Things I Need to Say
An unpolished plea from the heart
There keep being things I need to say. None of them will be polished or perfect. But they will be honest, and I hope you'll receive them in that spirit. I am trying to tend to and figure out what it means to be true to my own heart and to my people and to our shared humanity. I am not trying to talk you into or out of anything.
I'll start with a cliché: Your Jewish friends are not ok.
I am really trying to avoid simplistic formulas, which are often finger-pointing in one way of another, i.e. "If you [blank], then you [blank] or [don't blank].
Lord knows I have done plenty of this myself over time, so I'm also not standing on ceremony. I'm just feeling so aware of how this does nothing to create any connection.
Along these same lines, I'm also not using the words "genocide," "ethnic cleansing, "apartheid," "colonialism," or "context," every single one of which signifies different things to different people and all but guarantees that the reader will agree or react but not necessarily take a beat.
So no, I am not going to presume to tell you about yourself.
What I can do is continue to attempt to convey something else, which is my own experience. Maybe this will and maybe this won't open some perspective for some people. But that cannot be my goal. My only goal, if I even have one, is to shine a light on something I see missing from many online conversations and social media posts, which is compassion for Jews and Israelis.
When I read #freepalestine and there is no mention of Israeli hostages – children and elders and peacemakers – being held by Hamas in Gaza, my heart contracts.
Anti-Zionism may not equate antisemitism, but we live in a world where the two can hardly be surgically separated.
Israelis experienced carnage on October 7, the likes of which hasn't only (re)activated trauma for Jews worldwide but is indicative of what Hamas would like to see happen to all of us.
All of us Jews.
What this isn’t: An exaggeration, an emotional overreaction, or a callous response to the unbearable human suffering in Gaza.
What this also isn’t: An apology for the right-wing Israeli government or settlements in the West Bank.
And it's certainly not an attempt to shame anyone.
I suppose it might be a plea…
For calls for humanitarian aid to Gaza to include demands that the hostages be released, and for cries of anguish about Palestinian deaths to extend compassion for the unbearable grief Jews, in Israel and the diaspora, are enduring.
Israelis are not a monolith, nor are Jews a monolith. But we are a teeny-tiny people, and what we are going through may be the hardest thing many of us have ever experienced. Or maybe I should rephrase that: This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced.
I was just looking over some writing I did during and after our 2019 trip to Israel, including this line:
The most challenging and necessary thing is to hold utterly contradictory things in the same heart.
On a separate but certainly related note:
As I wrote last week on Facebook, for the love of our survival as humans – I mean, all of us – we really need to take extra care and caution right now when it comes to taking in (and in some cases, regurgitating) media/news. With cries of propaganda on every side, how is a person to figure out what’s manipulation, what’s real, what’s true?
I don’t believe there is ever a single truth, but that’s not the same as foreign powers using a hellish landscape to pit us against each other both individually and collectively. How do we engage in ways that are informed - and where are we getting said information?
I have no answers, as usual, but one thought that bubbles up here is to seek out sources that don’t present what’s happening in one-dimensional terms. Slow down. Read. Talk to people and actually listen. This takes real time and effort and cannot be achieved by scrolling and skimming.
STARTING TONIGHT – THE SHAMATI SESSIONS
If you are looking for a place to be with your own heart, get some words on paper, and share in a space devoted not to analysis or debate but to witnessing and listening, join me beginning TONIGHT for the Shamati Sessions.
We will meet on Zoom at 6:00pm ET. You can sign up for one, two, three, or all four weeks, and it’s Pay from the Heart, with 18% of proceeds being donated.
Here’s the link with more details and registration:
Also, thanks to generous donations from Beverly Harris-Schenz and Tia Finn, I can also accommodate any folks who are unable to contribute financially. If this is you, just drop me a note.