Like the study of Judaism and Torah, life in Israel this past year has made my mind adapt to try and make sense of both something being both black and white, right and wrong, and seeing the spectrum of what is really True. For example, in Torah, we learn that everything from Hashem is given to us for a good reason, even the suffering we experience on a daily basis. It’s our job to try and make sense of the disparity between an all-loving G-d and with one that is also wrathful and vengeful. We must look and make sense of the world, all while acknowledging our own finite inability to understand the reasoning of the infinite.
Here in Israel, the challenges are little more in your face and less existential. How do we strive for peace and equality when we can hate and be as bigoted not only to non-Jews, but among ourselves? How can we reach out our hand to our brethren in the diaspora while disparaging them here for not being sabras? We make fun of Russian accents, we treat Ethiopians with suspicion, and Mizrachim are still mistreated, generations after they were forced to live in camps and give up their cultures.
Last night, as there have been for weeks, protests have rocked our major cities against corruption, against a flawed governmental response to covid-19, against the coalition, against the prime minister, against the police, and against a period in Israeli history where many people feel that there is no forward momentum. Thankfully, the police response has not been as brutal as it has been in America (I believe), but counter-protesters have taken on that role and brutally attacked peaceful protesters. Macings, stabbings, bottles thrown, and too many people coming home after these events covered in their own blood or the blood of another.
Do we not understand the times we live in? Do we not understand what today was supposed to mean? Do we not remember what hatred between brothers does to our people?
I am reminded of Menachem Begin, yelling from the shelled Altalena to Ben Gurion and the soldiers of the Palmach on the shore to stop shooting, that they were in the fight for independence together. He yelled at his own men not to fire back. Later, addressing the fledgling nation via radio about the now sunken ship, Begin promised that he stood by the idea that he would never order another Jew to fire on another Jew, and that civil war was brought us to lose our holy Temple.
I idolize Begin as the greatest prime minister this country has ever known, but I believe his words might fall on deaf ears today. We have become so polarized in our hate, so entrenched in our ideologies, that we refuse to see that we must stick together, especially in these times of national crisis.
So where does that leave me today? I read the morning news like I do every day, saw that some arrests had been made against counter-protesters, but also that the police were thinking about banning all protests as a safety measure. Oh, how far have we fallen that our hatred even takes away the last vestiges of freedom we have already not curtailed to the virus.
I spent today in a state of trying to just stay above board. I’ve had a good couple of weeks, and for that I’m grateful; but nights, along with fresh news from America, always bring me back to a depressed state where I wonder if its even worth going on when the world around us is slowly burning itself to embers. I couldn’t watch holocaust films because I knew that this small grasp I have on happiness, or at least stability, would be entirely lost if I’m reminded even more of how we as Jews experience time. It is not a straight line, it’s not a circle, but a continual spiral going forward, with every event being relived on the day as if we were there. I could have take the bus to Jerusalem, seen the Kotel from afar, but still known that there was fire, and blood, and bodies around me as there were when the walls fell. Tonight, as there was last night, there may again be blood in the streets of Jerusalem. There will be baseless hatred in Tel Aviv. There will be a darkness as our nation rips itself apart like we did nearly two millennia ago.
For my part, all I can is try and continue to go forward. Make my small space of peace, hold on to whatever I can to make the pain inside of me go away and not let the sheer horror of the world make me want to close my eyes forever. There is so much loss in this world, so many sick, and dying, and alone that it makes one’s thoughts automatically turn to the end. The only thing that I pray for nowadays is that it all eventually ends, and we can go back to at least something we had before. These times are not as horrible as the sacking of our sacred city, but the causes are all to similar. Hopefully, the time between the fall and the ascent won’t be so long and full of suffering.