You have probably heard about the conflict that broke out on the streets of Tel Aviv on Erev Yom Kippur. My heart breaks when I see images religious and anti-religious Jews fighting one another. As always, the media focuses on these small and extreme groups. They ignore the fact that millions of Jews gathered on Yom Kippur to pray peacefully together, including many mixed groups of religious and secular Jews in cities around Israel
The media — in all its traditional and social forms — exists to stoke controversy and to exploit the tensions that undoubtedly exist between Israel’s various tribes. They ignore the silent and peaceful majority because peace and moderation don’t make headlines.
Worth more than gold, copper or silicon, moderation has become the world’s rarest and most important commodity. How can we protect the values of tolerance and social justice, which are so easily drowned out by anger and judgmentalism? How can we look behind the masks of hatred to connect with the hearts of our brothers and sisters?
Here is my modest proposal: Firstly, I call on my religious brethren: Let us not seek to undermine the convictions of those who do not follow our path. We do not need to parade our beliefs in the streets of every city and compel others to comply. Instead of superior and patronizing attitudes, we need to show humility and tolerance. Every choice has a price, and the price of religious hubris may endanger our own survival.
Secondly, let’s look behind the headlines. The people who are picking fights against our religion, who are filled with hatred for every religious symbol, are a marginal and unrepresentative group. The media, as always, magnifies their importance and turns every minor event into a national conflict. Journalists do not care about the impact of their stories — they just measure their readership and their popularity.
The festival of Sukkot reminds us all that we must learn to live together with respect and love. We pray daily for “Sukkat Shalom” – the fragile and peaceful home that we build and share together. During Sukkot, we recognize our shared vulnerability in an uncertain world, and we gather together in temporary huts (tabernacles) under the protection of our Creator.
This is the festival where we invite guests – known in Yiddish as Ushpizin – to join us at our table. We reflect on the different qualities of each of our forefathers and leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and King David. We also bind together four different species of plants – the Arba Minim – and bind them together as we pray for peace for our precious nation.
Sukkot is a reminder to all of us to open our hearts and our homes to people who are different from us. To share the shelter and the love that binds us together. To build bonds of tolerance, and to leave the hatred outside. Chag Sukkot Sameach!