Yesterday on Facebook I posted an editorial from the Washington Post written by Jeremy Ben-Ami ,President of J Street. I did not comment on the content of the editorial myself I only posted this thought “Jeremy Ben-Ami baring his heart and making a vow.” What followed did not surprise me, but it did sadden me. Not one person’s comments dealt with the content of the article; instead, they made ad hominem attacks on Jeremy Ben-Ami and J Street. Ironic, since the one quote I did lift from the piece after my own seven-word intro included this quote from the editorial: ”… I will do everything I can to expunge rhetoric such as Friedman’s from my community’s debate over Israel…”
Trust me I understand that many do not like J Street, but I am still curious as how the very mention of the organization causes usually very wise and grounded people to lose their senses. I know that all who commented are passionate about Israel and love her, but as in any relationship, we should be aware of our “triggers” that steer us to be less compassionate with each other. For some, J Street is a trigger. Some people just don’t want to ever feel uncomfortable. A few people have given me unsolicited counsel that I shouldn’t just post certain things so I can be more accepted by my community. One person I met with after my tenure at J Street expected me to throw the organization under the bus publicly and advised me doing so to be more “employable” in my Jewish community. I do not agree with everything J Street does or says, but I will not diminish my personal integrity by compromising my values for expediency’s sake, and certainly not to make others comfortable.
I shared the aforementioned editorial like many before it because it’s content made me think and it included a narrative on how someone other that myself is connected to Israel and their own personal values. I also happen to agree with Jeremy Ben-Ami’s thoughts regarding David Friedman’s horrible rhetoric. Curiously many of the commenters did as well, but then there was that “trigger.”
One of the most powerful ideas in the work I am doing with Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam is a practice of not only appreciating different identities, values and narratives that are in conflict with each other, but learning to LIVE with them.
Israeli Palestinian and former mayor of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam,Rayek Rizek, in his yet-to-be-published book about his life in the village, writes, “I have learned that if the intention of a dialogue is to exchange information about those unknown sides of each other’s different personal narratives, about what we were told by parents and grandparents, and about what we read in books, then our dialogues have a good chance of being profitable and productive. However, if the intention of our dialogues is to turn them into arguments, to try to convince the others that we have more rights than they do, or to persuade them that our story is right and theirs is wrong, then the dialogue is sure to be useless, even destructive. Arguments that refuse to acknowledge the other side only sharpen the lines of separation and sustain conflict. Nobody likes to be challenged or proven wrong in his/her opinions. Many are not even willing to admit that they are wrong over the most trivial of issues. Many instead are all too willing to fight, to kill, and to die to prove themselves right — for in many ways, being wrong, for them, is to die.”
We are triggered by things that remind us of a wound or pain or by ideas that make us truly uncomfortable. We ALL have genuine fears and wounds both personal and as a Jewish people. My hope is next time I or anyone else post an article or thoughts of their own that provokes or even agitates, their friends and strangers alike will take pause to react with the respect and compassion we would want directed at ourselves.