you never told me that the JNF’s bread and butter is dispossessing Palestinians of their homes and land

"Like many folks who attended a Jewish congregation as children, I have memories of dropping my pocket money into Jewish National Fund tzedakah boxes at Sunday school, told only of our ethical obligation to charity and the JNF’s work planting trees in Israel. Though I am no longer observant, it was in large part through my religious education and from my Jewish family that my sense of social justice and of ethics developed. This meant two things: a fierce loyalty toward minorities of all kinds, and the sense of a duty toward helping others based on our philosophical tradition and our history. You never told me that the JNF’s bread and butter is dispossessing Palestinians of their homes and land. I learned of this only recently, when details of renewed efforts to evict the Sumarin family from their East Jerusalem home—efforts that the JNF’s subsidiary, Himnuta, has been engaged in for 26 years—reached me thanks to activists on the ground who reached out to IfNotNow. As I dug deeper, I learned that the JNF’s counterpart in Israel has long engaged in and promoted discriminatory, exclusionary practices to keep the land it’s acquired firmly in the hands of Jews alone, and that it does work over the Green Line. I learned that the US-based JNF is not terribly forthcoming about how much of the money from those little tzedakah boxes ends up funding projects in the settlements—or arcane legal cases against Palestinian families. This is not tzedakah. It’s also against the Jewish imperatives to ethical behavior and honesty. The JNF can tell Himnuta to withdraw its case against the Sumarin family and cease engaging in such unjust legal maneuvers. Or if it’s going to continue funding and associating with such work, it should be more upfront and transparent about this, rather than relying on duping American Jews into thinking their donations are simply going plant trees. And maybe instead of "planting trees," it should start the work of repairing relationships with the Palestinians who have been affected by decades of the JNF's shady work." Zack Shlachter

JNFSophie Trauberman