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Aaron Torop

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Concrete building in which members of Kibbutz Mishol live

In a nondescript building in Nof HaGalil (a town in the north of Israel that until this year was called Nazareth Illit), 150 people – half of whom are children – are attempting to create societal transformation. These individuals, members of Kibbutz Mishol, are part of a burgeoning “urban kibbutz” movement.

Although the word “kibbutz” calls to mind isolated, agricultural settlements, now considered by some to be a part of Israel’s past, Kibbutz Mishol is no ordinary kibbutz. Urban kibbutzim such as Mishol pride themselves on being integrated into the city and focus on the values of...

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The author and a friend in a Jerusalem park on Shabbat

During Shabbat in Israel, everything and everyone slows down. Very few cars are on the road, only a couple of shops are open, and Israelis take a break from their usual hurried pace to breathe. Shabbat in Israel also provides a chance for people to share space in ways that they otherwise might not.

On a recent Shabbat, I spent the afternoon with friends over a picnic in Gan Sacher, one of the largest parks in Jerusalem. We packed up a lunch of fresh fruit and cheese from the Machane Yehuda market, challah and hummus from the previous night’s meal, Bissli (a popular Israeli snack...

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Pointed roofs of a church and a synagogue with a cross atop one and a Star of David atop the other

Seven months after being acquitted of blasphemy charges by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, finally joined her family in Canada on May 7, 2019. Bibi was initially convicted and sentenced to death nearly a decade ago, and her case sparked worldwide outrage over blasphemy laws, which criminalize “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.”

While Bibi’s release by the Pakistani government in 2018 was a positive step, it was marred by nationwide protests. Pakistan’s blasphemy law is prone to false accusations because accusers...

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Cover of the USCIRF report

Seven months after being acquitted of blasphemy charges by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, finally joined her family in Canada on May 7, 2019. Bibi was initially convicted and sentenced to death nearly a decade ago, and her case sparked worldwide outrage over blasphemy laws, which criminalize “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.”

While Bibi’s release by the Pakistani government in 2018 was a positive step, it was marred by nationwide protests. Pakistan’s blasphemy law is prone to false accusations because accusers...

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Pair of hands painted to resemble the Earth forming a heart

In biblical Judaism, every seventh year was considered a shmita year. During this year, crops would not be planted, debts were forgiven, slaves were freed, and every 49th year land ownership was relinquished. In modern times, we understand shmita as a release, an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to being good stewards of God’s creations and to correct the inequalities we perpetuate.

While the next shmita year is not until Rosh HaShanah 5782 (or September 2021), 5779 has already been a year of reckoning around our responsibility to give the Earth a rest from the constant...

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