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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Jumbled Thoughts. In No Particular Order.

[A guest post by Zahava]


The past two days have passed in a state of semi-suspended reality. I know I am not alone in finding myself ‘stuck’ –- in the middle of a task, and yet completely disconnected to the task at hand.

Over the past two days, the country has experienced a bit of a reverse Memorial-to-Independence paradigm shift, as we felt a fervent and unified hope collapse into an equally fervent and unified mourning.

The remarkable families – Fraenkel, Yifrach, and Shaer – have exhibited kindness and courage that must serve as bar for to each and every one of us to strive to reach. Individually, we must internalize their example. We must take upon ourselves the responsibility to speak and act positively -- even (or perhaps, especially) in the face of adversity. And if we succeed, we can, and we will accomplish much.

To my olah eyes, the most tragic casualty of the Disengagement from Gaza was the cataclysmic rending of the fabric of Israeli society. Left and right nearly succeeded in amputating the battered limbs from a shattered national body. The events of the past 20 days have, if nothing else, proven that ideological and political differences can be set aside, that our heart do beat as one – and, perhaps even more importantly, that we need both hands/wings to achieve our goals.

Our rich theological and historical liturgy is filled with examples and admonishments on how we must conduct ourselves. Mishne Torah, Pirkei Avot, and Kohelet are but three sources which urge us to examine and understand our place in the continuum better known as human existence.

Mishne Torah; Hilchut De’ot teaches us that our primary attributes require balance – a moderate meeting place which the Rambam calls the ‘middle road' or 'golden path'.

Pirkei Avot reminds us that we will be treated and judged as we ourselves treat and judge others.

And Kohelet lamentingly reminds us that divine and earthly dominions, while occasionally joined, are more often separate.

While it is profoundly human to yearn for vengeance, it is, simply put, is not ours to exact.

Justice, however, is most definitely our dominion. Not only is it our right, it is our obligation. We must define it. We must enforce it. And we must uphold it.

The State of Israel has a legal and a moral obligation to protect the property and lives of her citizens.

In families, when there is dissent between siblings, the parents – in an effort to be expedient – often call upon the older child (generally the stronger and the more secure) to ‘walk away.’ A responsible parent must, however, later investigate the root cause of the dissent. The parents must ensure both children understand their individual roles and provide each child with an understanding and the tools to avoid similar conflict in the future. When parents fail to do this, they simultaneously encourage the instigator and punish the peacemaker.

Within the dynamics of a family unit, when the parents fail to properly address the instigator, it sadly often falls to that older, stronger child to enforce his own brand of justice. This usually occurs in the absence of the parents, and though often less effective, usually suffices to settle differences.

In the 66 years since Israel’s Independence, during times of conflict and crisis, the global community has, for purposes of expediency, required Israel to be more 'grown up'... to walk away.... to take the high road. All because we are stronger and more secure. What the world seems to have forgotten, however, is that being stronger and more secure doesn’t make us wrong, nor does it negate the need to hold perpetrators of acts against us accountable.

Moreover, we are not without our own internal moral compass. The dirt on our recently filled graves remains loose and unpacked, and already there are audible Israeli voices crying out for measured and proportional reactions, cautioning against collective punishment, and begging us to recognize the suffering of those who seek to cut us down in our youth and in our slumber. Two Israelis, three opinions – we already have a functioning internal mechanism with which to measure our response.

If the international community spent as much time fostering ‘collective cooperation’ on the part of the Palestinian people as it spends admonishing Israelis against ‘collective punishment’, the Middle East – or at least our extremely tiny corner of it – would be an entirely different place.

If instead of interfering with and obstructing search and rescue efforts, the Palestinian people had assisted in these efforts, a 19 day search yielding vioolent confrontations and arrests might have been a 3 day search yielding a spirit of cooperation and a fraction of those arrests.

That would have been justice.

There have been terrible realities borne of the past 20 days. So too there have been glimmers of goodness and hope.

Yes, we have seen Palestinian Arabs rejoicing in the streets – mothers so racked with hatred that they embrace death for their own children as a means of depriving us life for our own. This sadly and tragically is not new.

What is new, what we must seize, cherish, and nurture, is the quiet awakening within our own diverse citizenry. For the first time, we are hearing voices of Israeli Arab men and women – some teenagers -- speaking out against terror, and claiming their rightful place in Israeli society.

66 is a ripe old age for a country's infancy. The time has come for the Palestinians – the government and the people who elected them – to be held accountable not only for their interactions with Israel, but for how they envision and plan for their future. At a certain point the world must tell them that they can't place the blame for their stunted national aspirations entirely at Israel's feet.

But national aspirations are their problem and their responsibility. We can only do what is right for us.

Israel is a vibrant, diverse and democratic compilation of over 8 million citizens. We are simultaneously nascent and ancient; strong and vulnerable.

We defy odds. Unified, we are far, far greater than the sum of our mighty parts. Am Yisrael Chai.

Posted by David Bogner on July 2, 2014 | Permalink

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Zahava, this is beautiful. I have been saying for the past few weeks that Hashem has given the 3 mothers extra special koach to endure what they have been going through. I think all Jewish mothers have this, as you surely needed extra koach to write this.

Posted by: SaraK | Jul 2, 2014 4:12:02 PM

Beautifully said! Thank you for expressing what we've all been feeling.

Posted by: Mrs. S. | Jul 2, 2014 10:38:36 PM

"While it is profoundly human to yearn for vengeance, it is, simply put, is not ours to exact.

"Justice, however, is most definitely our dominion. Not only is it our right, it is our obligation. We must define it. We must enforce it. And we must uphold it."

In the collection of important thoughts you expressed, dear Zahava, this reminder of the Golden Mean resonated most for me, as I am in a deep sadness over my people's frightening, scorched-earth rage. I suspect this rage stems from something else you mentioned. If the eldest child is always asked to "walk away," he must go a little crazy, never feeling that he has received justice. Nonetheless, I long for a return to that brief moment in time when Jews held hands, hugged each other, and prayed for the same hope-filled results, rather than screaming at each other about who loves the land and the Jewish people and justice more.

I just don't want to lose any more children to get there.

Posted by: Ruti Mizrachi | Jul 4, 2014 7:40:20 AM

SaraK and Mrs. S. -- thanks for your kind words.

Ruti Mizrachi.... my heart simply aches.... I am most saddened that the rest of the world is likely to be oblivious -- or worse, indifferent -- to the immediate and massive response against violence and incitement.... May Shabbat restore our collective sanity... בצורות טובות ושבת שלום

Posted by: zahava | Jul 4, 2014 4:11:40 PM

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