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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - March 2015

Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller -
March 2015

The Sonoma Garden Park got a makeover this fall and is now getting dressed up in time for the very early spring we’re having (and what’s up with that?). A new cement path that wraps the 6-acre demonstration farm maintained by the Ecology Center makes the demonstration garden wheelchair accessible. The parking lot has also been graveled and decorated with new beds containing native plants. The upgrade has inspired overall improvements throughout the park. Plus, these developments have a water conservation function. Come have a look!  The Garden Park is a demonstration garden open to the public. The Saturday Harvest Market opens later this month for the season, a great way to pick up some organic veggies for a song.

Far away from our peaceful valley, violence seems to be breaking all over the world, even in Europe. Israel has been in the eye of the storm since its establishment; while it is often portrayed as the victim of terrorism, the Palestinian experience is seldom heard. Sonomans For Justice and Peace in Palestine (SFJPP) is showing two films this month to shed light on that painful situation. In The Image shows March 1, and The Stones Cry Out, the story of Palestinian Christians March 8, both at 2 pm at the Community Center, and both are FREE.

Dick Ridenour and his partner Fran Dayan started the SFJPP five years ago after attending a conference sponsored by Friends of Sabeel in Marin. “It opened our eyes – widely,” said Fran, a retired psychotherapist who is the only Jew in the group. Pictures of Cast Lead, Israel’s 2008-9 operation in Gaza, “showed how badly Israel treated the Palestinians. We were shocked.

“I’m proud to be Jewish. This made me un-proud, to see how Israel was acting in the name of the Jewish state.”

Together they formed a study group, and later the group decided to share this information with the community.

Why? I asked them. Why would residents of this happy valley want to know?

“Like every other community that’s dependent on the usual media outlets, everyone is familiar with the Israeli narrative,” said Dick, a retired social worker. “What’s not known is the other side of the story.

“The US spends $3 billion a year to support Israel. If you criticize Israel you’re labeled an ant-Semite. Congress is under the thumb of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a large advocacy group that campaigns to keep the news favorable to Israel.

“But Israel has moved so far to the right, it has been called an apartheid state. The documentation is there. The War for Independence included widespread ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians. Many people don’t know.

“In Gaza last year, what broke the ceasefire was Israeli arrest of seven members of Hamas. The rockets were in response. We hear so much about the rockets. These rockets are like fire crackers…”

“I think the Holocaust was so traumatic for the Jews,” said Fran, “they just don’t trust anyone any more. But when Holocaust survivors come out against this, and say enough is enough, when people sit down and talk about the pain of losing a child, that’s universal. They become friends.”

Things are beginning to shift, Dick noted. “I feel that we are part of this process. Public opinion in Europe has shifted dramatically. An internal memo from Israel revealed that Europe, which is Israel’s biggest market, no longer sees Israel as a favored nation.

“Now more and more students are saying they don’t want to go into the military,” and an elite Israeli school, Israeli Arts and Sciences Academy, has written a letter urging students not to go because “the army creates inequality, perpetuates injustice and corrupts social values.”

The two films show the other side. For In The Image, Palestinian women were given cameras by B’Tselem, an Israeli group of noted professionals, scholars and statesmen, to document human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. The Stones Cry Out tells the little known story of the persecution of Palestinian Christians. Discussion follows the film showings.

Why should Sonomans go?

We may want to know what our tax dollars support.

Speaking of tax dollars, if you’re concerned about the future of the Sonoma Development Center in Eldridge don’t forget the important meeting that will be held there in the Wagner Building on March 14 beginning at 10 am.


Stephanie Hiller is a life coach and personal historian who lives in Sonoma.