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Holding Each Other in this Difficult Moment in Israel

05/17/2018 09:54:13 PM


Shalom Hevre,

I am writing to you, yet struggling to find words. I am reaching out, heartbroken, after the most violent day in Israel/Palestine since the 2014 Gaza War.

SAJ is a diverse community. Each of us understands the situation and navigates the pulls for security and peace differently. And in this sacred container, we can hold these viewpoints. There are some of us who are celebrating the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem yesterday. There are others of us who may question the timing and intentions of those who have initiated this decision.

There are those of us who place the primary blame for the 70 year conflict on the Palestinian leadership, who have refused to recognize Israel’s existence and particularly on Hamas, with its ethos of terrorism and its manipulation of children as instigators of war. There are those of us who place blame on the occupation and the blockade on Gaza which has resulted in inhumane and potentially untenable living conditions. Some believe neither party truly wants or is ready for peace.

For some of us, what has happened is clear-cut and understandable. For others, we may be feeling a “both/and” as we witnessed yesterday’s conflation of celebration and violence. Even if we agree that Israel has a right to protect herself against infiltration as all countries do, we can feel devastated by the loss of life. Even if we believe Jerusalem is the true capital, we may be uneasy about the political and partisan tone of the event and the presence of religious leaders who have been harmful to the Jewish community. We may feel proudly Zionist while also questioning the actions taken by Israeli leaders. We may be holding both hope and despair, surety and confusion. Each of us has a different story.

We can and need to hold these (and other unnamed) diverse beliefs in our community and in our hearts, and come together to struggle, search for answers, and listen to one another. We can disagree respectfully without labeling each other as outside of the pale of Jewish discourse on Israel and Zionism. We can mourn for all life lost, as our tradition reminds us that it is not proper to celebrate at the deaths, even of those perceived to be our enemies.* We can pray for a secure and peaceful Israel together. We can and should push each other towards taking actions, even the limited ones we can take while sitting comfortably in the U.S.

This past Shabbat, we read from the Prophet Jeremiah, who offers a vision of God’s deeds that is different than our torah’s version. His vision imagines a person as a lonely bush in a scorched desert, “unable to hear that good is coming” (Jeremiah 17:6). Jeremiah's teaching reminds us that the worst curses we can experience are hopelessness, despair, and isolation. In a moment like this, it is all the most important, even as it is challenging, to turn towards one another to soothe our broken hearts, to lift up hope, and to remind each other we are not alone.

May our hearts be filled with compassion and openness, may we share our truths, our struggles and hopes in sacred community.

Rabbi Lauren


*The midrash (Talmud Megillah 10b) teaches that God reprimanded the angels for singing while the Egyptians were drowning in the sea (after the Israelites had escaped), saying, “My works (creations) are drowning and you sing!?”

Tue, March 26 2019 19 Adar II 5779