I am about to break one of my own rules: I usually don’t write about things I experience, think, hear or witness on Saturdays/Shabbatot. Taking one day a week to truly rest, to try to “live in a world that is already perfected,” as I once heard a Rabbi whom I deeply respect teach that one should try to do on Shabbat, is one of the most important routines/rituals in my life. It is precisely through differentiating this one day from the other six that I find strength to try to continue my six-day-a-week struggle to fight the forces that I see as sick and cruel and destructive to the love and community and real peace that I often experience on Saturdays. So I generally try to keep my Shabbat-life and my Blogger/Activist-life relatively separate. With this specific post, though, I felt that the value of sharing what I experienced was great enough to outweigh my reticence to de-separatize my worlds.
We go to synagogue, a few friends and I. It is evening. A few of the men are deep in conversation. Our presence does not deter them. We are not actively acknowledged, but neither are we made to feel unwelcome. Most of the men are thickly bearded; all are wearing large kippot (yarmulkehs). They are talking about “last week’s events.” It takes me a minute to realize that they are talking about the violent mob attack on a few Palestinian youth in Zion Square. I brace myself. Breathe. Love. Breathe.
One of them begins to talk about Religious Zionism. I tighten my self-brace. I think back on my conversation with my dear friend Andrew about loving even those whose views I find abhorrent. Love. Breathe. Love.
“Religious Zionism: What did we come here for? Did we come here to treat others like we were treated in Poland? If we aren’t here to “repair the world in God’s Kingdom” (לתקן עולם במלכות שדי) then we shouldn’t be here. We need to remember that what happened was all of our faults. All of us in this room. Just talking about it, saying it was bad: that isn’t enough. We have to do something, to make our community feel how this act was against all that we need to stand for.”
My first set of assumptions shattered, I think: Odd Man Out. The Local Radical. And indeed, the man who is responding sounds skeptical. He will tell the first speaker that he is off his rocker, I think.
The second man says how he, too, is appalled by this “Jewish Supremacism.” His words. He is less sure that the community will be interested in truly engaging the issue; he is hesitant to frame is religious-Halakhic terms. “The guys who wrote Torat HaMelekh [a horrid text produced by a leading Rabbi in the settlement of Itamar which argues that it is religiously justified to kill non-Jewish civilians- including children- for the threat they might one day pose to Jewish life] also claim that they are acting in line with True Halakha.”
A third man has entered the conversation. He is adement that this must be portrayed as a religious absolute. “On small matters, you’re right. There is no unified Jewish position, and anything can be justified. But it can be proven, Halakhically, that the position that Jewish Life and Non-Jewish Life are any different when it comes to murdering, or trying to, is not Jewishly valid.“
I realized how blessed I was to have been thus reminded of exactly what is so destructive and false about assumptions. And for a moment, as the evening faded into night, the world did seem a little more perfect.