A Letter to My Community: How I'm Pro-Israel
A Letter to My Community: How I'm Pro-Israel
By David Harris-Gershon / tikkun.org
Aug 10, 2014

I don’t cry.

It didn’t used to be this way – I was a somewhat sensitive kid growing up, and often wore my emotions openly, crying naturally when the world demanded tears. I’m now 40, and haven’t cried in 12 years. Maybe more. I admit that, during the past month, I’ve written the words “I weep” for the loss of life in Gaza and the loss of life in Israel. But such words have just been a metaphor for what, in reality, can no longer be conjured.

Why am I starting out by telling you this? Because in writing this letter, I can feel the faint hint of tears, can feel the sensation of what it feels like to cry. It’s a familiar feeling, but one which will spill out into words. Words of sadness. Words of love. And possibly, words of hope.

Many of you know me as an active member of the community. You are my friends and my colleagues. You are Jewish community leaders and community activists. You are Americans and Israelis. You are people I care about, and during this difficult time, some of our relationships are being strained. Which is why I’m writing and sharing some thoughts, hoping that in doing so, the distance created between myself and some of you might be bridged during this difficult time.

Like all of you, I wake each morning afraid to see names of Israeli soldiers who have died, and like some of you, that fear is amplified by knowing some of those currently serving whose lives are at risk.

Like all of you, I feel pain for mothers and fathers who must explain to their young children why they are playing cards in bomb shelters, and like some of you, I’m in touch with friends living in Israel who must do so daily.

Like all of you, I love the promise of Israel, wanting it to thrive as a democratic country, despite the inherent challenges, and like some of you, I still desire a two-state solution, however elusive or impossible such a reality has become.

Like all of you, I’m deeply invested in Israel.

However, for some during this time of conflict, to be ‘pro-Israel’ means to be binary. One either stands unequivocally by Israel’s actions, or stands in opposition to Israel. There is no in-between. And it is in that liminal space where I and many others stand, a space that stands separated from the community.

And that saddens me.

I absolutely support Israel’s right to defend itself, but I cannot defend all of the circumstances which led up to, nor all of the actions which have been taken to execute, the current war in Gaza.

Like the thousands of Israelis who crowded Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, and like many of you, I mourn not just the over 50 Israelis who have been killed, but the over 1,000 Palestinians who have died. And like those Israelis who gathered after Shabbat to light candles for this conflict’s victims, I support a U.S.-led embracing of Palestinian unity efforts and a political end to the violence. I support those efforts out of a fear that this war, as history has shown, will not achieve Israel’s goal of permanent quiet along the border.

And like those Israelis who gathered, my investment in the country compels me to critique its geopolitical policies – the occupation and settlements – which are harming Israel’s long-term viability and the realization of its democratic promise, policies which have harmed Palestinians and denied them basic rights for too long.

These views are informed by a melding of my progressive politics and Jewish values extracted from years of textual learning. There is a foundational text that has always stayed with me from Chapter Four, Mishna Five in מסכת סנהדרין (Tractate Sanhedrin):

ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא

Anyone who destroys a soul, it’s as though he’s destroyed an entire world.

Too many souls have been destroyed, too many worlds never to be seen again, both Jewish and Muslim. Too many parents are bereaved, too many families ripped apart by grief. When I stand in opposition to this military action, it is not to stand against Israel. It is to stand against more lives being lost due to military actions which I believe will not bring peace.

Some of you in my community are upset with me for these positions, intimating that at this current moment – during a conflict – having such views is anti-Israel. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I responded to this idea in an article I wrote on Friday, “Empathizing with Gaza does NOT make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.” The article has resonated widely, and since its publication, I have been overwhelmed by the responses which have flooded my inbox, most coming from committed, young Jews who crave communal spaces where they feel free to both support Israel and ask difficult questions. They don’t want to see things in binary terms. They don’t want play a zero-sum game where loving Israel precludes heartfelt critiques and vice versa.

As I wrote in that article, there is a ‘third way.’ A way to be invested in and care about Israel while viewing the conflict as one in which both sides can win.

Or lose.

My hope is that, in the end, it will be the former. And I sense that most of you feel the same.

 


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 13,636 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 11,524 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 5,075 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 3,572 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,287 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 2,273 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,943 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 985 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 921 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 761 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 590 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 574 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 567 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Coping With Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House
N Ziehl · 410 views today · I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 342 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
Watch How Europeans Carved Up African Land They Never Owned
56 min · 288 views today · Watch how Europeans gave away African land they never owned, then expressed anger when Africans resisted. The film is called Africa: A Voyage of Discovery, Episode 6: The...
10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn't Learn About In History class
Kathleen Harris · 269 views today · We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 255 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 250 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 232 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
A Letter to My Community: How I'm Pro-Israel