As the war in Gaza rages on, I have a seen hostilities of a different kind persist on the pages of social media. The concurrent war of words continues unabated in cyberspace and too much venomous hate is being spewed – in posts, tweets and comments – that threaten the vulnerable seeds of hope and faith on this battle-front.
I am particularly saddened by certain anti-Muslim posts that are shared by a number of my Jewish friends, in ‘defence’ of Israel, Judaism and the Jewish People. As a Jew who loves and is deeply devoted to the Torah, I have to say that this is not our way; not the way of our Beloved Torah.
I must draw a very fine and distinctive line between ‘defensive’ and ‘counter-attack’ behaviour on social media regarding Israel and the Jewish People. We have every right to defend ourselves from attack, from hate-speech, from threats and from violence. I believe that wholeheartedly. I don’t believe though, that we are sanctioned to be attacking people of other faiths merely because they belong to that particular faith.
It is the age-old problem of the collective stereotype. As a Jew, I understand the numerous, diverse sects of Judaism. There are many practices, customs, ways of thinking in Judaism – some of which I completely disagree with and some from which I distance and disassociate myself. However, from the perspective of someone who is not Jewish, it is a case of Jew and Jew-alike. We know this all too well.
How then, can we just bundle all Muslims into the same bag of ‘evil’, ‘murderous terrorists’, ‘anti-Israel’, ‘blood-thirsty Jew killers’? That is just not right. Granted there are radical, extremist, fundamentalists that are sworn to death and destruction. But there are very many who are not.
To a greater or lesser extent, we have all fallen victim to the media and in particular to Facebook’s deceptive algorithm. We post something on Facebook and we believe that all our ‘Friends’ will see it, but by the ‘logic’ of some computer program, less than one-fifth actually do. And as a result, neither we nor anyone else is not getting the full picture.
I mention this because I happen to have friends who are Muslim, individuals whom I have engaged with on a personal and business level who are Muslim, and people whom I have met in shopping malls, in the street and just around town who are Muslim; committed members of the Islamic Faith. I honour and respect their religious affiliations and choices and I have never encountered even the slightest bit of disregard or condescending behaviour from them, towards my Jewish beliefs. Others’ experiences may differ, but those are mine.
In light of this, I took some time last night to read up about Eid and the importance of this Festival to the Muslim People. I found it very heartening to read that, “Muslims are also encouraged on this day to forgive and forget any differences with others or animosities that may have occurred during the year.” I take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim friends and all those who practice Islam, عيد مبارك, ‘Eid Mubarak’. May it be a time of celebration and Peace for you all.
As we enter the Jewish month of Av, a month traditionally associated with sadness, let us work doubly on our efforts to be kind and considerate, decent and upright, thoughtful and compassionate, and place a particular focus on being a ‘Light unto the Nations’. In defence of the Holy Land of Israel, we should never stoop to the level of attacking and hating others for any reason whatsoever.
As the Talmud (B’rachot 10a) so beautifully writes:
“There were these hooligans in the neighborhood of Rabbi Meir who caused him a great deal of anguish. Rabbi Meir prayed for God to have mercy on them, that they should die. Rabbi Meir’s wife, Beruria, said to him: What is your thinking? On what basis do you pray for the death of these hooligans? Do you base yourself on the verse, as it is written: “Let sins be wiped out from the Land” (Psalms 104,35), which you interpret to mean that the world would be better if the wicked were all destroyed? But is it written, “Let sinners [ḥot-im] be wiped out?” “Let sins [ḥata-im] be wiped out,” is written. One should pray for an end to their transgressions, not for the demise of the transgressors themselves.”
The most relevant words of the Great Sage Hillel (Chapters of the Fathers, 1:12), come to mind at this time: “Be of the followers of Aaron, a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace…”