It’s not only because I run Janglo, Israel’s largest online community for English-speaking olim, that I hear people complain a lot about Israel. People complain about everything, all the time, everywhere, and don’t even seem to realize its a problem.
That’s why Janglo is excited to be an organizer of the 40Days4Israel challenge. The idea is simple: During the
40 31- day period (we started the count last week, so it should be easy for you!) through 9 Av, or July 29, we challenge you to go without saying anything negative about anything in Israel.
Why these 40 days? This is the period that tradition associates with the biblical spies’ dispatch by Moses to research the situation in the Promised Land. The story is well known: when the spies came back, they gave a completely negative report about the land that caused a national crisis of despair. When G-d saw that the people were complaining about his cherished gift, instead of thanking him, he responded the same way you and I might respond in a similar situation: he took the gift away for another 40 years, a year per day spent spying. According to tradition, the final straw was on the ninth of Av, a day that would later become Israel’s worst day of mourning throughout history.
Spiritually, I like to this of the 40 day challenge as a tikkun- a chance to rectify the sin of the spies by setting aside this period to avoid negative speech. If you want to approach it from a different angle, psychologists, doctors, and scientists all agree that ridding your life of complaining and ingratitude is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself, your environment, and the development of the Jewish State. Or, if you don’t care about that either, just do it because you love Israel!
There’s been quite a bit of public debate in the blogs on this web site about whether olim are entitled to complain about things in Israel. Some like to claim that the purpose of whining is to try to fix things. Sometimes that’s true, but more often than not, it just reinforces negative perceptions, and discourages positive action.
A Janglo user challenged me on this. We don’t need more apathy in this country, he wrote. With all the problems around, we need to complain to get things done. The frustration in this former-Israeli’s email was palpable.
I responded that not complaining is not apathy, but the opposite. Replacing complaining with gratitude helps you gain more clarity over what you have the power in life to change, and what you should just accept. From within that comes the power to make real change in the world while living a happy life.
A lot of people seem to feel that venting about people or “the system” on Facebook or with friends is some sort of quiet activism, and that if they tell enough people how frustrated they are, maybe they’ll cause a change. The result is usually the opposite, however: more frustrated people telling people how frustrated they are.
Lets make some order here: Complaining is not the same as sharing information. The free flow of ideas is critical to friendships and communities, and enables dreams to become reality. But when those ideas become negative, toxic, and destructive, then problems start. Taking the 40 day challenge, making a temporary but complete separation from saying bad things about Israel, is a good way to train yourself to tell the difference.
The 40Days4Israel challenge was conceived by my old college buddy and fellow activist Yishai Fleisher. Here’s his take on it.
You can follow the 40Days4Israel discussion on Janglo here, or share your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet positive comments about Israel at #40days4Israel. Either way, I hope you’ll help us take another small step toward making Israel the greatest place in the world.