At the end of the day, it’s not our enemies, who certainly threaten us (see below), who are our biggest problem: It’s a lack of internal unity: Unity among Jews here in Israel, and unity among Jews outside Israel with regard to standing with Israel. That unity is our greatest strength, and it is what I wish to address today.
I was sent the following by a reader (thanks, Helaine!). It is a quote from Rabbi Lazer Brody, who teaches on issues of faith:
“Jerusalem is the heart of all the Jewish people. If you cull other Jews or cut yourself off from any group… then you cut yourself off from a part of Jerusalem. No wonder Jerusalem is under the threat of being split! It’s all the result of infighting and hate, no matter how seemingly justified it may be. The Chafetz Chaim says that Hashem doesn’t want hate or contention in any form, even if you think it’s a mitzvah [e.g., to oppose people who are not observant]. So, if you care about Jerusalem remaining unified, love every Jew. You don’t have to agree with his ideology or lifestyle, but you are commanded to love him like yourself.
“By the same token, every Jew has a portion of the Land of Israel.
“Large segments of our homeland are in danger, measure for measure with our actions: we cut ourselves off from other Jews, and we get part of our homeland cut away from is. Think about it, for I know it’s true.
“The unity of the Land of Israel depends on Jewish unity – this should be our goal, now more than ever.”
This is solidly in sync with traditional Jewish teaching: We are told that we lost the Second Temple because of baseless hatred (sinat chinam ) among Jews.
Another reader (for this, thanks Cheryl H.!) sent a video — the “Rabbi and the Paratroopers” — that models for us how we should all act. It’s five years old — dating to the time of the Lebanon War. Is it a coincidence that it came to me now?
See it, please. An Orthodox rabbi, with a long white flowing beard, embracing secular soldiers with a pure love that he expresses in action. It will warm your heart and just may bring tears to your eyes, as it did to mine.
And then, an article that addresses division — division sufficient to bring a different kind of tears to one’s eyes. This is a situation of great seriousness that must be addressed.
Daniel Gordis — Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem — has written stunningly on the question, “Are Young Rabbis Turning on Israel?”
Gordis, musing on the powerful feelings evoked in Israel during Yom HaZikaron (Israeli memorial day), writes:
“I read a recent message sent to students at the interdenominational rabbinical school at Boston’s Hebrew College, asking them to prepare themselves for Yom Ha-Zikaron by musing on the following paragraph: ‘For Yom Ha-Zikaron, our kavanah [intention] is to open up our communal remembrance to include losses on all sides of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. In this spirit, our framing question for Yom Ha-Zikaron is this: On this day, what do you remember and for whom do you grieve?’
“It is the rare e-mail that leaves me speechless. Here, at a reputable institution training future rabbis who will shape a generation of American Jews and their attitudes to Israel, the parties were treated with equal weight and honor in the run-up to Yom Ha-Zikaron. What the students were essentially being asked was whether the losses on Israel’s side touched them any more deeply than the losses on the side of Israel’s enemies.
“…That is a stunning question…There is, perhaps, a place for such memories [of the death of enemies]. That time is when the conflict has abated, when weapons are set aside, when healing has begun. That time…has not yet come to Israel.
“…The heartbreaking point was this: in the case of these rabbinical students, there is not an instinct that should be innate-the instinct to protect their own people first, or to mourn our losses first. Their instinct, instead, is to ‘engage.’ But ‘engagement’ is a value-free endeavor. It means setting instinctive dispositions utterly aside. And that is precisely what this emerging generation of American Jewish leaders believes it ought to do.
“…This kavanah to rabbinical students was not my first brush with this worrisome phenomenon among those training to be the religious leadership of American Jews. In April, before I learned about this Yom Ha-Zikaron incident, I wrote a column in the Jerusalem Post pointing to the problem of rabbinical students who are increasingly distanced from Israel. I noted an example of an American rabbinical student who had elected to celebrate his birthday in Ramallah, and another who was looking to buy a new prayer shawl and sent out an e-mail asking for advice about where to buy one-with the proviso that the tallith could not have been made in Israel. I said nothing about how widespread the phenomenon is, because we do not know. But it was time to acknowledge the situation, I argued, so that we might begin to address it.”
What Gordis says he encountered was a great deal of defensivenss: “It’s not us.”
“…But there was another reaction, too, and it came not from the deans, but from students at these schools, as well as from communal professionals and even rabbis out in the field…A communal Jewish professional in the South wrote, ‘Just yesterday I had a conversation with a synagogue that is interviewing recent graduates of [two rabbinical schools from different movements]. Students from both these schools have expressed opinions that are nothing short of hostile to Israel.’
“Then, a rabbi in the field wrote me:
‘Interesting column. Unfortunately, not an entirely new phenomenon. [Some years] ago, one of the rabbis of [a major New York synagogue] refused to shake my hand when I was introduced as a major in the IDF. And a few years back, [an] avowed Zionist [dean of one of the schools in question] told a group of rabbinical students that if he were around at the time, and had a say, he would have voted against the establishment of the State of Israel.’
“Students in Jerusalem and in the States asked to meet with me, and on almost every occasion, they spoke about how lonely it can be for an unapologetically pro-Israel student at some of today’s rabbinical schools. (This phenomenon is, not surprisingly, almost entirely absent on Orthodox campuses, although, alarmingly, it is becoming an issue on the left end of Orthodoxy, too.)
“The number of vocally anti-Israel students is probably small, but their collective impact is far from marginal. These students are shaping the discourse about Israel in America’s rabbinical schools. And worse, because Israel-related conversations are becoming highly charged and many campuses seek to avoid friction at virtually all costs, these vocal students are effectively shutting down serious discourse about Israel. (One campus dean actually instructed students to cease all e-mail discussion of Israel, while every other political topic remained fair game.)
Gordis, in attempting to understand how this could be happening, focuses on a few key issues.
“Memory is the first factor. As I have chatted with these students over the past months, it has become clear that the profound differences in our instincts and loyalties can be traced, in part, to the differences in our formative experiences.”
People who remember from their formative years the threats to Israel respond differently from those whose image of Israel during their growing up was of a strong nation — strong either in a positive sense, or in a negative sense as the TV has focused on tough IDF soldiers.
“Those differences in memory lead to the second major divide: students today cannot imagine a world without a Jewish state. Despite the ongoing conflict, the fundamental goal of political Zionism-the dream of creating a sovereign, secure Jewish state-has been so utterly successful that these students cannot imagine that Israel is actually at risk. After a meeting with a group of rabbinical students in Jerusalem, one of the participants wrote to me: ‘my classmates shared with me that they had never imagined that Israel could be so fragile as to be fighting for her very existence. Your angle really seemed to hit them hard.’ It had never occurred to me, when I reminded these graduate students of Israel’s ongoing vulnerability, that I was saying anything that wasn’t utterly obvious.
“Beyond what I believe to be their naïveté about Israel’s security, however, these rabbinical students also have no sense of how utterly different American Jewish life is from what it would have been without a Jewish state…these students have little sense of how the very existence of a Jewish state contributed to this utter transformation of American Jewish life [from timidity during the Holocaust to outspoken self-assurance now]. Ironically, the very sense of comfort that enables some of these students to work to marginalize Israel is a direct result of the Jewish state itself.
“In conversation with these students, there’s one word in particular that makes them squirm with discomfort, and it represents the third way in which their generation differs. That word is ‘enemy.’ There is something hard and non-malleable about the term ‘enemy,’ and today’s students are loath to use it. They are disturbed by the intractability of the conflict in Israel, but they refuse to draw any conclusions from Palestinian recalcitrance. Dan Kaiman, the student who celebrated his birthday in Ramallah, wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post in response to my column, explaining that
“‘I chose to have one of my birthday celebrations in Ramallah to honor, respect, and value the relationships I have built with a people and place I care deeply about. I also celebrated my birthday here in Jerusalem for the same reasons. I believe in a Zionism that desires peace, safety, and cooperation among Jews and Arabs…’
Gordis then described the communication from one California rabbi:
“..’We are not the generation of rabbis hoping to abandon Israel. We are the generation of rabbis who hope that God will give us the merit to be peacemakers.’ How a rabbi holding a pulpit in West Los Angeles is going to become a peacemaker in the Middle East is never explained. But one thing is clear from [this] article: peacemaking, this generation believes, requires imagining that we do not have enemies. Neville Chamberlain would have appreciated the company.
“And while one can surely forge meaningful relations with people in Ramallah, it requires a stunning suspension of the particular for Kaiman to call Ramallah a ‘place I care deeply about’ and to say that one cares about Jerusalem ‘for the same reasons.’…Does the fact that there were PLO posters in the bar where the birthday party was held not make it difficult for a future rabbi to have a beer there? For this, too, Kaiman had an explanation:
“‘I am aware of the [posters] on the walls and the incredible complexity of this conflict….There are also many places in Israel where I feel uncomfortable as a liberal Jew, a Zionist, and an American. Feeling uncomfortable is not an invitation to disengage, close myself off, or stop listening (or, in my specific case, celebrating). I find that by engaging those with whom I may not agree, I am provided with opportunities to learn about myself and others, and begin to transform discomfort into opportunity.’
“‘Engagement’ is a gloriously vague notion, so evanescent in its purposes and intentions that it casts a fog over the clarity provided by genuine commitment: to loyalty, or heritage, or love, or sanctity, or duty. It is the sort of benign interaction that one can have even with enemies. Engagement is particularly easy if you refuse to acknowledge that the people who continue to celebrate those who have killed you are your enemies.
“…the discomfort with the idea of ‘the enemy’ and the intolerability of being in a drawn-out conflict has led these students to the conviction that Israel must solve the conflict. The Palestinian position is not going to shift; that much they intuit. But having enemies, and being in interminable conflict, is unbearably painful for them. So Israel must change. And if it will not, or cannot, then it is Israel that is at fault. In which case, it makes perfectly good sense for these future Jewish leaders to refuse to purchase prayer shawls manufactured in Israel and to insist on demonstratively remaining seated as the prayer for Israeli soldiers is recited in their rabbinical-school communities. They will do virtually anything in order to avoid confronting the fact that the Jewish people has intractable enemies. Their universalist worldview does not have a place for enemies. (emphasis added)
The final difference between these young Jewish leaders and those who preceded them is perhaps the most disturbing. This new tone in discussions about Israel is so ‘fair,’ so ‘balanced,’ so ‘even-handed’ that what is entirely gone is an instinct of belonging-the visceral sense on the part of these students that they are part of a people, that the blood and the losses that were required to create the state of Israel istheirblood andtheirloss. (emphasis added)
“…All this is simply a reflection of the decreased role of ‘peoplehood’ in Judaism. What we are witnessing is a Protestantization of American Jewish life. By and large, today’s rabbinical students did not grow up in homes that were richly Jewish. More often than not, these students came to their Jewish commitments as a result of individual journeys on which they embarked. They sought meaning, and found it. They sought prayer, and learned it. Their Jewish experience is roughly analogous to a Protestant religious awakening. The Protestant religious experience is a deeply personal one, not a communal one. Worship in the Protestant tradition is about reaching for the divine, while in the Jewish tradition, it is no less about creating a bond with other Jews. In Protestant liturgy, history is almost absent, while in the Jewish prayer book, it is omnipresent. The replacement of communal faith by personal journey among today’s young Jews is a profound reflection of the degree to which Christianity has colored their sense of what Judaism at its very core is all about.”
There is more. Read the entire article, please:
And then, if you are terrified, as indeed you might be, think long and hard please, about what you — if you are an American Jew and particularly an affiliated American Jew — can do about this situation.
As I write, the IDF and other Israeli forces are engaging with those trying to cross the border in the north via Syria, in the Golan Heights, or rioting in Palestinian Arab areas here.
They are calling this “Naksa” Day — a commemoration of the tragedy of the war in 1967, when we acquired all of Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Abbas called this the new “nuclear weapon” for Palestinians: They feel they have a new way to get us, and it is not going to be easy. How do you win against people who say they’ll reach their “homes” in Israel or die as martyrs trying? How do you convince the world that those who come “unarmed” sometimes throw chunks of concrete at the heads of soldiers? They have attempted to structure the situation so that the world sees them as “innocents” and Israel as the big bad Goliath.
And yet, they cannot be permitted to breach our borders.
The IDF has non-lethal means such as tear gas at its disposal, and uses crowd control methods — including warnings by loudspeaker in Arabic — when possible, but sometimes finds it necessary to use live fire as well. When shooting is necessary, shots are aimed at the lower parts of the body. At one point a Molotov cocktail that was thrown by demonstrators caused the explosion of four mines on the Syrian side of the border. Reports on casualties vary.
Some of the best video footage I’ve located yet is here:
Scroll down the page part way.
The IDF is expressing general satisfaction with its ability to keep the situation under control.
I will have more complete information on this tomorrow.
Acknowledging that Israel has a right to defend herself, the State Department none-the-less declared itself “deeply troubled” by the situation at our border with Syria. The call was for “restraint” by “both sides.” I love these even-handed statements.
In Judea and Samaria:
— A border policeman was lightly injured by rocks thrown at the Kalandia checkpoint, which was then shut down. In additional to rocks, Molotov cocktails were thrown at security forces and burning tired were hurled into the air.
— Their was a violent disturbance near Elon Moreh and crowds were dispersed.
— Worst of all, in my mind: rocks were thrown at a kindergarten in the Beit Hadassah region.
Hakim Awad and Amjad Awad of Awarta have now been formally charged in military court with the murder of five members of the Fogel family, in Itamar.
Amjad said: “I am proud of what I did and will accept any punishment I receive, because I did it all for Palestine…I would do it again.”
Proud of stabbing a baby to death. I am not a violent person, normally, but…
France has made an offer to host a parlay at which there would be an attempt to restart the “peace negotiations.”
Abbas has said he’ll be glad to attend if Israel first stops all construction and agrees to negotiate according to the ’67 lines. Apparently there was tension between Fatah and Hamas with regard to how to respond to this proposal.
Netanyahu, while expressing interest, says Israel will not negotiate with a unity government of which Hamas is a constituent part.
Khaled Abu Toameh, writing in the JPost, reports that: “One month after the Egyptian-brokered Hamas-Fatah reconciliation accord was announced in Cairo, the two parties are continuing to squabble over the establishment of a unity government.”
The new government was supposed to be announced this week, but there is a major stumbling block with regard to selection of prime minister. Hamas is fiercely opposed to the selection of the incumbent, Salam Fayyad, while Abbas continues to push for him.
Additionally, the PA continues to clamp down on Hamas in Judea and Samaria.
It was clear from the beginning that the movement towards that unity government was motivated by some very pragmatic concerns — such as presenting a united front at the UN — and not because of a deep and genuine reconciliation between the parties. Should the unity government fail to be forged, or should it immediately and precipitously fall apart, there would be multiple political/diplomatic implications.
A small correction: I wrote the other day about countries to be approached by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, with regard to not supporting a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. One of those countries is Colombia, which I erroneously spelled Columbia. (thanks, Marta)