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Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Finding the silver lining

How many people remember the black front page of the Israeli press on July 25th?

Why was that? It was black because the government had passed the Justice Reform Act. This week’s reading of Korah allows us to see the state of division and argument in society. But it also reminds us of the urgent need for unity and truth in the face of hatred toward Israel. Let’s draw strength from our shared beliefs and be inspired to strive for unity.

 

Before October 7th, we had seen a combination of continuing protest against the government, which then turned into a state of division, an argument in this country culminating in the court ruling banning public prayer with mechitzahs, and these mechitzahs being torn down in Yom Kippur public prayer services and other disgusting acts. We all wondered how low we could fall.

October 7th gave us the answer. Can we draw a line to the period of hatred and disunity? The government and people were not focused on more important causes. We could draw a line between the Justice Reform and the errors of judgment, our arrogance, and our lack of unity to the terrible events of October 7th. This was a reason for a black page headline, not July 25th.

If you forgot what the argument was about, look at this link.

Korah and the Absence of Sincere Debate: A Call to Action for All of us

In this week’s portion, we have the famous story of Korah. I’m going to refer to Rabbi Sacks’ words. He wrote, “The ground swallowed up Korah, but his spirit is still alive and well. In the unlikeliest of places, the British and American universities.” These were written three years ago, four years ago. And how true this is. So, let’s continue and see what Rabbi Sacks writes. Korah was the embodiment of what the sages called argument not for the sake of heaven.

 The argument not for the sake of heaven is the argument for the sake of victory and power. There are two different things. The argument for the sake of heaven is the argument for the sake of truth. Let’s be inspired by this and always argue for the sake of truth.

So, R ‘Sacks writes, “I believe that what is happening at universities, turning the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of power, demonising and no-platforming those who disagree, is the core phenomenon of our time and very dangerous indeed. An old Latin motto says that to secure justice, listen to the other side. We shall walk the path to truth by listening to the other side. We are living in an age where the facts don’t matter. ”

And in our case, this black page headline embodies that.

The Power of Hate to Unite

Interestingly, the followers of Korah came from three distinct groups: those seeking power, the common crowd, and the leaders from prestigious institutions. The Torah passage writes:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן׃

Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, betook himself, along with Dathan and Aviram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben —

וַיָּקֻ֙מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַאֲנָשִׁ֥ים מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם׃

to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of reputation

Similarly, today, people from disparate backgrounds unite in their opposition to Israel, often hiding behind “pro-Palestinian” slogans to disguise their hatred against Jews and Israel. These modern-day haters of Israel also come from three groups that would typically never align. The first group comprises Muslim extremists. The second group includes left-wing academic institutions and liberals in the U.S. and Europe. The third group consists of far-right extremists.

What binds them in unity is their shared desire to see the end of Israel, believing that this will bring a new utopia to the world and rid it of all perceived evils

Interfaith Tensions and Misunderstandings

In a conversation I had with Harris on Shabbat, he mentioned his son, the youngest president of the Jewish Board of Deputies in the UK (aka proud father), who was invited to a mosque as a representative at the Iftar feast at the end of Ramadan. This invitation sparked a significant outcry. I asked Harris whether the controversy was about Jews or Israel, and he explained that the deep-seated hatred was directed at Jews, not just Israel. The Jewish religion itself is perceived as a thorn in the side of some Islamic groups, with anti-Israel sentiment often serving as a coded form of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Additionally, Harris emphasised there was much hatred by the Muslim community towards the Iman who extended the invitation to this interfaith dialogue. The use of threats, intimidation, and fear is driving continued fanatism and extremism.

Winning the War for a Better World

A few questions are going through my mind. How do we win this war? How can we win this war for a better world? What does that vision of victory look like? And why is it so hard? The reading of Korah parallels the story of the original Egyptian exodus and the arrival in Israel. And it was hard. It was hard afterwards. God placed these obstacles then and now.

 Why is the battle so hard? It’s about the struggle of good versus evil. It seems like we’re losing that fight in the physical world, in the media world, on campuses, in the papers, in the press, and on social media. But are we losing this war? And I’d say that October 7th came for a reason. It came for a reason for us to stop all that silly debate for argument, not for the sake of heaven, and it made us focus on recalling the purpose of our lives. The honest discussion is about who we are as a country, as Jews, and as a people. And I want to share a story which gives a sense of purpose. And despite the tragedies and hardships, we will succeed.

The Story of Rachel Beckwith: An Example of Impact

I want to digress slightly and share a story I picked up in a book called A Path Appears. It’s about transforming lives and creating opportunity. The book starts with a story about a little girl named Rachel Beckwith. Just before her ninth birthday, she decided to raise money and awareness for people lacking clean water, which is a fantastic cause. She aimed to raise $300, but by the time her birthday arrived, she had only raised $220. Then tragedy struck. She was involved in a fatal car accident and was in a coma. During this time, her campaign became known and succeeded in raising over $50,000. Unfortunately, she died, but the memory and impact of her act live on.

Finding Our Purpose and Mission

The same applies to October 7th and the events afterwards. Unfortunately, many innocent people, whole families, died, and our best young men – soldiers went in and were wounded or killed. These images haunt us: the families no more, the forever young, smiling faces, and the hostages – not knowing if they were dead or alive or of their living conditions.

 

 

Amidst this profound sadness, October the 7th and the continuing events are bringing out the salt of the earth in our nation.

While nothing can bring Rachel back to Life, her impact continues. The Impact of the people, the victims of October 7th, and this war against Evil will leave scars on our lives, but it will leave its impact. Nothing can bring them back, but the effect continues. Our faith in God and humankind is shaken to its core and in our Leadership.  We are searching to provide a sense of meaning and answer the question, “What is the soul of Israel? Searching for answers: What is our mission? You see this impact not only in Israel but around the world, where no Jew can now hide their identity. It has brought out the Jew in ourselves. We can not hide our identity, our history, or our connection to Israel; those young people on campuses have to face the fact of it and see that they can not hide and must stand up as proud Jews to this evil.

This is a call for a better world and those who want to be part of this call, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, or secularist, are invited to join us in this fight. The fight for the truth of our mission: the battle of good over evil and how we can turn it around.

This is how victory in this war will look. It will be a victory of Good over Evil, where moral clarity and acts of kindness will be the norm. It will be a Tikkun Olam for the Sake of God and humanity.

A final word about Debate

I am sharing Natasha Hausdorff’s Closing in the Munk Debate Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism

https://munkdebates.com/

“I do not blame the whole world for the venomous hatred that Israel is currently being subject to. I blame the opposition and the blood libels that they have peddled in this evening.

Gideon began with a statement of his credentials. Perhaps I should do the same. I sit in front of you as the granddaughter of Palestinians. Living under the British, they had identity cards issued to them that identified them as Palestinians. Nationals of the British Mandate. Think about that the next time you hear people trying to revise history. Tell you what Palestinians are today and suggest that that is equivalent to what existed before the State of Israel was formed.

If the opposition really cared about Palestinians and the way that they profess, they would be calling, as I do, for Egypt to comply with its international law obligations to allow safe passage for refugees fleeing civil disorder in Gaza. Israel has gone above and beyond, and other modern militaries frequently say we wouldn’t be able to meet the standards that Israel sets in the precautions that it takes.

But it has had to move those civilians, or encourage them to move, it doesn’t control them, to evacuate, to provide humanitarian corridors. When you think of the ease with which those civilians could be properly provided for the other side of the border with Egypt, an Egyptian Rafah, where the aid that Israel is facilitating into the Gaza Strip wouldn’t be diverted and stolen by Hamas, where aid workers would be able to assist them without being targeted by Hamas. I haven’t heard any of that from the opposition today. And that is another reason that I say to you, what they are putting forward, the blood libels that they are peddling in, is anti-Zionism.

We also saw it in that comment from Gideon, give it back, referring to the West Bank. It’s the settlers, the settlers. That call for the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, to be Jew-free, as so much of the rest of the Arab world. Judenrein, we’ve heard that before, ladies and gentlemen. We were told that Jews in the 20th century differed about whether the creation of the state of Israel was a good idea. That was a reason that Jews couldn’t be anti-Semitic if they were anti-Zionist.

I urge you to consider a debate between parents, which might be entirely legitimate as to whether or not to have a child. There may be arguments for and against reasonable ones. But once that child is born, to suggest that it should be gotten rid of would-be murder. That is what we have heard advocated by the opposition today.

And so, I ask you, if you are, as Israel, liberal, care about peace, and abhor racism, you will stand with the opposition.”

https://fb.watch/t4sIFFBng8/

All photos are sourced from social media.

 

 

 

 

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through https://upgradingesg.com and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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