Building relationships structured on resistance is rooted in the tacit understanding that the liberation of one is deeply intertwined with the liberation of another.
My name is Oren Kroll-Zeldin. I am the Assistant Director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco where I teach courses on Jewish culture, identity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An important theory in the field of Peace Studies states that conflict transformation requires personal transformation. Individuals must undergo a significant process of personal transformation as a prerequisite for widespread conflict transformation. As a professor in the Jewish Studies and Social Justice program at the University of San Francisco, I teach this theory every semester in my courses. I discuss the necessity of personal transformation in ending the perpetual cycles of violence that plague people living in Palestine/Israel, always beginning with my own personal experiences.
I began my own process of personal transformation regarding my views on justice and peace in Palestine/Israel about fifteen years ago. Of the many challenging and rewarding experiences I have had on my personal journey, my participation this past winter on the CJNV delegation was one of the most profound. I joined the delegation as part of my academic research investigating Jewish anti-occupation activism and the politics of Jewish identity. But I quickly discovered that the delegation was not merely useful for my research but was also profoundly meaningful for me personally and politically.
Participating in the delegation’s direct action was important as I deeply believe in the material and symbolic value of co-resistance work. In the action, we helped Kifah Adara rehabilitate and reclaim Ein Albeida, a natural water source near her village West Bank village of Al-Tuwani. The spring is a natural water source that was used by Palestinian communities in the region for generations, but a decade and a half ago, nearby Israeli settlers started swimming in the spring, which dirtied the water and made it unsuitable for drinking. For years, due to settler violence and intimidation tactics, Palestinians couldn’t access the spring at all until the direct action that enabled Adara to draw water from the spring for the first time in 15 years.
While I found the action itself to be an important part of the experience, my most profoundly transformative moment came the next day during the group Havadallah service. Throughout the delegation we sang songs, continuously emphasizing the importance of music to movements working for justice. One of the songs we sang repeatedly included the words of a translation of a verse from the Book of Isaiah.
The next day, Saturday, the electricity had gone out where we were in Bethlehem, so we did Havdallah by candlelight during a cold rainstorm, our arms draped around each other to keep warm and to express our care for one another. During the service we sang the words “Ushavtem mayim besasson mimayanei hayeshua,” the Hebrew translation of the song we had been singing all week. My eyes filled with tears reflecting on how just the day before we had helped Kifah Adara to joyously draw water from Ein Albeida. Singing those words during the Havdallah service felt powerful and transformative, helping me to reclaim my Judaism from Zionism and to reassert a liberatory Jewish identity based in justice for all people.
During the winter delegation I learned that CJNV’s work is profoundly important for two main reasons. First, the delegations focus on the co-resistance model of nonviolent activism. Through co-resistance, Palestinians, Israelis and international Jews build alliances across their differences that enables them to resist in relationship to each other. Building relationships structured on resistance is rooted in the tacit understanding that the liberation of one is deeply intertwined with the liberation of another. Second, CJNV enables delegates to experience personally transformative moments, thereby impacting the way they orient towards Palestine/Israel, their own multi-layered social identities, and conflict transformation more broadly.
I am forever changed by my CJNV experience – as a Jew, an activist, and a teacher. After my participation on the winter delegation, I am convinced that co-resistance is one of the most impactful methods that shows tangible results to improve the lives of Palestinians on the ground. The nature of this organizing model builds a vibrant, intersectional, and powerful anti-occupation social movement by building trust and relationships through embodied actions. And after the delegation I am more committed than ever to CJNV, which I believe to be the most impactful organization working for justice in Palestine/Israel.