I love our new president more each day. Reuven Rubi Rivlin’s latest coup is this simple and profound video with a 6th-grader from Yaffo named George Amira [see full English text below].
George was the victim of bullying and created a video about it; Rubi was touched and invited George to create another one, this time with him, and it’s gone viral. Together, they plead for tolerance and understanding in the new year. They want to eradicate hatred, violence, racism and bullying, which have become too common in Israel.
I am normally quite cynical about Israel’s politicians, but I have only praise for the public work Rubi has done since becoming president. Read more about this in a previous blog post.
The video and Rubi’s messages are a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness. Amid racist rhetoric and terror, anti-democratic legislation, and a sharp decline in tolerance here, empathy and cooperation are often met with apathy and contempt.
Thus, Rubi stands out among Israel’s leadership not only for his brazen messages of tolerance, but because others have done so little to combat these growing threats to our multicultural society. The fact that Rubi has deep roots in the Right makes his messages resound stronger. As a Member of Knesset and former Knesset Speaker, his fellow Likudniks were the perpetrators of some of the most harmful initiatives since the State’s inception: these include attempts to outlaw human rights organizations, Arab parties and plain undesirable talk.
Beyond politics, Rubi is a mentsch. There is something endearing about a president who invites a bullied kid to the presidential residence. It’s obviously good PR, but we can tell that he really cares.
There’s more: A step beyond the racism that plagues our society – or perhaps its natural offshoot – is dehumanization. When people call to boycott all Arab businesses because Arabs supported Hamas in the war, or blame the murdered teens for bringing on their own fate because they are settlers and hitchhiked, they ignore the fact that each person is an individual with a unique identity, with their own views and deliberations.
It’s this same dehumanization that allows many Israelis to ignore the massive civilian casualties in Gaza in this war and in wars past. And it’s this same dehumanization that allows Israel to perpetuate its brutal occupation of the Palestinians, 47 years on. In Gaza or Jenin, they are all potential terrorists, or are victims of their own governments, the logic goes. They’re not mothers, sons, daughters, playmates, or teachers. They don’t have hobbies or hopes or the right to live as we do.
What Rubi has done with this video and with other public statements is to acknowledge the humanity of everyone in our midst. He brings a face to the invisible or unwanted people we’d prefer to ignore. He reminds us that every clan or community in this troubled land – whether it be religious, national, political, or other – is made up of individual, incongruous parts. It’s not a zero-sum game.
Thank you, Rubi, for bringing humanity back to Israel, and especially to Israel’s leadership.
The text of the video in English:
Don’t judge me for who I am.
Look at me and then at yourselves.
We are exactly the same.
Violence, hostility, bullying, racism.
These are only some of the bad things people encounter every day here in Israel.
These are only some of the things which shouldn’t exist in our country.
Let’s promise ourselves that this year we’ll work toward tolerance, empathy, unity, equality.
Values that we need in our society.
George Amira Reuven Rubi Rivlin