With Israel at war, Israelis and the Jewish people have come together in ways we have not in decades. The price for that unity was too high.
The pioneering therapist Virginia Satir spent quite a bit of time at my home in my youth. She was my mother’s mentor and considered the mother of family therapy. I asked Satir what was unique about her approach. Her words are as relevant for Israel and the Jewish people as they were for any of the couples and families she helped.
“I help people build from what they share in common,” Satir explained. “Most people share 90-95 percent of things in common and perhaps have differences in around 5-10 percent of how they perceive the world.”
Satir’s approach is much different than those who begin a session with, “What’s wrong?”, “What’s the problem?”, “What brings you to me today,” and similar openings that are likely familiar to most who have seen a therapist.
The horror of 10/7 brought Israelis and the Jewish People together in ways we haven’t experienced in decades. And it came at too high a price.
The barbarism of our enemies, the candy and sweets celebrations of their supporters, and the deafening silence (or worse) of much of the world’s progressive liberals, drives home a reality we’ve too often forgotten. We are one people with a shared destiny regardless of any illusions to the contrary.
What happens in the south of Israel impacts every Israeli. When Israel grieves and mourns, so does nearly every Jew no matter their location, language, religious practices, or unique personal aspirations.
That shared destiny also extends to many of the Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel. Despite the complexities, most know that Israel’s stability, security, and success is the ultimate foundation for their own. They also know that terrorists rarely distinguish between Jews, Muslims and Christians when they indiscriminately fire mortars, rockets and missiles at Israeli communities.
Americans of all backgrounds and perspectives also came together in powerful ways after 9/11, although in today’s polarized United States, that period of unity feels like a distant memory. The unity of Israel and the Jewish people cannot be allowed to again become a distant memory. It’s the single most important guarantee of our very lives.
A simple exercise I shared in gatherings of Jewish, Muslim and Christian Israelis during a prior period of war quickly drove home the common humanity shared by all Israelis. It’s an exercise that can help us maintain our unity long after the horrors of 10/7 have begun to recede from our immediate memory.
Two people sit across from one another, knees touching, maintaining eye contact, holding hands if they’re able, as one person asks the other, “What are you MAD about?” No matter the response, the listener responds with a “Thank you,” and asks, “What else are you MAD about?” The process continues until the speaker has nothing else he or she is angry about. And then goes on in the same way to explore the emotions of sadness, fear, and finally, gratitude. [You can download a free Artificial Intelligence app from the Apple App Store to learn the exercise via www.MyPAIRSCoach.com.]
Thousands of times over, I’ve seen the power of truly witnessing the reality of another person, experiencing the commonalities of our lives, and holding what becomes a sacred space for another person to confide creates connection and respect that deepens empathy and compassion.
That empathy and compassion for others is exactly what’s too often missing during periods of division. The absence helps create the illusion that we are different in significant ways that ignores the 90-95 percent of similarities we share.
The war against Israel’s enemies will be won by the bravery, determination and sacrifices of the nation’s warriors. The ultimate war for the unity of Israel and the Jewish People will be won through tangible expressions of empathy and compassion for all.