Relationships the day after

As I set down to write my monthly recollections about life here and in Israel, I wanted to write about the wonderful speech the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, gave to Congress. I wanted to write about the fact that this is an event so rare, it has only happened twice in Israel’s history. And write about how he was cheered for three minutes and thirty seconds by all members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike. I wanted to cherish that moment to be thankful for the relationship our two countries have, and the success stories shared by the homes of the two largest Jewish communities today. But as the week progressed, I couldn’t.

Dramatic would be an understatement of past week’s events. The Reasonableness Bill was passed, resulting in what seems to be the largest rift ever seen in Israeli society. But it is not the content of this Bill that is driving hundreds of thousands of protestors to the streets. Israel’s heart is a little less democratic today, but it is still beating. What drove so many people to protest is the sheer will to win and defeat the other side, to do things out of spite, to eliminate the opponent. Democratic culture cannot exist under those conditions. Laws can be re–written, but this rupture will take decades to heal.

It is painful to sit here and watch the country that I love being torn apart. To watch the authentic connections we had slowly breaking. We used to sit around the Shabbat table and discuss everything. Politics, ideas, news, everything. The argument could get heated, but we were always a family. Now it is too painful to talk. We drift apart and decide that because we can’t hear each other anymore, it’s better to not talk at all. And we look for someone to blame.

It is very easy for us to think, if it wasn’t for this specific political figure, we could’ve gotten along just fine! We need to ask ourselves, Is it just because of them? Could we really get along well without them? In our world today, we choose a side because we love our country. We choose a side because we are sure that we know what is right. We are sure that we are walking in the correct lane and that the other lane leads to disaster. We are sure that the other side doesn’t care for our shared fate. We are sure we have nothing in common.

And now what? Separation is not optional. We need to find a way, any way, to talk to each other again. To find a common denominator. A favorite writer of mine, Micha Goodman, once said that today’s greatest illness is Polarity, and that the cure for that could be curiosity – Curiosity for the other side. I believe him. We need to look at our differences and to be eager to learn why. Why do we think so differently? Is it really that different? I could be wrong, but there is no harm in trying.

I am concerned, overwhelmed, and more worried than ever. But I am also hopeful. And to quote another favorite person of mine, the Israeli Rapper Tuna:

“Sometimes we got to keep walking even if we don’t see where to.”

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