Deadly Weapon: Our Words

When I came to Israel in 1981, to make the Jewish state my home after growing up in New York, I was exhilarated, like so many others who make the move, over the prospect of living in our homeland.
Aside from the ideological euphoria, there was the practical side of the move. Shabbat is the day of rest. Jewish festivals are national holidays.
Like so many others, my late father had to fight for the right to take off on those holy dates on the Jewish calendar when he lived in the Diaspora, before making aliyah.
The catch was that I had chosen a profession where, even in Israel, taking off on those days could make you a liability to your workplace.
I had chosen to become a journalist.
Even if reporting on the radio is an essential service that required me to work at times of crisis and emergency, the circumstances were not usually of the sort that fit into the realm of life and death that would allow me to work on Shabbat and the holidays within the guidelines of Jewish religious law.
Thankfully, I navigated my way through it without too many tense encounters with my bosses.
However, this was not the only issue which troubled me, though this second matter should not be an issue that bothers only religious reporters.
The sanctity of our words is a central theme of not only Judaism, but humanity. Yet, as an Orthodox Jew, I felt that for someone like myself who was so open about my relationship with God, it was particularly crucial to exercise strict guidelines in carrying out my relationships with other people.
To make matters more complicated, I covered politics, where so many vie for headlines by using the most bombastic statements possible.
It was a tightrope. I challenged my interviewees but I tried not to be rude. I let them finish their sentences unless they were going off on tangents or we were simply out of time on the radio program.
I am sure that I faltered, which is why I especially think of this subject during this time of year: the Jewish high holiday season, when repentance and correcting our ways take center stage.
Every so often, when I would be asked by a security guard, as I entered a government installation to cover a news event, whether I was carrying a weapon, a common question to be asked in Israel, I would reply: “Yes.”
Explaining to the somewhat surprised guard what I meant, I would clarify that I was in possession of a recording device. Yes, such a device can be a very dangerous weapon.
I have written in the past about my experience in 2013, after the shiva for my father, when I returned to reporting on the Knesset.
I am sure that many of us who have sat shiva can attest to the feeling of entering a different world when returning to work following the week-long mourning period.
So there I was, witnessing yet another acrimonious debate in the parliamentary chamber, saying to myself: “Children, children, stop arguing; you are being so childish.”
It was worse than childish; it was insulting and degrading.
We live in a rough and tumble world. It is easy to get swept away and join the fray. I have apologized in the past and apologize again if I ever offended anyone on the radio, podcast, or at speaking engagements, not to mention in more private settings.
May we all be worthy of living in a world in which speaking softly and kindly when trying to express our point of view is what wins us fame and headlines and not the sharpest insult that one could fathom.
About the Author
Made aliyah in 1981 from New York. 1981-2017 - Kol Yisrael English News. 2017-2018- Kan - English Radio. Anchor/producer/editor, etc.
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