- Jewish, pro-Palestinian activist
- Leading member of several anti-Israel groups
Ora Ruah Wise was born in Jerusalem in about 1981, to a Hebrew School teacher and a rabbi. In the late 1990s, she worked with Rabbis for Human Rights, a Jerusalem-based organization whose members support the Palestinian militant cause and believe that Israel is guilty of widespread “human rights violations” and “land confiscation.”
In 1999, Wise moved to the U.S. and enrolled at Ohio State University (OSU), where she majored in Women’s Studies and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures. She also co-founded OSU’s Committee for Justice in Palestine and joined the International Solidarity Movement.
In 2002 Wise helped organize the Palestine Solidarity Movement‘s (PSM) Second National Student Conference, which was held at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and featured Sami Al-Arian, a leading figure with the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as a guest speaker.
At PSM’s Third National Student Conference (held at OSU in November 2003), Wise declared that “Zionism is racism.”
After graduating from OSU in 2003, Wise settled in New York City where she became a member of Jews Against the Occupation, a group which contends that Jews “have no legitimate national identity and no entitlement to a nation state [i.e., Israel].” She also worked closely with SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now) and Al-Awda, and taught Jewish Studies at a progressive Brooklyn synagogue. Moreover, Wise served for several years as a media spokesperson for the national student divestment movement, which called for businesses and universities worldwide to terminate their financial dealings with Israel.
In the early 2000s as well, Wise co-founded the Palestine Education Project (PEP) — later known as the Palestine/Israel Education Project — a collective of educators, activists, youth, and artists that sponsored multi-media workshops in high schools and youth groups, to promote “understanding [about] common struggles against racism, militarism and displacement in Israel/Palestine, North America, and beyond.”
At PSM’s Fourth National Student Conference (held at Duke University in 2004), Wise led a workshop promoting PEP’s efforts to “brin[g] the Palestinian struggle to school.” In that session, Wise said it was vital for schoolteachers nationwide to tell their students that Israel represented a grave threat to the peoples of the Middle East. Further, she suggested specific classroom activities such as the following:
- “Here is how you teach Israeli oppression. Give a kid some water, but give other kids a lot of water. Give some kids toys, and other kids no toys. Talk about the comparisons. Tell them the Israeli kids have the toys, the water. The Palestinians have nothing – and it is the fault of the Israelis.”
- “Get children to draw photos of their families in their homes. Then, show them all the photos of what a Palestinian child would draw, reflecting oppression.” (“These special pictures,” she explained, could be ordered from various Palestinian activist sources which she named.)
- “Get a hula hoop. Get the classroom of kids to stand close together around the hula hoop. Then put a child in the middle of the hula hoop. The child in the hula hoop is the Israeli. He has lots of space. He has all the water. Everyone else is crowded and uncomfortable.”
When a male student at the Duke PSM conference asked, in a public session, whether it was logical to expect that Jews would be treated respectfully in a majority-Palestinian state, Wise, from her seat in the audience, shouted him down and called him a “sexist.” “The land doesn’t belong to them [Jews]!” she yelled.
Also in the early 2000s, Wise condemned Israel as a country replete with “illegal settlements on stolen [Palestinian] land”; “bulldozers crushing [Palestinian] homes”; “soldiers patrolling towns imprisoning [Palestinian] women and children in their homes”; “[Palestinian] men naked and blindfolded in the street;” “[Palestinian] children … shot in the head”; and “pregnant [Palestinian] women … detained at checkpoints.” Palestinian terrorism, Wise contends, is merely a reaction to Israel’s horrific transgressions. She favors the creation of a single state, wherein an Arab majority and a Jewish minority would live side-by-side, as the preferred means of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Aside from her anti-Israel activism, Wise has also been an outspoken critic of free-market capitalism. In February 2002, for instance, she was among many demonstrators arrested for disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly during protests against the World Economic Forum (WEF) in New York City. Asserting that she was “very opposed to having groups of the global elite getting together and making decisions that affect the rest of the world’s lives,” Wise characterized the WEF as “basically the wealthiest of the world and government officials getting together to discuss their desires for profit, development and … exploitation of the world resources and communities.” Moreover, she lauded “massive mobilizations against corporate globalization and capitalism,” on behalf of the “common people.”
For details on other altercations that Wise has had with law-enforcement officials, click here.
In the mid-2000s, Wise served as a speaker for the anti-war, anti-globalization, social-justice group Global Exchange.
In March 2008 in New York City, Wise spoke at an annual meeting of the Left Forum.
After subsequently earning a master’s degree from the New York-based Davidson School of Jewish Education, Wise worked variously as director of the Children’s Learning Program at Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, a Brooklyn synagogue devoted to “building a progressive Jewish community”; a curriculum specialist for Detroit Future Media Workshops, a program designed to train Detroit residents “interested in building [the city’s] media economy through the creation of grassroots media, and community cultural production”; and a blogger for the website Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas.
In more recent years, Wise has worked as a professional chef in Brooklyn, where she: co-owns a “mindful catering” company called Harvest & Revel; helps the Food Issues Group, an organization that aims “to address issues of sustainability related to environmental impact, food justice, and profitability”; serves as culinary director for the annual Allied Media Conference, which “brings together [in Detroit] a vibrant and diverse community of people using media to incite change”; and heads the Dream Cafe, “an experiment in running a restaurant based on the principles of … cooperation, sustainability, network building, creativity, autonomy, and interdependence.”
Wise says she derives particular “joy” from “dancing outside in queer spaces, in wine, and in drag culture.”
Further Reading: “Underbelly” (by Ora Wise, ColoursOfResistance.org); “Ora Wise” (Cosmos.ucc.ie, RuthfullyYours.com, Keywiki.org); “Duke University’s Public Relations for Terrorism” (by Lee Kaplan, 11-5-2004, re: PSM Conferences); “Inside Duke’s Hate Fest” (by Lee Kaplan, Front Page Magazine, 10-29-2004, re: PSM Conference of 2004); “S Blog” (SHMA.com); “Protestors Face Charges in N.Y.” (The Lantern, 3-7-2002, re: anti-WEF protests).