A Response to Indifference

“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness; it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy; it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death; it’s indifference.”  Elie Wiesel

Today, I am writing because I cannot remain silent. I cannot take the risk that my “silence” would be seen as indifference. I have tried over the past few days to be active. By having a presence on Facebook, I have shared some posts, and liked as many as I could. I even signed and shared a petition, and yet it feels inadequate. It feels passive, and I want to be active.  I am writing because I am disheartened, dismayed, dissatisfied, disappointed, disillusioned, and more by our countries leaders’ indifference to the murder of Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American citizen who was brutally murdered by terrorists in Israel. For those who are unaware of what happened, please read the CJP/JCRC statement on the murder of Ezra Schwartz. Many of you have messaged or asked, because we share the name Schwartz, if there is any relationship between my family and that of Ezra Schwartz. While the simple answer is no—there is no known blood relationship, and I did not have a direct connection to Ezra or his family, the authentic answer is more complex. My children are 20, 17, and 13; and just like Ezra, they went/go to Jewish day school and Jewish overnight camp and love Israel. Within this circle of the greater Boston area’s Jewish community, I am one degree away from adults who taught him and teens who were friends with him. Our connection goes beyond a shared name. We are part of a peoplehood whose bond goes further than a name or even blood. We are bound together by a timeless history that connects us in the present moment, and together we plant seeds that help determine the future.

This is why I cannot be silent, and I cannot be indifferent. Saturday, at a memorial service at Ben Gurion airport, I understand that over 500 people came together, most did not have a direct connection to Ezra, to say goodbye. At this event, Bill Grant, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. embassy read a letter from U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who spoke of the sorrow and anger that U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry felt over Ezra’s death. Prior to this, the U.S. State Department issued a general condemnation of terror to the media, calling on “all sides” to issue restraint late Thursday night, but without mentioning Schwartz by name. Finally on Friday, that State Department issued a more direct statement, yet President Obama has remained silent. It is important to note that other American citizens killed this week in terrorist attacks were mentioned by name by President Obama and John Kerry. Is it fatigue of the never-ending violence in the Middle East? Are they dulled by the amount and frequency of terrorism around the world to the extent that when five are murdered in a week that sees terrorism taking the lives of hundreds, when there are only a few, their murders are less significant? Is it latent anti-Semitism that they chose not to mention an American citizen who is also a Jew, by name? Is it a bit of blaming the victim because Ezra was murdered while driving through a settlement in the West Bank? Jerry Robbins summed it up when he wrote: “It is a hatefulness that has metastasized in the Middle East and beyond but which has been indulged and coddled by some in the West, who have been reluctant even to call it what it is, let alone confront it.”

The pressure cooker of hate and violence in which Israeli and Palestinians live is intolerable. While there is no easy answer, being neutral and impartial is tacitly allowing this environment to continue to fester.  As Elie Wiesel so wisely said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Let me be completely transparent, clear and direct and say that violence, murder, acts of terrorism should never, ever be tolerated as an acceptable means of protest.  Kudos to Representative Joe Kennedy for speaking up. I am heartbroken over the murder of Ezra Schwartz, and I cry with his family, his school, his camp, and the other communities that mourn his loss. I cannot cry softly and move on, so I will continue to like every Facebook post about Ezra that I can, and I am writing. This time, I cannot risk my silence or inaction to be mistaken for indifference or apathy.

About the Author
Debbie graduated from Hebrew Union College and Syracuse University with degrees in Jewish Education and Social work. The focus of Deb's is on the Jewish identity journey of teens and emerging adults.
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