Can we listen? Even about Israel?


This week we have witnessed so many of the conflicting and complex emotions that swirl around Israel. The fear of Israelis who live on the border with Gaza, and the pain of the deaths and injuries of Palestinians who live on the other side of that border. The pride of those celebrating the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and the despair of those convinced that this moves us ever further from the possibility of peace. Regret and panic, anger and mourning–the list goes on and on. We have seen all of these expressed, sometimes eloquently, sometimes haltingly, in interviews, in op-eds, and in a flood of postings on social media. And we have seen, painfully, the harsh reactions that these expressions of strong emotion provoke, with both “friends” and strangers attacking each other’s motives, intelligence, decency, and even their very humanity. How far this is from the model of respectful listening, even across stark differences, that I saw and participated in on my recent trip to Israel with Interfaith Partners for Peace. And how very far it is from the model of intensely engaging with each other around difficult conversations that we are striving to develop and maintain at Germantown Jewish Centre, including in our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot program this Saturday night. We will never move the cause of peace forward if we continue to shout past each other, to dismiss each other’s humanity, to refuse to hear what we do not agree with; these only reproduce conflict. We will truly become peacemakers when we are able to sit together peacefully, to listen to each other respectfully, and to begin to understand where and how we differ, where the edges of agreement and common values might lie, and how we might move closer to them. It starts with our community and it starts with each of us. At this time when we celebrate engaging in Torah–with all of the disagreements and disputes that surround it–may we rededicate ourselves to engaging with each other in the same spirit of holiness that surrounded us at Mt. Sinai. Ken y’hi ratzon – so may this be God’s will.