- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On July 9, 2021
- 0 Comments
I left Israel last night. As I reflect on my 10 days there, I feel hope and despair at the same time. Such is the paradoxical experience of Israel.
The war in May, its reasons, the impact, and the aftermath laid a substantial burden and concern on our discussions. Not only did bombs fly between Israel and Gaza, there was civic unrest and violence of Arabs and Jews attacking one another in the very places where they had been living in close proximity. Conversations that are only my anecdotal evidence reflected a grave concern about how to move forward and whether it was even possible to see clearly through the fog of violence.
Our Hartman Rabbinic Leadership Institute visited Lod. It was the place of one of the most violent interchanges in May of the communities living there. Located right near Tel Aviv, it contains a population of 70% Jewish and 30% Arab among its 84,000 residents. he Jewish population is made up of middle eastern immigrants who arrived in the 50’s joined by the Ethiopians and Soviets who arrived in the 90’s. Another group, an organized religious Zionist community, has been settling there as well. The Arab population is made up of Muslims, Christians, and Bedouins. Arabs have been living there since before 1948. Before May, there had been progress of identifying concerns the communities had in common, such as improving roads, buildings, and infrastructure. According to Dror Rubin, the Director of Inter-Community Partnership in Lod (who had shared the data above), recognized that whatever relationship had developed exploded right before their eyes. Certainty had turned into uncertainty. We met with two different Palestinian women. They spoke their truths to us. The inequalities in some neighborhoods are stark reminders of the divisions. No matter with whom we spoke, and the descriptions they offered, their perspective based on the community in which they lived informed their understanding and the information they shared.
Too often we describe Israel as complicated. It surely is but it also leaves a void. Complicated feels like an intractable tangled web, impossible to fix let alone figure out. I prefer to see Israel as complex, multifaceted and multi-layered. Whatever solutions or next steps occur demand from everyone involved including those of us in North America the recognition that human rights and civil rights have to be essential. Security and safety matters, too. Radical empathy as Isabel Wilkerson has described means not just seeing yourself in someone else’s shoes but seeing what if feels like to actually be that other person. Radical empathy could play an important role, as well.
One image that gives me hope is the scene created across Israel of Israeli Arabs and Jews meeting in the public square of various neighborhoods in cities, towns, and villages across Israel of Israeli Arabs and Jews standing together refusing to hate one another. We heard from one of our faculty how colleagues and neighbors reached out to one another to check in and express their individual sorrow. This is one small seed planted in the possibility for hope.
Someone in our group called hope as bearing witness to real change.
The prophet, Jeremiah, invoked the image of the matriarch, Rachel, weeping.
A cry is heard in Ramah—Wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children…Thus said the Eternal: Restrain your voice from weeping, Your eyes from shedding tears; For there is hope in your labor… (31:14-16)
Hope and despair sit together in the face all of the work and effort that has to happen. Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Jews are weeping and we cry with them. And we also join with them in our hope that real change can happen, not in some messianic time but now. So may it be.
- Join us at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. We will be welcoming Mayor Kim Janney, who will be visiting Temple Israel to share in our congregational experience. Register to be onsite at the TI Garden, or join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website here.
- Tot Rock Shabbat gathers HERE at 5:00 p.m.
- Torah Study will begin at 9:00 a.m. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat at Home begins at 10:00 a.m. Register to join us on Zoom
- Join the Clergy for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. HERE.