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Akiva Gersh

Still Trying to Learn How to Make Space for One Another

(courtesy)
(courtesy)

With the strong focus of Tisha B’Av being on the destruction of the First and Second Temples, it’s easy to forget the spiritual source and original calamity that occured on Tisha B’Av: the Children of Israel’s loss of faith that they can successfully enter into the Land of Israel.

The punishment for this was the 40 years of wandering in the desert, giving time for a new generation to rise up who would be strong in their faith and belief that they could indeed succeed in the Land of Israel.

The way I look at it, every generation of Jews has needed a special faith and belief to survive in a world that is often against them. But especially those who have lived in the Land of Israel. Why? Because only in Israel are Jews of all different kinds and backgrounds, with many different opinions and ideas, forced to form one society in one land.

Outside of Israel, Jews of different kinds can conveniently and easily ignore each other, acting as if they’re not part of the same people or destiny. I know, because that is what I experienced growing up a secular Jew in America just down the road from a very religious community. We never met or spoke with one another. We barely acknowledged each other’s existence.

But in Israel, we don’t have that luxury.

Secular, traditional, religious…Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Yemenite, Russian, Ethiopian…it doesn’t matter. We drive on the same roads, shop in the same stores and, yes, vote in the same elections. We all believe in the importance of the State of Israel, but have different ideas of what that state should look like and the role Jewish tradition should play in it.

It’s not easy.

In fact, it’s insanely difficult.

But it’s also a great honor and privelege to be part of a generation that has returned to this land and, along the way, to this ancient challenge.

When we look at the roots of our 2000 year long exile after the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple, we learn that our defeat and exile came as a result of sinat chinam, baseless hatred, between Jews. Different Jews with different ideas not succeeding in creating a country that holds space for lots of divergent opinions.

We can say that God gave us a 2000 year long “time out” to think about it.

And now we’re back. And we’ve picked up exactly where we left off. All kinds of Jews with all kinds of opinions (on almost everything) trying to live together in one tiny country.

Have we succeeded?
Are we succeeding?
Will we succeed?

Time will tell.

But I can tell you this: our success here depends mainly on our faith and our belief that we can succeed, as well as our desire to succeed, in finally learning how to make space for one another.

Tisha B’Av is a great day to think about and contemplate all of this.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (at-israel.com/book), a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. Akiva himself made aliyah in 2004 with his wife Tamar and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four kids. You can learn more about his work at www.at-israel.com as well as about his work teaching about Judaism and veganism at www.akivagersh.com/veganrabbi.
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