Brit Shalom (Land Peace Covenant) (Ezekiel 37)


Came to synagogue late as the bar-mitzvah was winding down his chanting of the haftorah, which this week was taken from Ezekiel chapter 37. Translated into English, these were the lines that I immediately heard walking into the sanctuary. “Thus said Lord God, I am going to take the children of Israel from among the nations they have gone to and gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land…I will make a covenant of peace with them” (Ezek. 37:21, 26).

I don’t think it is so easy to separate Judaism and Zionism, but my interest in the verses has nothing to do with political theology, not directly. More prophecy than a call to political image, the verses are more haunting and beautiful when sung in a large resonant place before an assembled crowd, dreamy perhaps. On the page, they read a little but more dull and didactic.

For some reason the modern JPS translation translates “brit shalom” as a “covenant of friendship,” whereas “covenant of peace” makes for a more exacting translation and for a more challenging association. Brit Shalom was the name of a political organization in British Mandate Palestine based on the principle of Arab-Jewish cooperation and bi-nationalism. More prophetic than political, its most famous members were Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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