Future rabbis plant trees with Palestinians

Young American rabbinical students plant olive trees to replace those uprooted by Jewish settlers near the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, south of Hebron, Jan 25, 2019. (photo: Nasser Nasser / AP Photo)
Two weeks later, the trees were again uprooted by Jewish settlers.

By Isabel Debre | Associated Press | Feb 19, 2019

‘Before coming here and doing this, I couldn’t speak intelligently about Israel. We’re saying that we can take the same religion settlers use to commit violence in order to commit justice, to make peace.’
— Tyler Dratch, a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston

Young American rabbinical students are doing more than visiting holy sites, learning Hebrew and poring over religious texts during their year abroad in Israel.

In a stark departure from past programs focused on strengthening ties with Israel and Judaism, the new crop of rabbinical students is reaching out to the Palestinians. The change reflects a divide between Israeli and American Jews that appears to be widening.

On a recent winter morning, Tyler Dratch, a 26-year-old rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston, was among some two dozen Jewish students planting olive trees in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani in the southern West Bank. The only Jews that locals typically see are either Israeli soldiers or ultranationalist settlers.

Dratch, not wanting to be mistaken for a settler, covered his Jewish skullcap with a baseball cap. He followed the group down a rocky slope to see marks that villagers say settlers left last month: “Death to Arabs” and “Revenge” spray-painted in Hebrew on boulders and several uprooted olive trees, their stems severed from clumps of dirt.

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