Saturday, January 4, 2014

Understanding the journey

GUEST: Rami Efal is an Israel born activist whose grandparents survived the holocaust and who served in the Israeli army as a criminal investigator and a guard at a maximum security prison for Palestinians. We talk about his recent peace-building activities, including an interfaith international retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau with Germans, Poles and Palestinians from the West Bank.

We have had Rami on the program before, so we were especially interested in talking to him when he returned from an international retreat at Auschwitz.

The Holocaust casts its shadow on Palestine. The unthinkable horror of what the Germans did to the Jews during World War II remains the irrational motive behind much of the world's support for Israel, the apartheid regime whose policies towards Palestinians seem at times to come straight from the Third Reich. 

Never again for the Jewish people, or never again for all of humanity? Those are the two conflicting messages of the Holocaust. The first message is used to excuse the militarism and racism that Israel directs towards the Palestinian people, who were ethnically cleansed from their homeland. No barbarism is too great if it protects the Jewish people from another Auschwitz.

The second message is for the world. No people should ever again be treated like animals, stripped of their land, locked in prisons, humiliated, and murdered by a racist state. One's hope for peace in the world depends on the second message. We will treat each other like human beings or we will annihilate our species.

However we can transition from the first message of the Holocaust to the second is worth pursuing. A Zen retreat to Auschwitz-Birkenau will move some people in its exploration of suffering, guilt, and transformation. Rami was the perfect guest to take us there. Unsparingly honest about his feelings, he understands the journey that must be made.

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