The saga of freshman Congressman Rashida Tlaib’s aborted trip to Israel continued in the strangest way: a Shabbat (Sabbath) ceremony that focused on condemning Israel.

The story began several months ago when Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib organized a junket to bring congressmen to Israel. After much debate and deliberation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided last Thursday to bar congressmen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering Israel. Tlaib then wrote a letter to Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri, requesting she be permitted to enter Israel to visit her elderly grandmother. In her request, Tlaib agreed to not promote boycotts against Israel while in the country. Deri agreed for “humanitarian reasons.” 

Tlaib responded to the Israeli dispensation by rejecting it.

Several media reported that Tlaib’s change of heart came as a result of criticism from Palestinian groups for complying with Israel’s conditions. 

The congressman, who once said on the radio that she got a “calming feeling” when she thought about the Holocaust, celebrated the episode with a mock Shabbat ceremony. The ceremony and dinner were organized by the anti-Israel group Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) Action, which describes itself as a “sister organization” of JVP. The organizations support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the annihilation of Israel and an end to any Jewish presence in the region.

The invitation from JVP read:

“Shabbat is a day for rest and rejuvenation in community. We invite Rashida to come restore, and to feel our love and support as we gear up for the road ahead. We stand with Rashida as her proud constituents, community and neighbors, together continuing the struggle for freedom, equality, and freedom for all people, from Detroit to Palestine.”

68 people responded to the Facebook invitation saying that they would attend.

Beth Miller, JVP Action’s Government Affairs Manager said in a statement that it was  “enraging that the Israeli government would hold a Member of Congress’s family hostage unless she agrees to censor herself.” It should be noted that  Tlaib’s grandmother lives in the town of Beit Ur El Foka which has been under Palestinian Authority control since the Oslo accords in 1995.

Though the event was billed as honoring the Jewish Sabbath, with the organizers announcing that Shabbat was a “day of rest” the event began at 5:30 PM and lasted until 7:30. Shabbat began in Detroit at 8:00 PM, after the event ended. The event also featured live music played over a public address system, both of which are forbidden on Shabbat. 

The group sang verses from Psalms and the Book of Isaiah:

How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together. Psalms 133:1

Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war. Isaiah 2:4

Tlaib incongruously told the Jewish group that she was “proud to grow up in the most beautiful blackest city in the country; the city of Detroit,” for which she received an entusiastic ovation. Tlaib invited the participants to visit her grandmother at home. “She wants to pick figs with people,” Tlaib claimed. It is, in fact, illegal for any of the Jews who attended to enter Beit Ur El Foka.

The ceremony then moved on to the ritual of lighting the Sabbath candles. For this, JVP emphasized that the candles were made by a company who produce Judaica for “Jews who still want to be observant without using material produced in Israel, the occupied territories.

In many details, the ceremony disregarded and disrespected Jewish customs and traditions while adding several of dubious origin. One example was when blessing the bread, the people neglected the washing of hands required before eating bread by Jewish law but the organizer insisted that everyone be touching someone else, apparently, a local custom that does not have its roots in Jewish law. 

But perhaps the strangest moment came when after Kiddush (the blessing over wine), the organizer offered the wine to Tlaib who, as a devout Muslim, is forbidden from touching or drinking wine or alcohol. 

The Sabbath Jewish connection continued on Saturday when Tlaib retweeted a post by Senator Julia Salazar (D-NY) who implied that Tlaib was excluded from Israel because she was an Arab Muslim.

Salazar, who posted a photo of the visa denied stamp in her passport, was not permitted to enter Israel in 2014 because she is a vocal advocate of BDS. Salazar, who in her college years described herself as pro-life pro-Israel and Christian, currently claims she is Jewish and is a member of the Democratic Socialists.

Tlaib was born and raised in Detroit but her grandparents live in Israel. Her father was born in Jerusalem and her mother was born in Samaria.

The trip Tlaib organized was underwritten by MIFTAH, an anti-Israel propaganda organization founded in 1998 by Hanan Ashrawi, a politician in the Palestinian Authority and member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). MIFTAH openly associates with terrorists who they refer to as “the ranks of the resistance movement.” MIFTAH has also published articles by Neo-Nazis and articles that repeated the antisemitic blood libel that Jews use Christian blood to bake Passover matzah. Previous MIFTAH trips to Israel have introduced U.S. congressmen to people with terrorist ties. After a 2016 MIFTAH junket, Hank Johnson (GA-D), gave a speech  comparing Israeli settlers to termites.

Source: Israel in the News