When Everyone is Right, Everything is Wrong
It had been the summer of our discontent. The subject of Judicial Reform monopolized every air-pocket of Israeli discourse. People who I respect and admire took to the streets in solidarity against proposals that would restrict the power of our country’s Supreme Court.
I am/was deeply saddened by the raging non-discourse. Not because I am without opinions but because of the finger-pointing, virulent outbursts, severing of friendships that took precedence over the art of agreeing to disagree. The inability to ‘wait things out’ and sit with the discomfort—even despair—of living within the confines of a government that did not represent a respective view, lifestyle, vision of the future: a societal immaturity that frightens me terribly. Why frightened? Because of a phantom called “The Other.”
A former friend railed against words I had not written, attacked positions I had not taken, all in defense of his daughter’s rights to dress as they wished and to honor or not-honor the ordained Jewish sabbath. To love and/or marry whom they wished in whatever type of ceremony they wanted. His fury excoriated Torah Judaism and traditional practice with accusations that I couldn’t repeat in the generous space I’ve been afforded for this column. Cyber spittle dripped as he candidly placed blame squarely at the threshold of Orthodox Judaism. Honestly, I hadn’t a clue as to where he’d reached his conclusions. More than confused, I was deeply hurt.
After my initial shock, hurt and stab of anger for having been so misunderstood, I wept. Wept for the incredible chasm that exists between Jew and Jew.
A Native-American proverb says, “Never judge another man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” To be clear, this essay takes no discernible stand on either side of the deafening arguments. And yet, I shudder to think that those who have never spent a week living in a Sukkah, never shut their cell-phones for a 25-hour Sabbath, never lit candles to usher in a time-honored religious holiday, never suffered through an inedible, foil-wrapped airplane meal to observe the injunction against eating non-kosher food, who never took a third-job to ensure a place for their child in a Jewish school, should brazenly see me and my offspring as the cause of the world’s only Jewish country going to Hell in a handbasket.
Does each side think the other is brainwashed? Paranoid? Stupid? Plebeian? I would proffer that there are many who are terrified to express a public opinion because of the threats emanating from an overbearing, agenda-heavy media.
My friend Sara and I sat in silent solidarity for a moment this week, bemoaning the fractures. Sara is a proud member of Peace Now, avowedly left-leaning and is certain she’ll be a grandmother before she’ll be a mother-in-law. She is fascinated that I entertain no doubts about G-d’s existence, His unconditional love and the unassailable wisdom of Torah. We are such good friends. We respect the choices that we’ve made for our families and communities. And we share a resentment that both of our worlds have collapsed into a trash-heap of disdain for The Other.
The Days of Awe are upon us. We spew Shana Tovah u’Metukah—a good and sweet New Year—but are we listening? Fasting, prayer, atonement and self-reflection lead us to hope that the gates of Heaven remain ajar for just a bit longer; that there is still time for us—as individuals and community—to receive blessings. But if Heaven will wait, clearly it will be for us, in turn, to bless one another.
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.