Category: Reflections & Analyses

Vidui/Confession, Rewritten for Suhaib Alawar

We are standing outside of the court. There are seven of us, Israelis and Americans. Suhaib’s parents are standing with us. No one is sure what is happening. The court’s name, “Peace Court,” seems even more nauseous than usual. Inside the barbed wire-rimmed jail, a fourteen year old boy is being held by the same authorities that half a year ago held him in solitary confinement, threatened him with a knife and told him he’d get tortured with electricity if he didn’t say what they wanted him to say. When he was released from jail, after a month, he was sentenced to house arrest and told that he could not finish his 9th grade year. Five months after his release, Suhaib was finally allowed to return to school, on the condition that he go and return with a parent. This past Saturday, on their way back from school, Suhaib’s mother stepped inside to go to the bathroom. When she emerged, she saw that her son had been arrested by Israeli police for violating the terms of his continued house arrest.
We hear that the court decided to hold him until Thursday. After all, we must all get ready for the approaching Day of Judgement. There is no time to deal with every case of every kid that Israel has chosen to torture. And so, as Suhaib sits in the Russian Compound, only minutes away from my house in West Jerusalem, I will do my preparations for the Day of Judgement by rewriting some of the liturgy, with my friend Suhaib in mind.

Ashamnu: We are guilty of oppression.
Bagadnu: We have betrayed the lessons of our people.
Gazalnu: We have stolen land.
Debarnu Dofi: We have falsely accused children of crimes.
Heyvinu: We have perverted the notions of justice and law.
Vihirshanu: We have made our children and our children’s children to do evil deeds.
Zadnu: We have had evil hearts.
Hamasnu: We have been so, so violent.
Tafalnu Sheker: We have been dishonest to the world and to ourselves.
Yatznu Ra: We have advised our justices and judges to torture others.
Kizavnu: We have lied and broken even our own laws.
Latznu: We have been contemptuous of those who call for peace and mean it.
Maradnu: We have rebelled against a history that teaches “Thou Shalt Not Oppress.”
Niatznu: We have provoked others to throw stones and to join in the cycle of violence.
Sararnu: We have failed to do what is right. We have failed to do what is right.
Avinu: We have succumbed to the temptation of empire, of land, of money, of power.
Peshanu: We have acted with complete disregard to moral standards.
Tzararnu: We have persecuted and oppressed others, mostly those who are Palestinian.
Kishinu Oref: We have been stubborn in our insistence that what we do we must do.
Rishanu: We have arrested and tortured 14 year old children.
Shichatnu: We have corrupted ideals, hopes, scripture and conscience.
Tiavnu: We have committed abominations. We have committed abominations.
Tainu: We have gone astray. God, how we have gone astray.
Tiatanu: We have misled others and ourselves into justifying or ignoring that which is unjustifiable and must not be ignored any longer.

As we say these words tonight and tomorrow, let us not think of them as empty words, or as metaphors. These words are real, they speak to the collective sins we have sinned and continue to sin every day. And to ask forgiveness, in truth, we must first put an end to these sins. God, help us find the strength to put an end to these sins.
The building in which Suhaib is imprisoned.

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