Ask children why the Jerusalem Temples were destroyed and they will tell you it was because of baseless hatred. It might have been the Babylonians or the Romans who carried out the final act, but the blame and the responsibility is placed squarely on our quarreling ancestors.
Jew fought Jew and God didn’t love that.
In fact, it was His worst.
And so we paid the price.
The privilege of hindsight and an understanding of history provides magnificent perspective into a time that must have been pretty complicated. But somehow we grasp and we accept that the responsibility for the destruction of the Temples was our own.
And yet today, with the terabytes of news available to us, we seem to miss that which is most obvious. We have so much information and so little understanding.
This is how I see it;
A few weeks ago, the Kotel erupted. It was the egalitarian prayer service issue that seemed to rip Jews from all around the world apart. Rhetoric was vile and we saw our nation at its worst.
As a weekly columnist for News24, the largest South African news outlet, I am no stranger to hate-filled responses. Especially when I write about Israel. I have been photo-shopped into gas chambers, I have been trolled and insulted and many a time have genuinely feared the implied threat. And yet, it was a heartfelt blog post in The Times of Israel where I suggested that we would gain so much more by my inviting fellow Jews to Shabbat dinner, rather than by throwing stones at them, that awarded me the most appalling responses to date. From Jews. Fellow Jews, who told me that I am a traitor to the Jewish state, that I have a secret agenda and that I lack intellectual integrity.
A prospective convert to Judaism contacted me after my radio show. She was shaken by what she was witnessing and expressed her worry to me. She said, “I thought I was converting into a family — I didn’t think that this is how Jews treated each other,” I had little in the way of comfort for her but responded as follows; “When family fight, they get nasty. It means they are family. But understand that even though they might behave like this, when they are threatened from the outside, then they will fight to protect each other. You will see when you join.” She was comforted.
I hope I am right.
And then, following smartly off the (high) heels of the egalitarian issue was the now infamous Israeli Rabbanut’s blacklist. A list that publicly named and shamed those who they decided had transgressed some non-specified rules. If anything displayed just how disconnected this body is from the rest of the Jewish world, it was the publication of this list.
Because in the real world, we actually take this quite seriously. I had the privilege of being the chairman of the South African Jewish Report newspaper for some years. One of the most significant challenges we had (aside from financial) was how to deal with a situation where someone from the community had transgressed. Should we publish the story? If we didn’t, then we could be accused of “sweeping important issues under the proverbial carpet”? Was it in the public interest to do so, and what about the laws of lashon harah? No case was the same, but I can say without fear of contradiction that this is what kept the editors up at night. And in many cases, the editors were not observant Jews, but who understood the gravity of their decisions.
Most of us struggle. We struggle daily to drag ourselves closer to God, when every temptation in the real world pulls us further from Him. And many a time, in the sea of chaos that is our daily existence, it is a rabbinic figure who guides us when we most need it. It is the rabbonim who are duty bound to remind us what baseless hatred causes and what the damage of lashon harah is.
They are duty bound to bridge the divide and not deepen it.
I am not an apologist. The terrorist who murdered a family at Shabbat dinner is a murderer. And those who fund him are just as guilty.
And they own this.
The metal detector explosion at the Kotel this last week after another terrorist attack is a man-made construct to unite the Muslim world behind the Palestinian cause.
We are heading towards Tisha B’Av. The very day the Temples were destroyed.
The current explosion is taking place on the Temple Mount.
Join the dots…. It’s really that simple.
We need to get it together.
We need to get us together.