The Second War

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The war between Israel and Gaza is, in an important sense, rivaled only by the war of words between Jews who inhabit different points along the ideological spectrum. This second war inevitably erupts when there is turmoil and bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians.

The following words are meant only to comment on the second war. For the first war, the real war, I have no wisdom. I have only sadness, and fear, and frustration, and anger, and, ultimately, hope that the virtually unprecedented and unthinkable miracle of peace is yet possible.

But the second war? The second war so often devolves into hurtful and destructive accusations that one side or the other is betraying Jews and/or Judaism with their position. Though it was not personally directed at me, I have to admit that I felt belittled, minimized, and marginalized in precisely this way as I read a blog post in The Times of Israel that went viral earlier this week, which led me to write the following:

To be a Jew who loves peace is not a betrayal of Jews or Judaism. Rather, it is a fulfillment of some of the most important Jewish axioms, imperatives, and prayers. To be a Jew who believes he is responsible for all other Jews means not only caring for the welfare of other Jews, but also bearing guilt when other Jews do repugnant things, especially when they do so in the name of Judaism, because it means I have not done enough to help build a Jewish community where our most cherished values – love, justice, and peace – are embodied by all Jews. I pursue human dignity, justice, and peace, not because I think it will convince anti-Semites to stop hating Jews, but because it is central to living a life of Torah. True, none of this will save me when “they” come for me. But, at least, it will prevent me from the greater sin: becoming “them.” And, just maybe, upholding these Jewish values can help nurture a world in which “they” cease to exist.

So, to my fellow Jews trying to find ways to talk about this war I say: None of us has a monopoly on truth and goodness, and our tradition often speaks in many voices. Many of us are striving, to the best of our abilities, to understand and respond to a painful, confusing, and terrifying moment by assimilating the best of what we know from experience, observation, tradition, and revelation. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not mean they are less Jewish than you.

Only through disagreeing with each other in such a spirit can we identify the flaws in our own opinions, purify our understanding, and learn new information. And only then can we move toward a more refined and complete truth, improved relationships, healthier communities, and just and lasting peace.

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One Response to The Second War

  1. Well said. Amen v’amen. Speaking as someone who has received furious screeds in my inbox with some regularity since I started blogging about my hopes and yearnings for the day when Israelis and Palestinians will live in peace, I know how much the war of words can hurt. Here it is, almost Tisha b’Av again; have we learned anything about sinat chinam in the last 2000 years?

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