David Groen
Author and Public Speaker

How Tisha B’Av gave me a teaching moment towards my fellow Jews

Earlier in the week Camp Solomon Schechter of Olympia, Washington inauspiciously made international headlines.   In the name of what they considered diversity and referred to as a “teaching moment”, they made the decision to raise the Palestinian flag over their camp.  Many people were outraged by this action.  Initially I was as well. How could Jews do this? People were calling them traitors to their people.  As much as I tend to lean in the direction of that sentiment, as Tisha B’Av descended on us I thought about the tragedies that befell the Jewish people and the root cause of so much sadness.  That root cause was Sinat Chinam, translated as Baseless hatred.  That is when I realized that a teaching moment had actually been given to me and those that think like me, for us to teach, ironically to the very people originally attempting to do the teaching.


I have zero tolerance for anyone who hates anyone.  So naturally anyone hellbent on the destruction of the Jewish people is not someone I will ever align with nor show any degree of acceptance.  Although I find the views of many of my fellow Jews to be frustrating,  particularly those on the left who have allowed the Israel narrative to get hijacked by our enemies, I realize that very many of them not only mean well, they ultimately want what I want. Peace for the Jewish people, Israel, and the entire world.  I can despise their approach.  There is nothing baseless about that hatred.  But to hate them for being misguided and in many cases misinformed, is not only baseless hatred, it’s the easy way out. Rather than hate them I need to take advantage of this teaching moment and share with them what I know.

I know that long before it became popular to support the Palestinian cause and scream and shout about “occupied territory”, Israel actually made various offers of a 2 state solution.  I know Israel made these offers even after years of terror attacks, attacks which on occasion took out entire families, families with newborn children or elderly couples, pregnant women and high school students.  In almost every instance the talks and negotiations failed.  Not because Israel wanted to give less, not even because the Palestinians wanted more, but because Palestinian leadership was unwilling to agree to one critical element, the fact that Israel has a right to exist.  I know that whether the choice was wise or not, Israel made these offers out of a desire for peace. I know that while the story told is of an Israeli government committing acts of genocide and imposing Apartheid policies on Palestinian population centers, the truth is that the wars started now are all started by the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.  I also know that in the Israeli Parliament, the Knessest, there are currently 17 Arab members and 60 past Arab members.  I know that on June 13, 2014 the wife of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in a Tel-Aviv hospital receiving surgery, while the Israeli military desperately looked for 3 Jewish boys kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. These 3 boys would later be discovered to be murdered by these same terrorists.  I know that Israel’s biggest obstacle to peace is the fact that they do not have a partner that wants the same.  They have an adversary that has made it clear that what they want is for the Jewish State of Israel to no longer exist.  And most importantly, for this teaching moment I know that the flag recently flown over the Jewish camp in Olympia, Camp Solomon Schechter, is a flag that represents this hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people.

Although people will see this piece later, I am writing it on Tisha B’Av because it is my way of, rather than hating them for their dissenting viewpoint, attempting to get through to my fellow Jews who are just looking at things the wrong way.  I am writing it on Tisha B’Av because it is easy to have no hatred towards those you agree with, but not as easy towards those you vehemently disagree with.  I do not hate the people who thought this was the correct move, I feel sad for their tragic way of looking at this, and subsequently see this as my teaching moment. I can only hope they are open minded enough to listen and be taught to rethin their stance on this critical issue, for it is an issue of Jewish survival.  Something a Jewish camp of all places should take very seriously.

About the Author
David Groen is the youngest of 5 children and the author of "Jew Face: A Story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland". He is also the presenter of the story of Bram's Violin, the story of how his uncle's violin returned to his family over 70 years after Bram was murdered in Auschwitz.
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