Yesterday was the ‘million man’ protest against drafting Charedim (Ultra-Orthodox) into the army. The gray clouds were low in the sky, the sun was but a small bright circle shining through the clouds and the wind was blowing sand in all directions. The ominous feeling in the air reminded me that we’re losing something precious.
We’re losing our memory of what it’s like to feel united. We are so used to defining and separating ourselves by the way we look, our political views and how many mitzvot (commandments) we keep. But that status quo cannot remain. We need a new voice and we need to jog our memories. We need a voice that is not blaming and that is not holding onto every negative memory of the last 100 years. We need a voice that remembers the times that we were united and wants to re-create that. The more we point fingers and discuss the ways we have been hurt by the other side, the farther we will trail from a solution and the wider the schism between us will seem.
Most people think they need to take a stand and choose one side or the other; one side that demands for Charedim to be enlisted into the army and the other side that vehemently opposes it. That we think there are sides to choose is our biggest problem. We have forgotten that we are actually ONE. The separation is just an illusion, a self-created illusion. It’s not them against us, it’s us against us.
Do you remember the connection that we felt with each other during the disengagement in Gush Katif?
Do you remember the pictures of the soldiers and residents praying and crying together?
Do you remember the feeling of joy that spread through the entire Jewish world when Gilad Shalit was released?
Do you remember the feeling of ecstasy and unity after The 6-Day War?
Do you remember the communal pain we felt after the massacre at Yeshivat HaRav Kook?
Do you remember how we came together to pray and promised to be kinder to each other after 9-11?
Do you remember the unity we had with every terrorist attack, with every war, with every tragedy that has befell the Jewish people?
Hold on to those feelings of warmth and unity.
These are not aberrations. This is what exists and is possible ALWAYS. We are simply not open to seeing it because we are so caught up in what happened in the past and what might be in the future. We are not looking at what IS. In a state of emergency we put all the past and future aside and just focus on the moment. That is why we come together.
In any relationship, if each person is holding onto the past and ferociously holding onto their stance it’s impossible to have a productive conversation. In any relationship, the goal always needs to be to keep the love and unity, and only with that attitude can any good come. If both people come from a place of love and understanding, the possibilities are endless. If both people hold on to their resentment and anger, it’s impossible to move forward.
The first step in moving forward is to say: you are a Jew, you are holy and you are part of the same infinite God that I come from. The second step is to sincerely ask: what are your needs, what are my needs and how can we work together to increase love, respect and partnership. Through that the answer will come naturally. A real and lasting solution will never come through force or protests on either side.
So my plea to leaders and community members from “both sides” is to let go of your ego. Remember the “other side” is really the same side that just looks different. Come to the other person with openness, love and respect in your heart.
It may sound simplistic, but sometimes the answer is simple. People often scoff that love and respect sounds nice, but it doesn’t really work. We don’t know that because we’ve never ACTUALLY tried it. If leaders and community members come together with a shared goal of creating harmony, we can build something that will engender the most incredible feeling of unity, love and respect.
I know you want it too.
So, I challenge you to jog your memory and remind your friends. If you can remember the bad times, you can surely remember a few good times as well.