Harriet Gimpel

My Dad Tried to Teach Us Not to Hate

My dad tried to teach us not to hate. He warned us of its power and expected us to prevent it from creeping into our emotional worlds. More than curse words, my dad objected profusely to our using the word, hate. Maybe reading this, you are thinking it’s no wonder my politics are what many consider to be in the realm of the naïve. My convictions regarding equality and democracy, intolerance for racism, commitment to human rights and civil rights in the complex situations in which they are inseparable from the issue do have something to do with rejecting hate. (For the record, I have never claimed that punitive measures should not be taken when justified and within the terms of the law – though the law too has its conflicts with justice at times.)

Concerns for our personal security and the uncertainty we frequently experience in Israel, in relation to the other in a reality where events often undermine our security are understandable, if not justified. We have no way of knowing who the next attacker could be. You raise your eyebrow or shift your glance to keep your skepticism to yourself, as I claim that despite this situation, we must respect and protect the rights of the other.

I am familiar with the innocent arguments of those with extremist opinions and even moderate opinions who are convinced that the perpetrators of attacks, offensive acts, are always the initiative of that other, and we have no alternative but to defend ourselves. I am the last to say that we should not defend ourselves. Maybe, once, in the national struggle before the establishment of the State of Israel it was possible to understand that injustices were perpetrated by Jews against Palestinians (like it or not, they were), because such was the situation that was then. Maybe it can be understood. Now, it must be understood that the other expects a statement of regret. We all need it if we want a solution to the conflict. In forward-moving steps, each step respects the pain and damage caused him/her by the other.

If you read this article in Ha’aretz, about an Israeli regime that enables the conduct of settlers, of the  “youth on the hilltops,” far from our comfortable daily routine, you will understand that burning homes in Huwara was not just one isolated incident (an incident for which there can be no justification in a state of law, and it is beyond comprehension how a people who has experienced what the Jewish people experienced in Europe can burn homes in an Arab village as if each and every resident is represented by a terrorist. Because there is no justification).

If this is how these religious settlers, youth on the hilltops, want to take ownership of Zionism in a time when the Jewish people has a state, and they are among its citizens, then you and I are the victims, we sustain the injuries. If, in their eyes all residents are represented by a terrorist who comes from the village, then in their eyes, they are presuming to represent me, and if Israel is enabling it, then I must profoundly consider my place here, and I apparently must do more to object and fight against them representing me.

For a moment, I must ask forgiveness from my father, may he rest in peace, because I find it difficult to meet his expectation regarding the term and the word, hate, and yes, I feel its tremendous power, just as I feel the tremendous power of these acts of hate by these religious settlers.

September 2, 2023

About the Author
Born and raised in Philadelphia, earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1980, followed by an M.A. in Political Science from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harriet has worked in the non-profit world throughout her career. She is a freelance translator and editor, writes poetry in Hebrew and essays in English, and continues to work for NGOs committed to human rights and democracy.
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