Last Saturday evening, 100,000 people stood together in Rabin Square, in the Big Bubble of Tel Aviv, to commemorate 20 years since Yitzhak Rabin’s murder. There were people from the Right and people from the Left and all the shades of the political rainbow in-between; all embodied within this great yet tiny country. But this wasn’t a rally in favor of a specific political philosophy. It wasn’t a peace rally. It wasn’t a rally in favor of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria. It wasn’t a rally opposing the occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
It was a rally where people came to say “Israelis stand together on some things.”
In fact, MOST Israelis stand together on MANY things.
And I would even go so far as to suggest that Israelis stand together on MOST things.
We all want peace. We all want safety for our children and neighbors. We want this country to thrive and offer opportunities to invest our resources (financial as well as brainpower) in areas other than those protecting our basic security and survival.
I have these two friends on Facebook. Both are women. Both are strong women. I have even met them both, personally. They are both good-hearted and well-intentioned. Both believe in the very same thing, yet have diametrically opposed convictions about how that same objective can — no — MUST – be achieved and state wholeheartedly that: “It’s the only way”.
These two women are a microcosm of Israeli society.
In Israel, despite the vehement arguments that we witness on the TV, at the workplace, on Facebook (with its veil of anonymity between the interlocutors emboldening some to write harsh, hurtful words they would never dream of saying to someone’s face) and sometimes, even within our families; despite all that, what we all REALLY want, is peace. Regardless of our religions or cultures. ALL Israelis want security for our families, friends, neighbors, community, country. And we really need to remember this fact when we argue — no, let’s call it “debate” — the issues. Because these issues cut to the quick of our being, the essence of our lives and existences here in this land. We really need to remember that, although we are not always on the same side…. we really ARE on the same SIDE. I saw it so clearly during the 2014 war. “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh” (All of Israel, we are responsible for each other.)
Please try to keep that in mind the next time you get into a knock-down-drag-out debate on Facebook. Please try to remember that BEFORE you start writing things in a way that causes the other person to tune out. Disagree, argue, convince and explain. But please: do it with respect, being mindful of the fact that the other side holds their beliefs just as strongly as you do, yours. They believe that their way is the BEST way to solve the problem you are both facing. They believe it is for the good of all. The ONLY way.
When you boil it down, it’s all about three things: accepting other views, respecting beliefs that are different from ours, and acknowledging that we all want the same bottom line. Before we can hope to find the path to survival and coexistence in our neighborhood, in this region, on this planet, we must first learn to do it within ourselves. It may not be easy. It certainly doesn’t come naturally.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” — Audre Lorde