Can we talk?
September 28, 2018
Dialogue and argument among Jews are as old as our people. When God told Moses to “get out of town” not every Jew in Egypt agreed. “Too dangerous!” “Moses is meshugana.” Luckily for us all, the “ayes” won and the Jews became a nation.
The synagogue was always a place for discussion—not just about Torah portions or arguments over particular rabbinical sayings—but about politics, business and various other subjects. Part of the tradition is to “join” discussions—okay: Butt in.
It’s going away. The younger generation arrives with earphones in and Smart Phone at the ready. Mom and Dad have become used to it and don’t argue any more. Matter of fact they may have joined the “Isolated Generation” themselves.
Synagogue is a place where we should be totally unplugged. Get in touch with God—but if that is too high a purpose—at least pay attention to the rabbi - and ask your children to do the same.
We are living in a time of “tribalism.” Who would have thought? Yes, we were a tribe—as a matter of fact, 12 tribes, right?
But we came together in the common cause of survival. So that today in the ancient and holy land of Israel, Sephardic and Ashkenazi, Ethiopian and Syrian, transplanted New Yorkers and ex-citizens of L.A. make up the wonderful potpourri that is Israel today.
“Discussion”—okay “argument”—is as native to Israel as the Sabra plant. I always get a kick out of asking a passing Israeli directions. If any other Israeli is within earshot, a dialogue is sure to ensue: “What? That’s how you’re sending him?” “That’s the best way to get where he’s going.” “No, no, no! I’ll tell him. Listen...”
Today in Israel the discussions continue, but our ancient and Holy Land is facing some of the same problems we are facing here. Dialogue is becoming toxic. The “Far Right” and the “Far Left” have totally different visions of what they believe the future of Israel should be.
There is a Settler movement and a Far Left movement in contrast. The farthest Right would back up the Egged busses and ship every Arab out. The farthest Left would just as soon there be a Palestinian State in a healthy part of Israel.
As American Jews, we can have an opinion—but not a voice. We don’t live there, we don’t pay taxes there and we really have no right, just because we are Jews, to meddle in the politics and policies of the Jewish State.
The organizations like #If Not Now get their ideas from some nefarious sources. Their far left and dangerous dialogue smells like Arab money. They get into the middle of Birthright groups on their way to Israel to plead their case. The examples of how the Birthright groups handle these “confrontations” has not been very inspiring.
The treatment of Arab citizens of Israel is a legitimate subject. BUT: Not if you are a 20-year-old female college student in a liberal eastern college who has never been in Israel or had a discussion with a Jewish or an Arab Israeli.
And that is the heart of the problem in Israel and here. We are not listening to each other. We are not talking to each other. I understand that. It is comforting to chat with people who have the same ideology as you do, whose politics are aligned with yours.
But that is not us. Jews have dialogue and discussion built into our DNA. If you watch the Hasidic men in the dusty, dingy Torah libraries of Crown Heights, you will see REAL dialogue. Arguing over a single sentence even a single word in Torah can go on for hours—and once in a while (Okay—once in a GREAT while) someone’s mind can be changed.
The politics of America are mirrored in Israel—but Israel has a real advantage—their parliamentary system is proportional, so as many as 16 parties can be represented in their Knesset. That means that consensus is the only solution.
The U.S. is totally polarized. You will not get a Trump supporter to budge on anything that involves this administration. You cannot get a Trump dissenter to agree that anything this present administration has done has been good for America.
Well, we better start to talk to each other. God forbid the alternative.