Beautifully written through the eyes of women who have witnessed the injustices and human rights violations perpetrated against the Palestinians, the authors of Shifting Sands describe the facts behind the creation of Israel, the current situation in the occupied territories and their own painful realizations in facing these realities. Through this ardent culmination of personal essays, sixteen Jewish women bravely share their epiphanies about Palestine and Israel, past and present.
The book’s editor and coauthor, Osie Gabriel Adelfang, began her awakening when her cousin, an Israeli soldier, refused to serve in the occupied territories. He had written an open letter stating his reasons for refusal and wanted it translated into English. Her translation of his letter began her own transformation. Once regarding the Israeli military as a symbol of strength and integrity, she came to understand that the occupation of Palestinian lands had nothing to do with self-defense. Adelfang, who spoke at Chicago’s Women and Children First bookstore, stated that upon learning the truth, she felt betrayed and lied to when it came to Israel and Palestine. She felt like a “patsy.”
Co-writer, Linda Dittmar, who grew up in Tel Aviv from 1939-1960, wondered as a little girl why the lights had disappeared from a nearby Palestinian village called Lifta. As a child, she didn’t dare ask such a question. As an adult, she came to find that Lifta had been destroyed and ethnically cleansed of its inhabitants along with hundreds of other Palestinian villages that existed prior to the 1948 creation of Israel. Her awareness of the situation came gradually. As she states, “It crept and sidled towards me; it coaxed, bullied, and shamed me.”
In an especially poignant chapter by coauthor, Starhawk, reality is confronted with irrefutable candor. This chapter combines both passion and logic for a result that stuns the reader and allows no room for denial. She begins her chapter with the 2002 Israeli massacre at a Jenin refugee camp. She describes the anguish of a father pulling the charred corpses of his two young daughters from the rubble. Nothing is sugar coated. The reality is stark discussing recent Israeli attacks as well as early Zionist European settlers who went to Palestine with a sense of religious and ethnic superiority seeing the native population only as an obstacle. Starhawk’s bluntness, however, cannot mask her sense of loss and sadness over what has transpired in the name of Judaism.
Other contributors to this anthology include Hedy Epstein; a Jewish-American activist whose parents vanished in the holocaust, Emma Rosenthal; a Jewish-American human rights activist, Amira Hass; a columnist with Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper and Anna Baltzer; a Jewish-American author, lecturer and activist. Each gifted co-writer tells of her own unique evolution through human tales of loss, sorrow, pain and hope. The outcome is powerful and educational even for those who are well versed in the realities of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Sifting through the one sided barrage of pro Israeli media coverage in the U.S. has left the population here in the dark with regard to Palestine, refugees, ethnic cleansing, settlement building and $7,000,000 per day of U.S. taxpayer money to Israel. But the truth can no longer be hidden thanks to the courage and compassion of these women and others like them. This book has no lobbyists behind it, no corporate interests and no hidden agendas. It is very simply the truth rearing its ugly head through engaging, passionate and sometimes painful stories. Shifting Sands presents an opportunity to learn what every human being has a right and an obligation to know, the truth.