Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Middle East peace topic for teaMiddle East peace topic for tea"

La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California: "Middle East peace topic for teaMiddle East peace topic for tea"

By Anita Susan Brenner

An Episcopalian neighbor sent me an interesting brochure. The brochure was for a conference on the Middle East at All Saints Church in Pasadena, organized by “Friends of Sabeel.”

I looked closely at the brochure. The conference would commemorate the al nakba. I was puzzled. I knew that al means “the,” but what in the world was nakba?

Naturally, I took the brochure to my friend, Ahuva Einstein. Ahuva’s mother is familiar to those who read this column. Ahuva’s mother was Rachel Wrobel, a 4-foot 7 dynamo who died last year at the age of 91. Ahuva’s mother came from an large, educated family in Poland. In 1936, she fled, by herself, to Israel.

Ahuva is an Israeli war veteran. She is retired from a career as an educator with a specialty in Old Testament studies. I reckoned that if anyone could explain this brochure, it would be Ahuva.

Ahuva got out her tea cups. We were in a sunlit room full of paintings and books. I pointed to the language in the brochure. advertisement

“Ahuva,” I asked, “What does this mean, that the All Saints’ Middle East Conference will be dedicated to the memory of the al nakba?"

Ahuva sighed. “The phrase al nakba is Arabic. It means the great catastrophe. Some people, people opposed to the existence of Israel, use this phrase to refer to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.”

“So, the problem is the language?”

Ahuva put down her tea cup. “The problem is not just the language that they use. Until recently, Sabeel promoted the idea that the Middle East needs a new state in lieu of the state of Israel, to be governed only by Palestinians.”

“How did they justify that?”

Ahuva took a sip of tea, and replied. “Sabeel’s approach is to deny the content of the Old Testament and the ancient history of the Middle East that gives the Jews the right to re-settle in what used to be their country before they were exiled by the Romans.”

“But they say they want peace.”

“We all want peace,” said Ahuva. “But the church is being naive. Beyond the rhetoric, the ultimate result would be the dismantling of the state of Israel and harm to the Arab Christian minority as well.”

We sat silently for a while. I had sat in this very room, drinking tea with Ahuva’s mother, Rachel Wrobel. After the war, in Israel, Rachel Wrobel had gone by bus to locations where there were rumors about the arrival of survivors from her hometown in Poland. She asked them about her parents. She asked about her six brothers and sisters. No one survived.

Because she fled to Israel, Rachel Wrobel’s own life had been saved. So when Rachel Wrobel gave birth, she gave her daughter a Hebrew name, Ahuva. The Hebrew word for beloved.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident. E-mail her at">anitasusan.brenner@

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