Shayna Abramson

A Time For….?

This is a time to feel proud: Hundreds of Jews gathered in Jerusalem Wednesday night to protest racism against Arabs. Our government has condemned the killing of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Kdeir, and is using all of its resources to determine the truth behind the killing. The police protected Arabs from attack on Tuesday night, and is in the process of determining whether a certain anti-Arab Facebook group is guilty of incitement. So let us take a moment to recognize our government’s efforts to promote tolerance during a time of fear – because terrorism is not just about killing people; it’s also about using fear to control society and dictate governmental policy.

That is why I am extremely concerned about recent anti-Arab sentiment. Regardless of whether or not it is justified, we must ask ourselves if we want to be a racist society – because if the answer is no, and we become that because of these attacks, then we are letting them win by turning us into something we do not want to be.

Racism ultimately destroys the racists: Once you accept the principle that it is ok to discriminate based on identity, different groups within the mainstream will use their minor identity differences in order to discriminate against each other, leading to a fragmented society that is easily defeated; according to rabbinic literature, social fragmentation was the cause of the second exile.

 I would also add that the goal of a Jewish state is severely undermined when said state embraces values that stand in opposition to Judaism, but then we’d have to get into an entire debate about the meaning of Zionism and “Jewish values”.

If we devolve into a society where acts of violence against Arabs are tolerated – and I really hope we don’t – then what separates us from the Palestinians, exactly? What is the difference between targeting an innocent Palestinian civilian and an innocent Jewish civilian? From an ethical perspective, the answer is clear: None. They are morally equivalent to each other. Right now we are winning the moral argument, because while the IDF sometimes kills innocent civilians, it never intentionally targets them. The fact that we’re responding to terror isn’t what makes us moral – there are also immoral ways to respond to terror, but so far, we’ve chosen not to use them.

I have a sincere hope that we’re not going to turn into that type of society: There has been widespread Israeli outrage at recent anti-Arab activities. But I don’t think that outrage goes far enough – we have to ask ourselves, as a society, what we are doing that can lead to the type of racism we’ve been seeing in recent days. We need to examine our educational structures and class structures, as well as religious structures, and to see where the problem lies and what we can do to fix it. I would like to see a special Knesset committee dedicated to exploring and solving racism in our society, and a study by the highest academics of the land.

One of the most inspiring speeches from the Tag Meir event I went to last week was about light:  Everyone is bourn along by faith in a point of light. For different people, that point of light may be different things – for some, it might be God. But it’s time to trust in that point of light, and to find it’s radiance in ourselves, and in others. It’s time to have faith amid the darkness, which is why, even at this moment, I have faith that we will become the nation we want to be, and not the one they want us to become.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.