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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

The good morals of half-sincere blessings

Intricacies of a subtle Jewish-Muslim encounter

I always like to write things on the fine line between true and rude, preferably stuff no one else could write. Telling this story of last week gives me a nice chance to do so again and connect it to our last Torah reading.

The ‘Peace Train’

I was sitting on the light railway train in the center of Jerusalem. The so-called ‘peace train’ because it both transverses Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods. For Jews, it has as little to do with peace as the IDF has. You always need to watch your back. Not because no Muslim can be trusted but rather, because some can’t be. And this is a prime location for stabbing a Jew. For Muslims, its service doesn’t ring a bell of peace either, if the broken windows can tell us anything, from the rocks that sometimes are thrown at the trains when serving the non-Jewish neighborhoods.

Once, at dusk, I was traveling, reading, sitting backward and missed my last (Jewish) stop. No problem, I thought, I’ll continue one stop and then ride back one stop in the other direction. At a deserted station, I was immediately surrounded by Jewish security personnel with machine guns. What are you doing here, said one on a terrified tone while he looked around as a lookout at a bank robbery in progress. They escorted me to the right side of the tracks. The train in the opposite direction was already approaching. Crazy idiot, they must have thought. But I thanked and blessed them profusely, and they blessed me too. This was at a time when there weren’t Jewish-Muslim tensions in town! So much for a peace train.

‘You May Sit Here’

Last week, just after the 1150 rockets from Gaza, with a terrorist leader arrested by Israel, I sat on this train when an older Muslim man with an older and a younger woman entered. I immediately said to the man: There are seats here. They went to sit somewhere else anyway. Why did I say so?

First of all, I saw that the not-so-young woman was wrapped in a top-to-toe traditional dress in the heatwave. My empathy kicked in.

Then, like most people, I hate to be a racist. A basic bigot regards people of certain groups as inferior, subhuman, or evil, blames them collectively, and refuses to see any of them as fellow humans. Just, on each occasion, I try to go against the racist grain. May those be tiny steps to a better world.

Further, my Dutch politeness came up. The Dutch are friendly to everyone without (necessarily) meaning it. It’s a bit hypocritical, but it makes for a pleasant society, and you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar: it’s good for business when you want to close a deal anywhere worldwide.

But my most important reason was to put a drop in the bucket toward peace. Now, the Wokes will consider me a bigot for even noticing that they were Muslim (and that I’m a Jew), and the Arab-haters will consider me a traitor, but I love to be loathed for doing something right.

When I got close to my stop, I stood up and walked to the exit, and there, the old man was standing. The two women were sitting in the background. He started blessing me and my children. I blessed him and his whole family with health. He tried to add something. Then it was my turn. Meanwhile, we looked at each other with a faint, sheepish smile. We were very similar. We hate to be taken as rude or impolite. And, he had no need for a Jew thinking badly of him. He is part of a vulnerable minority and represents a Faith he wants to be regarded as great. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hate Jews—but he might not. And I wanted to show that I meant it when I invited them over and to add to goodwill between our groups for peace. We both were not embracing and kissing each other. We felt no deep love that I could tell. We possibly weren’t that fond of each other. But we still wanted to treat the other gracefully. And that was charming.

You never know where good little ‘random’ acts of kindness lead. But, even without leading anywhere, they are good on their own.

You Oppose?

The following is for those who read in the Portion of the week on the past Shabbat that we should not appease the Seven Nations of Canaan.

It says also to exterminate them (if they refuse to flee). We don’t do that because we don’t know anymore, who they are. As we are not obligated to murder Gentiles who live here, we are not obligated to not appease them.

Once, a member of Arafat’s entourage claimed that they were the true natives since they were the descendants of the Seven Nations (never mind that Arafat was born in Cairo). That claim only lasted a few days. Someone must have told him that that’s not a reputation you want.

Further, it’s fine if you need something from a member of the Seven Nations to be friendly to them, say thank you, etc. You can’t give gifts, but you can be generous when paying a debt or for a service or to get paid.

The worst sin is a degradation of G^d’s Name in this world, that people say: look what that Jew did—his G^d is terrible. The top Commandment is a hallowing of G^d’s Name in this world, that people say: look what that Jew did—his G^d is fantastic. These are not minor Commandments (whatever those might be). This is the biggest stuff. Better to err on the side of caution and sanctify G^d’s Name than risk doing the opposite.

Last but not least, hate is an ugly thing. And it easily derails. Even if you’d hate Nazis or terrorists but get too fanatically, you might end up hating wonderful fellow Jews or Gentiles. And, hate is on its way out. In the end, love will win. That is because hate divides people; love unites. And, hatred cripples our humanness and brilliance, while love brings out the best in us.

It doesn’t mean, I’m naïve. I’ll watch my back. I don’t expect centuries of hatred of Jews to disappear from our region in the blink of an eye. But, when hostilities are encouraged again, I can proudly say it was not by me. And, I want thousands of Germans to flood and teach the Middle East to respect, love, and protect Jews. That would be easier when some of us continue to act lovely, as many of us do regularly, and not just display (understandable) hurt and suspicious. You can quote me on that one.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble.
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