This speech was delivered at the Standing Together Israeli-Palestinian Unity Rally in Evanston on May 19th. You can learn more about Standing Together on their website and about their Illinois chapter on their Facebook page, Illinois Friends of Standing Together. You can also check out coverage of the rally in The Chicago Tribune and the The Daily Northwestern.

Friends, what a beautiful day to come together for such an important purpose.

My name is Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, from Mishkan Chicago. I am pro-Israel, I am pro-Palestine, and I am pro-Peace, I am pro-collaboration, coexistence, co-resistance, and co-operation. I am OVER the binary which forces each one of us into declaring allegiance between either Israel or Palestinians, who deserves sympathy and support, and which side should be reviled and repudiated. This binary says you must declare which side represents true liberation and freedom for all people, and which side represents oppression, repression, and injustice. 

This, like most binaries, is a false binary. This binary, like most binaries, breaks down when subjected to the littlest bit of scrutiny because of course when dealing with 14 million human beings between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, it is impossible to say that one ethnic, religious or national side is morally correct and vindicated in all ways at all times, and the other is consistently wrong, always missing opportunities to miss opportunities…as if one side’s pain or trauma is more valid than the other’s and as if violence is therefore justified against the people whose pain matters less. God forbid. 

If we fall into that binary ,we will perpetuate it. So we need to tell a new story.

If there is to be liberation and freedom for one people it will only be because at the end of that day it is given to all in that land. Jews and Palestinians are two peoples with long and deep histories in the land of Israel and Palestine. These two peoples aren’t going anywhere, and these two people’s freedom and safety is bound up in the freedom and safety of the other. This is the truth. If anything October 7th proved that half-measures, holding patterns, delay tactics, will not bring permanent peace to Israelis or justice to Palestinians. In order to challenge the one-sided echo chambers that so many of us live in, telling us that one side deserves compassion while the other side deserves whatever violence it gets while we wait for some utopian solution to this problem…We need to tell a new story.

Say it with me: We need to tell a new story.

We need to tell a new story. We need to tell a new story.

The Israeli historian Yuvah Noah Harari has said that in this moment there is a struggle for the soul of Israel, between a Zionism that is the legitimate expression of the need and desire for safety and self-determination of Jewish people in the land of Israel; and a messianic, right-wing mutation, a movement of Jewish supremacy that is a danger not just to Palestinians but to Israel itself. This was the conversation we were having before October 7th and it’s no less real now, much more terrifyingly real and the consequences so much more dire. 

Standing Together is an incredible organization that tells a new story, that LIVES a new story.  A story where Jewish freedom safety doesn’t come at the expense of Palestinians and vice versa because instead of one side imagining exercising power OVER the other, they create power TOGETHER. Standing Together changes the status quo away from an us-versus-them narrative to a broad coalition of diverse communities – Israeli and Arab; Mizrachi and Ashkenazi; all genders; Muslim and Christian and Jewish, secular and religious and even ultra-religious; rural and urban– working together to change the untenable status quo.

Standing Together is so powerful because they model unwillingness to give into despair, and fundamentally they recognize that the binaries of pro Israel or pro Palestine are false unless you accept them both.

One cannot be pro the self determination, safety and freedom of Jews in Israel and not also recognize the imperative for the same thing for Palestinians, not some day far of in the future —- now. And one cannot assert the rightness of Palestinian self determination, freedom, safety and justice without affirming that the Jewish people also share in that claim.  

There is no future except one that recognizes, accepts and values the other as neighbors, as friends and the only hope the land has not to be soaked in blood any longer. 

The poet Yehudah Amichai wrote, “Don’t stop after beating the swords into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into plowshares first.”

We need a new story. From Gaza to Tel Aviv, there can be, there must be, freedom, safety and peace. 

“Freedom, justice, safety, peace: from Gaza to Tel Aviv.” Say it with me!

Thank you.