Dear Achvat Amim Community,
I first sat down to write this newsletter on Sunday, in what felt like a very different moment. I wrote to tell you about our new cohort of Achvat Amim participants, who arrived last month. With the status quo being occupation, the brokenness of this land can sometimes go invisible or forgotten by those of us not living under the threat of home evictions, checkpoints, and state violence. In the days since I first sat down to write, the brokenness of this place has become increasingly clear to many of us in the land and abroad. I am fearful and angry for those who are most heavily affected by this wave of violence- namely Palestinians living through air strikes in Gaza, under occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and those experiencing state violence while protesting and praying during the holy month of Ramadan. I am fearful and angry for those who are most heavily affected by rocket attacks from Gaza- namely Israelis closest to the Gaza border, largely Mizrahi and working-class communities.
What remains true from last week to this, is that we are here doing the work of Achvat Amim- solidarity of nations. We currently have seven incredible participants living together and working at grassroots Palestinian and Israeli organizations. From escorting shepherds in the Jordan Valley to rescuing food to redistribute to communities in need- we are here. We are grateful to our participants who are with us in the work of building meaningful relationships of trust and vulnerability despite a cycle of violence that tells us to break apart, to say no to solidarity. We here at Achvat Amim know that there can be no end to the cycle of violence until there is an end to the occupation, until all people live with dignity and self-determination.
In moments like this, we must double down on our commitment to justice in this land, to solidarity and co-resistance. I have received messages this week asking me about opportunities for mutual aid. I want to personally recommend supporting the community of Umm al-Khair, where your solidarity will have a direct impact on the community. Umm al-Khair is an example of steadfastness in the face of oppression and trusting connection across differences. You can find more information about our recent visit to Umm al-Khair below.
Looking towards a more just world,
Dear Achvat Community,
While I have had the great pleasure of getting to know many of you over the years, I wanted to take the opportunity to formally introduce myself as I embark on this new journey as the newest member of the tzevet (team).
I am stepping into my role as the Educational Facilitator & Program Coordinator as an artist-activist and community educator. I grew up in the mountains and deserts of the southwest United States. There, I gained an appreciation for vast arid landscapes as well as my primary education in the meaning and history of indigenous lands. Since leaving New Mexico, I’ve been on a long journey to understand relationships to land, community, and peoplehood, which has led me to Achvat Amim and to you.
As I write this introduction to you, I am aware that it was almost exactly a year ago that the world entered into a period of intense turbulence as a result of COVID-19. I myself was new to Jerusalem and attempting to establish community, when borders began to close and the privilege and ease of global travel which I had long enjoyed rapidly came to a screeching halt.
It was amidst this chaos that I arrived at a crossroads: stay in Jerusalem, a place that I had arrived in just two months prior or return to the comfort and relative certainty of the United States. For reasons I couldn’t fully understand at the time, the answer was clear: stay. Stay and be here.
Only a year later, can I better understand my reasons for doing so. And I believe that they had directly to do with a deep sense that I had much to learn from this place about myself, about justice, and about the process of committing and preparing that self for the work of justice.
The Jewish tradition, like many traditions, sits in the tension between particularism and universalism. Contained within Judaism is both the idea that all humans are B’tselem Elohim, or in the image or God, and simultaneously a narrative of chosen-ness that singles out the Jewish people. The modern state of Israel has come to embody the second of these principles. Plagued by xenophobia and racism and structured by supremacy, the state has fallen into the narrow place. A space dominated by tribalism and unable to touch the deep connective tissue of humanity.
I have long been wrestling with this reality—and attempting to find my place in the project of repairing it. But what became apparent to me as I stared into the vast uncertainty brought on by a worldwide pandemic is the necessity of leaning into uncertainty and of stepping into the narrow place in order to emerge from it.
Achvat Amim is a community that does not shy away from uncertainty. Committed to a continual process of asking questions and sitting with ambiguous and unclear answers, Achvat Amim nurtures the essential truth of paradox—that the world contains a multiplicity of truths. Contained in the meaning of the name “Achvat Amim” lies both the idea of “solidarity"—that which binds us together and “nations”—that which makes us distinct.
I have long been searching for communities that are able to hold these two concepts together in rigorous and compassionate learning, and I am humbled and elated to have found one in which I can work towards communal, relational, and personal transformative justice.
I look forward to being partners in this work and hope that if any of you are inclined, you’ll reach out for a virtual (and soon if possible real!) coffee.
With much gratitude and excitement,
Educational Facilitator & Program Coordinator
Dear Friends, Partners, and Achvat Family,
In the wake of the murders of Rayshard Brooks z”l, George Floyd z”l, Breanne Taylor z”l, Iyad al-Hallak z”l, and countless other people murdered at the hand of the state whose names are known and unknown, we are being called again to learn, change, and work. In the past month, we have centered internal conversations about how we center anti-racism in our work and where we need to sharpen our pedagogy, education, and practice. Below, we hope to share our insights into the similarities and differences between policing in the U.S. and Israel-Palestine, as well as reaffirm Achvat Amim’s commitments to racial justice.
Systems of Policing & Racism: The Similarities
Local systems of racialized policing are situated within a shared legacy and reality of white supremacy. Israel-Palestine and the United States both exist in contexts shaped by the anti-Black and anti-Arab legacies of Britain and continue to reproduce dynamics that perpetuate the oppression of Black and Brown people. We fail when we map police brutality against Black people in the U.S. to Israel-Palestine and shift the narrative to police brutality being simply anti-Arab in Israel-Palestine. Policing is rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness, and therefore of course deeply affects Israel’s own Black communities. We call for justice for Soloman Tekah z”l who was murdered by an off duty police officer in Haifa, and we must see the ways that policing oppresses all Black and brown people in Israel-Palestine. The similarities between policing in the U.S. and Israel-Palestine are not limited to systems of power that they are rooted in, but are also materially linked. United States police regularly travel to Israel to be trained by the military. The known exchange of military arms, surveillance technologies, and policing tactics between the United States and Israel is a testament to the intersecting systems of oppression that devalue Black and Palestinian lives.
Systems of Policing & Racism: The Differences
There are discrete local contexts in which this death and violence occurs. The foundational histories of the transatlantic slave trade in the United States and the Nakba in Israel produce distinct racial and ethnic dynamics whose differences are important to honor. Policing, militarism, and incarceration in Israel developed along racial and ethnic lines conditioned by the ongoing Nakba and the criminalization of various populations constructed as “other” by the Ashkenazi establishment. As a result Palestinian, Bedouin, Druze, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, LGBTQ+, and asylum seeker communities have each historically contended with various forms of discrimination, state violence, and surveillance. It is important to highlight the intersections of these justice struggles while recognizing the disproportionate violence Palestinians experience as the primary constructed “other.”
Policing, militarism, and incarceration in the United States developed along racial and ethnic lines conditioned by the genocide of indigenous communities, the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow, and the ongoing criminalization of various populations constructed as “other” by the white establishment. As a result Indigenous, Black, Brown, Latinx, Asian, LGBT+, and immigrant communities have each historically contended with different though related forms of state violence. While Israel and the US are both situated within larger histories and realities of white supremacy, it is important to understand the unique dynamics and intra-communal politics these larger systems produce if we are committed to dismantling these systems and working toward a future of freedom and self-determination for all.
Where We Are
Achvat Amim centers anti-racist theory, practice, and action throughout our educational and movement building processes. From the beginning of our time we create intentional space to tease out the intersections of white supremacy, anti-semitism, and colonialism as they relate to Palestine and Israel. We integrate Black feminist thought as we discuss the interlocking systems of power that condition dynamics here, and situate the occupation and ongoing Nakba within larger anti-Arab colonial legacies that also impact Mizrahi communities and other Jewish communities of color. By highlighting the histories of the Israeli Black Panthers, the work of contemporary Mizrahi activists, African asylum seekers, and Ethiopian Israeli community advocates, we explore the realities of policing, incarceration, and surveillance that each of these communities contends with in various forms. We believe that by framing our human rights and anti-occupation activism within the context of racial justice, we will be able to more effectively build a future of self-determination for all people in Israel-Palestine and the communities we belong to around the world.
Where We Are Going
We are committed to deepening our racial justice frameworks, learning, and practices in pursuit of a world which honors that sacred value of all people and the right of all peoples to self-determination. In this historic moment of reckoning around anti-Black racism in the United States, we are committed to challenging ourselves as we continue to unlearn white supremacy and develop more full, more sustaining, and more robust racial justice frameworks from which we can act in solidarity and shared struggle with Palestinians and other communities of color. In the fall, we will be undertaking a number of exciting internal processes, including continued learning and discussion as a tzevet (team) about racial justice, and organizational conversations about how we will sharpen our pedagogy, education, and solidarity practices. In designing our programming for the fall, we are explicitly framing our work around anti-racism and white supremacy. It is imperative that the larger Achvat Amim community is developing language, understandings, and personal practices around social justice that are founded upon anti-racism as a central tenant. We cannot dismantle white supremacy in the world until we do the work of dismantling the white supremacy inside of us.
Achvat Amim is committed to developing a Jewish community rooted in racial justice and decolonization that centers our own stakes in liberation and dismantling white supremacy, while uplifting the disproportionate violence our Black and Palestinian friends, community members, and partners experience. We are here and ready to recommit ourselves to the work.
Julie, Erez, & Dana
Dear Friends, Partners, and Achvat Family,
When speaking with potential participants, we always say that we don’t have a better succinct term to describe Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim than as a program, but at our core, we are a movement building platform. As a movement building platform, we weave together communities in diaspora and on-the ground, we build frameworks for shared resistance, and we support our Palestinian partners in their daily struggle for freedom and justice.
After carefully considering the needs of our participants and partners, we have decided to restructure Achvat Amim for the fall and provide programming for those already in Israel-Palestine. While we will not be bringing internationals to live communally in September, we will be continuing our work as a dynamic and creative movement building platform.
We will be guided in this next period by the question that has always been at the core of our mission: how can we build the movement for peace, justice, and self-determination? We want to be responsive to the current moment and respond with nimbleness and agility to the needs of our Israeli and Palestinian partners, and to you, our wider community.
We are eager to explore what the fall will look like for Achvat Amim and the movement, while remaining steadfast to the values of solidarity, personal and world transformation, and community building. We look forward to welcoming our February 2021 cohort when they arrive on the ground. Our February cohort will be essential to reinvigorating and supporting projects that have been affected by the pandemic.
Stay tuned for exciting updates! Great things ahead.
Your Tzevet (team),
Dana, Julie, & Erez
Dear Friends, Partners, and Achvat Family,
This is not the first time you have heard from me, although I have not yet had the opportunity to formally introduce myself. My name is Julie and I am the (not so) new Outreach Coordinator at Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim. I joined the Achvat tzevet (team) in January but have been a part of this vibrant community for almost three years. I first came to Achvat Amim in the fall of 2017 as a participant.
While writing this, I have been thinking about my Achvat Amim experience- both as a participant and tzevet member. With both, I have been faced with a reality and have had to grapple with how to move forward. As a participant, I was confronted with the occupation. As a tzevet member, I am confronted with a pandemic.
Achvat Amim does as a program what the great Hasidic sage Rabbi Nachman described when he said, “Know, that a person needs to pass over a very, very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to fear at all. (Likutei MohaRan 2:48)”. Achvat Amim taught me about forging new paths, building relationships, and fostering deep connections. Achvat Amim taught me about crossing narrow bridges.
Rabbi Nachman teaches us that we will encounter a bridge and that we can fall off. To stay put is an option and yet it is not the right one. At the end of that narrow bridge, there is an opening and we can get there.
As a participant, Achvat Amim helped me discover my paths forward: as an organizer, facilitator, and Torah-lover. It gave me the skills and community to continue towards a more just world, even when continuing forward filled me with the fear that Rabbi Nachman warns us about.
The pandemic is a narrow bridge for all of us- individually and collectively. We at Achvat Amim are continuing to monitor the pandemic and make decisions that are best for our participants, the needs of our partners, and the future of Achvat Amim. While being flexible and sensitive to the needs of all of our communities, Achvat Amim is accepting applications for September 2020 and February 2021 cohorts.
Achvat Amim is an integral part of the anti-occupation ecosystem. I myself am proof of the transformational work Achvat Amim does. The world needs us and we need the world. In the current pandemic, I often feel as if I am on a very, very narrow bridge. And sometimes I feel afraid. It is hard to stay afraid for long, as I have an amazing team of movement partners. Our conversations are full of kindness, strength, vision, and humor. So in this moment- yes, we are on a very, very narrow bridge. But we are also crossing it together. And I know we will get to the other side.
Pronouns they/them/theirs (what does this mean?)
As the current health crisis further illuminates global injustice and inequalities, it feels as if more than ever we are in Mitsrayim/Egypt/The Narrow Place. The holiday of Pesach calls on us to remember and imagine liberation. Jewish tradition and the Hebrew calendar are a never-ending source for guidance and wisdom in pursuing personal and collective transformation and liberation. With the help of Achvat Amim alum and Hebrew College Rabbinical student Micah Friedman, Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim has created a Pesach discussion guide for your Pesach table or your next zoom call! Using Jewish text, wisdom from alumni and partners, and words from justice leaders, we invite you to join us in Remembering and Imagining Liberation. You can download the discussion guide below.
Here is the Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim Pesach discussion guide at a glance! Download a PDF version for full resolution.
Dear Beloved Achvat Community and Friends of Achvat Amim,
We write you as we continue to build the movement for self determination from our homes. It has been an intense few weeks of transition and refocusing as we bravely continue forward. What does remain clear, is the strength of our community and the bonds we have built as Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim. We are taking it one day at a time here at Achvat Amim, with our cohort learning and working remotely from Jerusalem and London. In a time of continued occupation, economic insecurity, global pandemic, and political coups, we must hold to each other tightly and continue working towards the world we want to live in. The great Sufi poet Hafiz once wrote exactly this,
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
Not loving is letting go.
The terrain around here
Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim is centered on building relationships, trust, and care across borders, boundaries, and divisions. We are excited for the ways our community will expand and embody these values in this time. We are here with you as friends, as comrades, as movement partners.
Holding Hands with You,
Julie, Dana, and Erez
On January 10th, 2014 the first cohort of Achvat Amim kicked off this journey. On January 10th, 2019 we celebrated five years and ten cohorts of movement building through critical education, communal living and human rights work in and around Jerusalem!
Here are some photos from the evening.
Check out some of the highlights from the evenings program including blessings for another five years of movement growth and beautiful songs!
And finally, a slideshow with photos from these five years of Achvat Amim!
These are the beautiful words of one of our current participants, Ana Dorotea, to her community, and beyond.
I am talking to you, reader. From human to human.
I am calling out to you about what is happening right now in our world and in this society. As you may have heard, Masa announced it would stop funding Achvat Amim (Solidarity of Nations). Achvat Amim “gives "voice to the Jewish tradition of human rights", connects participants to projects that aim to end racism, violence and inequality as an essential building block for a society based on values that are central to Judaism, such as justice, equity, and peace”.
I call it a tragedy, because I believe that censoring the truth and denying brotherhood and solidarity to our fellow brothers and sisters is indeed a tragedy.
I call it a tragedy, because denying to help end racism, violence, and inequality, is to act against justice, equity, and peace.
I am writing this to you, whoever this is, because I want to call out to you, from human to human. We need to wake up and rise against what we are doing to each other and understand that we are all partners of a race, a human race.
Acvhat Amim is made up of people who help out, really giving out a hand, focused on bettering the conflict; a situation that, in terms of humanity, shouldn’t even exist.
What I am trying to say, and thank you for sticking with me so far, is that you and me are brothers and sisters of the same race. It is our obligation to give a hand to those brothers and sisters who need it, and end oppression, racism, violence and inequality.
The good prevails. For whatever political reasons this decision has been made, nothing can stop the rising of the good. So, as a reader, as a participant of the human race and thus of this conflict, I ask you to support the program with a donation.
With your donation, you help Achvat Amim to continue on helping to better our community and giving a space for voices who speak about finding solutions and improving this situation.
Let yourself be an accomplice of the good to our fellow human beings.
Donate at www.youcaring.com/achvatamim
Support here: www.youcaring.com/achvatamim
After nearly four years of supporting Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim, Masa Israel has pulled its support for the program under its current leadership. Masa’s decision comes on the heels of the release of an inaccurate and misleading investigative report on the program and its directors conducted by the extreme right wing organization Ad Kan, which has become known for targeting left wing organizations committed to human rights.
In the report, which was repeated in several Israeli media sources, Ad Kan attempts to paint Achvat Amim as beyond the bounds of legitimate engagement and opinion on Israel and the conflict by presenting false assertions and disinformation about the program’s activities. This report is apparently an attempt to push the Ad Kan agenda, which it would appear seeks to delegitimize any criticism of the occupation and preclude Jews from around the world from making meaningful contributions to creating a more peaceful and just society. Masa’s decision to withdraw its support for Achvat Amim represents a sharp deviation from its principle of advancing pluralistic discourse and education and a wide range of identities and viewpoints within the Zionist world. Unfortunately, Masa’s decision excludes many young Jews whose identities involve real engagement with Israel, and narrows the scope of acceptable thinking and engagement on the issues most pressing to Israel today.
Achvat Amim is a 5-month volunteer program in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through human rights work and critical education, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. Participants volunteer in group projects and in individualized placements, while traveling extensively, and learning with leaders in the field. Together, we build a dynamic learning community in which we explore and shape Jewish culture and identity as individuals and as part of a greater whole. Participants learn Hebrew and Arabic in a creative framework, and have diverse opportunities for religious and spiritual learning and practice as part of our Ruchani track.
We bring Jews from around the world to Israel to take part in making it a better place and provide a space where they can honestly wrestle with one of the most pressing challenges facing Israel - the conflict, and the occupation. We have always been fully transparent about this.
Many Achvat Amim participants come to the program from a place of very deep connection with their Jewish communities and with Israel. At the same time, we are highly successful at engaging participants who have, or are close to, turning their backs on Israel and their Jewish identity because they haven't found room to have a deep, critical, and holistic relationship with this place and the people that call it home. The program creates a safe space for constructive and nuanced education where participants can bring their full identities in all their complexity. The program is rooted in the values of Hashomer Hatzair - Zionism, Socialism, and Solidarity of Nations, and our participants are intelligent and critical thinking adults, who are exploring and finding their own voice, vision, and values. When participants come to Achvat Amim they experience both the beauty and the hardships of this place and through genuine experience, solid and long-lasting connections are built.
The Sumud camp referred to in the false and misleading Ad Kan report was a six-week event that brought together Israelis, Palestinians and Jews from around the world to take part in entirely legal activities - clearing, cleaning, and making livable the area of the cave home of a local Palestinian family who were working to bring life back to the land they had left two decades ago. Despite claims in the Channel 2, and other subsequent media reports, which shockingly appear to have unquestioningly accepted Ad Kan's misinformation, this was a completely legal activity for the local family to be present in their lawfully owned property and to bring guests to work with them. Achvat Amim participants who took part did so independently in time that was not organized by the program, and were not present for anything that could be construed as civil disobedience or disobeying authorities, as is consistent with our policy and commitment to the safety and security of our participants.
While Ad Kan, through fallacious accusations and misinformation, is trying to silence critical thought, education, and actions that support human rights or self-determination for the Palestinian people, we are committed to continuing our work and including more voices in building a brighter future for all. This is an initiative that Masa had found to be valuable and important, and we are deeply disappointed that they have accepted the narrative of an extreme right wing organization and chosen to vilify leading educators and activists who care deeply about this place and the people who call it home. The founders of the program, Karen Isaacs and Daniel Roth, have consistently worked to build creative and justice-seeking Jewish communities and made Aliyah nearly six years ago to continue that work in Israel.
We are confident that with the support of the many people who understand how significant this work is for the Jewish people and for Israelis and Palestinians, we will be able to move forward without letting this needless attack harm the important framework we are actively building.
We are continuing to build Achvat Amim as a deeply educational space, connected to, and actively engaging with the movement for a just peace. Our fall cohort is already underway, and we look forward to welcoming the next amazing cohort in the spring, and to the coming years of work in partnership with all those who believe in a shared and peaceful future.
Support here: www.youcaring.com/achvatamim
News and Updates
We'll post updates about the program, interesting news and conversation starter here.