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Yael Leibowitz
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Rage

We Jews are here in the land to build something different from the pogroms and terror we've known, so we must remind our children of that ad nauseum, if need be
Israeli security forces argue with Israeli settlers at the entrance to the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya on the day that Jewish extremists set fire to homes and vehicles in the town, June 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli security forces argue with Israeli settlers at the entrance to the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya on the day that Jewish extremists set fire to homes and vehicles in the town, June 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

No one is saying don’t be angry.

Be angry.

Be furious.

Rage at the fact that he just wanted a shawarma. At the fact that his mother will never get to see what he would have done after graduation. Rage that dreams are cut short, that sisters cry into their pillows, that we have no control, that we’ve gotten used to small, square pictures of beautiful, beautiful victims. Rage that children hug recipients’ bodies, putting their ears up to a stranger’s chest to hear their mother’s heartbeat one more time. Be happy for that recipient, but rage for those children because they want their mother. At their birthdays, and on rainy days, and every single day. They want her. And they want to lay their heads on her chest.

Rage that after all the years of fleeing, and hiding, and languishing, and pining, we finally got back. Because we dreamed, and then we built, we defended, and then we built some more. But even on our own land, they still take our children from us. So, our children carry guns. And use them. And we want to flourish, but we don’t want to fight.

Rage that we still have to fight.

But then, through those hot, angry tears, look at the pictures of the charrings, and the stonings, and the unrestrained fury perpetrated by our own and ask if perhaps, on some grander scale, we are failing them. Not because we are losing, but because we are losing ourselves. It’s true, the offenders constitute a tiny minority. It’s true, they take up a lot of space in the press for all sorts of political reasons. It’s true, they live on the front lines and most of us cannot fathom their daily reality. And it’s true, that they are raging and rightfully so. But are we failing our children by not reminding them, ad nauseam, that we came back to build something that would be different from all the places we had been? Are we failing them by not making certain that when they hear the word “pogrom,” they are convinced, with equal passion, that they will never be on the receiving or the giving end of that kind of sickness?

Are we failing at how we teach Jewish history?

The Book of Judges, which recounts what was arguably the most chaotic and morally reprehensible period in Biblical history, ends with the words: “In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And in the very next biblical book, the first king of Israel was anointed.

The Bible does not idealize the institution of monarchy. It does not idealize political institutions of any sort, in fact. Because, like the humans that constitute them, the Bible concedes, they all have their flaws. Still, the Bible argues, a world in which an imperfect institution generates law and order, will always be preferable to one at the mercy of moral relativism.

Our leaders are not beyond reproach, and neither are our institutions. And we live in a complex, eternally enflamed corner of the world, where we go to sleep too often with our hearts broken. Still, the very Bible that led us to this land, demands governance. It demands due process and “thou shalt not murder.” And it demands that we speak up against barbarous cruelty, even when it is hard because the rage is caught in our throats.

About the Author
Yael Leibowitz has her Master’s degree in Judaic Studies from Columbia University. Prior to making aliyah, Yael taught Tanakh at the Upper School of Ramaz, and then went on to join the Judaic Studies faculty at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. She has taught Continuing Education courses at Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and served as Resident Scholar at the Jewish Center of Manhattan. She is currently teaching at Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, and is a frequent lecturer in North America and the United Kingdom.
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