This Tu B’Shvat, 60 Seattle-ites gathered to reclaim and re-direct another Jewish tradition. Using the Jewish Voice for Peace Tu B’Shvat Haggadah for Healing and Reparation, the Seattle Chapter of JVP kicked off a new national campaign: Trees of Reconciliation. With the goal of planting 3000 trees in the Jenin-Nablus-Salfit triangle of the occupied West Bank by donating funds to the Palestine Fair Trade Association, the Seattle chapter was one of 14 hosts of such a seder.

The Seattle seder began with the acknowledgment of Martin Luther King Jr Day and a recognition of the slavery this country was built upon and the groups commitment to ending racism. The room had 9 tables full of folks from at least 11 different Seattle zip codes who range from veteran-leftists to political newbies, ages 7 – 70. The seder, broken into four sections — the seed, the blossom, the fruit, and the harvest — drew on Jewish tradition quoting everyone from Rabbi Yokhanan ben Zakkai from the Talmud to Yehuda Amichai, a modern Israel poet. Each section was segued with small group conversation at each of the 9 tables beautifully set-up with a candle in a bottle of Palestinian Peace Oil, a product of a local Seattle Jew who buys olives from Palestine to make his own oil. Folks shared stories of their upbringing ranging from Zionist to anti, socialist to consumerist.

“In the parks created by the Jewish National Fund you will often see the ruins of a house, a fortress, orchards, cactuses, and so on…these trees were planted by human hands. Wherever [such growth] are found today, there once stood a Palestinian village” reads a section of the haggadah. The booklets were created and compiled by two members of the JVP Philadelphia chapter.

Acknowledging and honoring the dream of past Zionists who meant well for their people often cued an emotional sigh from the collective engaged deeply in learning about the Zionist quest that went wrong, and the personal histories of many in attendance which included giving to JNF.

“We must end the hypocrisy and fix what we have done collectively. None of us are innocent,” a reader stated to the group.

After singing songs such as Lo Yisa Goy and blessing different fruits of the tree, the vine and the earth, two members of Seattle JVP rose to call the group to action and kick-off the campaign. They quoted statistics and called upon their own experiences putting coins in blue JNF tzedakah boxes and even planting pine trees (a non-native plant to the region, ill-suited to thrive) in Israel. “More than 700,000 olive trees have been uprooted to make way for illegal settlements, highways and walls. Let us make a showing of solidarity and move in the direction of fixing what has been done.”

The evening in Seattle raised nearly $1400 for the cause, a quarter of which has been donated to their host, the Cascade People’s Center. That will pay for more than 150 olive trees at $20 per 3 trees. With half the chapter’s 2008 goal achieved, folks are excited about building on this momentum and moving forward.

Give to the campaign or learn more here.
Get a copy of the hagaddah here.