A Call to Jews: Let's Find Compassion through Mourning on the Sabbath

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I keep getting distracted by posts on Facebook about Palestine and Israel. In particular, people are posting pictures that say “Share if you support Israel’s right to defend herself” or a cartoon like the one on left of Israeli children unable to stand outside as the snow falls because instead of snow falling on them, rockets are falling.
When I see these images, my eyes fill with tears. I am so deeply saddened by this because I value caring for the well-being of all and taking responsibility for how our choices and behavior impact others.
One common question that Jews keep asking is “What would you do?” with a picture of bombs landing on icons from different cities around the world.
What this picture ignores is the daily, ongoing experience for Palestinians.
I have never seen these same people post photos of the suffering of Palestinians or raise concerns or questions about the Occupation, the building of the Wall, the destruction and demolition of Palestinian homes, the imprisonment and killing of nonviolent protesters, children, etc.
And similar, often identical pictures, are posted by those who support Palestinians.
But even a balanced posting of suffering and righteousness, gets us nowhere, unless it stops us dead in our tracks and makes us realize that bombing and killing will never solve this problem. Instead it only deepens the wounds, resentment, and hatred.
I do not want to debate who is right and who is wrong in this conflict. Instead I want to reframe the entire discourse from one of blaming and finger pointing to one of compassion, curiosity, self-responsibility, acknowledgment, empathy, care and a genuine desire to solve the problem rather than exacerbate it.
I don’t have the answers, but I have an idea of where to start.
In my humble opinion, it starts within our own hearts and psyche. Until we do the deep healing work we, and here I speak as a Jew, need to do to heal from the psychological scars from our years of oppression and suffering both before and during the Holocaust, I am afraid that peace will forever remain elusive.
The reason I believe this is because it is our scars and our fears that are driving our actions. We need to move from a place of fear and hurt and grief to a place of compassion, love and care for the “other.”
Yes, I believe the same is true for Palestinians, however, they are living under Occupation and endure daily injustices, humiliations, lack of freedom, etc. that are not the experience of Israeli Jews. I believe the initial responsibility lies in the hands of Jews because Israel is the one with the power in this dynamic.
Thus far, we’ve taken a self-righteous attitude that anything we do to protect ourselves is justified because if we don’t, look what happens. While this may feel powerful, in fact it bolsters our sense of powerlessness. Instead, we need to mourn our past.
Jewish teachings taught me that it is our job to fight against oppression anywhere and to care for the “other” amongst us. There is nothing “Jewish” about dropping bombs on people and killing innocent civilians. There is nothing “Jewish” about destroying peoples’ homes and denying them the ability to support their families, go to school, obtain health care, spend time with family and friends, etc.
I know that we are better than this and that we are simply caught in our fears, hurts and grief. To move from a place of fear, hurt and grief to a place of love, compassion and care, we need to heal.
To do this, I invite Jewish synagogues, homes, shuls, schools and community centers to hold healing and grieving circles on Sabbath. To be in community to mourn and grieve so that we can begin our healing process. A process that allows us to deeply mourn our past so that we are free to make choices that embody Jewish traditions of love, compassion, empathy and care for the “other”.
Grieving and mourning is the birthplace of healing, repair, and transformation.
Once we begin our healing process we will begin to open our hearts with compassion to the experience and suffering of Palestinians. Only then we will be able to hear their stories and their suffering and be able to honestly reflect upon how our behavior and choices have contributed so deeply to the tragedy and suffering of all, rather than blaming the “other”.
It is then that we will begin to see Palestinians as fellow sojourners on this planet who have the same needs we do and who shed the same tears and blood.
When that happens, peace is possible.