As an Israeli, as a Jew, I am mortified and ashamed that one (several…) of my own could have carried out the attacks attributed to them over the past several days here in Israel. The fact that Arabs have perpetrated numerous attacks on Jewish people since then, and only by a miracle did not have disastrous effects, is irrelevant. I can have many feelings about that — and believe me I do — but I can only be ashamed of my own.
This question has been bandied about of late: why DO Jews get so affected when bad things are committed by other Jews? An overdose of Jewish guilt? Do we Jews simply take things more personally? We seem to feel a connection unlike that of people of most other faiths. Or races. Or nationalities. Maybe we expect ourselves to know better because of all that we ourselves have been through… The perpetrators of the recent attacks (and let me add that to date there are no actual suspects in the Duma torching, though Jewish extremists are suspected) may be unbalanced, fanatics, perhaps clinically insane; but when one of my people does something so dark, it doesn’t matter where he comes from, how he dresses, who he votes for or even his mental state. He is one of us. We produced him. And I am ashamed.
We can do the finger-pointing and play the blame game, or we can do some soul-searching as a people and as a nation and ask how this could possibly happen. More importantly, what can we do to prevent such horrible acts from happening again. But that’s not actually the biggest problem we currently face, the problem we must solve urgently.
We Jews love to demonstrate our greatness as a society, how we’re Jews, we love each other, we’re good people, blah blah blah… It’s time for us to close our mouths and listen. Right now, there’s a lot of bad feelings out there. Is it not enough that we face an unprecedented increase in anti-Semitism, that we have to add to it?
We have been tripping over ourselves to accept the burden of societal blame for the recent heinous acts, but really we’re been just as quickly deflecting blame to the ’other’ as we all point our fingers in every direction. Whether it’s right vs. left, secular vs. religious, liberal vs. conservative or Jew vs. [choose your favorite enemy]. We’re writing op-eds, making speeches, and explaining how this bad seed could have possibly grown in our midst. And it’s always, somehow, because of ‘them’.
It’s worse than just blaming. It’s poison. We’re all force-feeding the venom of our convictions to the public. And we’re spewing a raw hate so powerful that it seems likely to tear us up from within.
We’re all worked up. We’re upset. We think we have the key to the problem. If only ‘those’ people weren’t so ‘this’ we’d never have ‘that’… It’s nothing new.
Well I’ll let you in on a little secret: your need to speak your piece is never — EVER — greater than the need for peace. I’m not saying everyone has to love everyone. Or not be wary of enemies. Or not protest that which you think is wrong and unjust. Or not to challenge, debate, argue until you’re blue in the face. You should. You must. But be respectful. Use your head. Open your heart. Be wary of your soul…some tarnishes can never be removed.
To quote Maya Angelou: “Hate: It has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
If we are ashamed, we can either continue to blame others, finding scapegoats and excuses, or we can work together, with understanding and acceptance, finding ways to grow out of what was. We must rise out of the muck that we are mired in. And we can. But we must do it together.