The current wave of conflict has in many ways unfurled some of the most basic cultural instincts within Israeli society. There is great anger and antisemitism from some of the Arab citizens of Israel. And this has led to an unacceptable and disgusting ethnic and religious attack on Jewish people, places of worship and property.
Last night (15.05.21) Hamas announced that Tel Avivians would need to ‘stand on one foot’ from the intensity of the rocket barrage they would fire on the civilian populace. And what caught my attention were a series of pictures trending on social media. These posts featured residents of Tel Aviv uploading images of themselves standing on one foot in defiance of Hamas and their attempts at striking terrorist fear. Israeli resilience is inspiring.
This brought to my mind a Talmudic story that underpins the Jewish ethos. We are told that a potential convert to Judaism once made his way to the great Hillel, Nasi of Judea. He told Hillel that he wished to convert to Judaism. However, his corollary was that he be taught the Torah ‘standing on one leg.’ An absurd request seeing as he had already been denied conversion before due to the ridiculousness of the demand – the corpus of Torah literature can scarcely be learned in a single lifetime let alone during the short duration of time equivalent with standing on one leg. Nonetheless, Hillel the Elder responded in the affirmative. He stood on one leg and stated: “What you would hate for yourself do not do to others. The rest of the Torah is commentary, go out and learn it.” (Tr. Shabbat 31a)
As we stand before Shavuot, the holiday of the Torah, we are being viciously attacked from beyond our borders and within them. Our enemies want us to stand on one leg in terror. But in defiance we instead stand on one leg remembering our values – values which our enemies do not share.
The framework of coexistence has no doubt been shook to its core. Years of hard work building bridges between communities have been burned along with the synagogues of Lod. But we cannot forget the majority of the Israeli Arab population – 1.9 million – who stand alongside us as Israelis.
And so in response to the madness that has engulfed my home I extend one helping hand to those who are my friends and another hand of strict justice to those responsible for the attacks – especially to those community leaders who have not simply ignored the attacks but stoke the all-consuming fire of hate. And in the spirit of the Holiday of the Giving of Our Torah I remember the hope that is peace and the justice that this peace demands.
The Torah is built upon peace and its commentary demands that this peace be built upon true foundations. Therefore we cannot stop until the bad foundations are uprooted and the good foundations are strengthened manifold times.
Upon three concepts the world exists: upon justice and upon truth and upon peace – Tr. Avot 1:8
Without the above concepts our country will descend into chaos.