Carol Silver Elliott

Shades of Gray

Photo provided by author

For the last few years, perhaps longer, we seem to be living in a world in which everything is black and white, there are no shades of gray. In families, including my own, there are relations who refuse to join together, even at a dinner table, because they can’t agree on politics or any other controversial topic of the day. And, as much as I try to ban political conversation in that kind of setting, the fundamental disagreements prevent even the social conventions from occurring.

It has not always been this way. My dad loved nothing more than a political debate.  My husband loves to debate just for the sake of debating and is often willing to take either side just to keep the back and forth sparring going. And when the discussion concluded, the stated end of the conversation was “let’s agree to disagree.” That effectively put aside the contentiousness and there was always a sense of “letting bygones be bygones.”

I miss those days. I miss the assurance that, no matter how many opinions are expressed and/or how radically they differ, at the end of it we would have peace and mutual respect, understanding, and acceptance, aware and appreciative of the reality that we don’t all see the world the same way.

Throughout my life I have tried to be open to listening to viewpoints with I don’t hold. I have tried to be appropriate and polite even when I disagree or feel strongly that someone is wrong or misinformed or the like. I have not been silent but I have listened.

But I find right now that I have one subject on which I have a strong, firm and unshakeable line. That subject is Israel and the right of that country, our homeland, to protect and defend itself. I believe in the sanctity of human life and, no, I do not like to see civilians lose their lives. But I also know that Israel must stand and stand firm. We were attacked, we were terrorized, we were brutalized and we cannot rest until the hostages are (we pray) freed and those who would carry out these heinous acts of violence and brutality and terrorism are addressed.

I have stood on the ground at Re’im Forest and mourned the beautiful young lives cut short at the Nova Music Festival. I have walked the site of the police station that was destroyed in Sederot after terrorists overran it and killed all that were within. I have opened the door on a bus shelter that is riddled with bullet holes, the scene of the deaths of innocent elders waiting for a ride to synagogue. I walked the destruction at Kfar Aza kibbutz and my heart bled as I saw apartment after apartment, once home to young people and now the site of their death or kidnapping. I will never forget the sight of the sandals lying in debris, glasses buried in the dust from bullet holes—life not just interrupted, but lives destroyed and communities and families devastated.

There are so many subjects on which I believe that “agreeing to disagree” is the only way for people to preserve relationships and that, indeed, opening yourself to other viewpoints is necessary for full understanding and growth in your thinking. But on this subject, there is no gray at all for me. I find I have to close myself off from any viewpoints that differ from the one I feel so committed to, the one that feels like a pulse within me. Bring the hostages home and protect Israel. There is no room for discussion, no room for disagreement. Bring them home now. Protect our homeland now. Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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