying to live in the West Bank but also Israelis including soldiers who are risking their lives to be there.”

Rabbi Jill Jacobs said she knows the partnership will draw criticism, but according to her, “there is a real need for this kind of experience”.

“The unfortunate truth of dealing with Israel and the occupied territories is that everything you say, somebody is going to criticize,” she told the Post. “It’s either too far to the right, or too far to the left. It’s ignoring the issues and at a certain point we have to say that actually we think that there is a value in these stories both from Palestinians and soldiers.”

“It’s not gonna hurt anybody to come and see what’s happening,” she continued.

Jacobs said she hopes people who go on the “Go and see” trips understand that “the current situation of occupation is having a deadly effect on both Israelis and Palestinians.”

“It’s literally killing us. It’s killing us both physically and it’s killing us morally,” she said. “It’s threatening Israel’s ability to survive, it’s violating the human rights of Palestinians every single day.”

She added she believes Israeli presence in the West Bank is getting in the way of a two state solution, which her organization’s believes in and advocates for.

T’ruah and Breaking the Silence have already partnered in the past on a visit to Hebron as part of T’ruah’s year-long program for rabbinic and cantorial studying in Israel as well as in bringing rabbis to tour the South Hebron Hills.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post