If there is one issue that can divide a congregation, a family, or even one’s own sense of certainty, it is Israel. Questions of security, of peace, of justice, all consume us as Jews and as Humanists. The truth is, there are no easy answers. I was a graduate student at York University, a hot-bed of activism on the issue from all sides, and remember thinking that student groups would try to out-yell one another on the issue. During the complex and often painful “Students Against Israeli Apartheid” week, Jewish students would run their own counter-programming. Sometimes one side complained that the other had unfair treatment around security. Sometimes one side would try to shut down the other’s program. It always occurred to me that the most productive thing each group could do would be to attend the other’s events. How can we ever find a peaceable and workable solution unless we start listening to each other? When I was in Israel I saw Jewish and Palestinian groups working together to find peace. They weren’t necessarily to the “right” or “left” of any political organizing. Rather, they felt that if they were ever going to find a way to co-exist, they had to learn how to talk, listen, work, and live together.
In Canada, the discourse on the subject of Israel is highly polarized and polarizing. Many of you have confided in me that you feel isolated in your Jewish families and circles of friends because of how they feel about Israel. Some have felt too Jewish to be part of the “left” (which is often antisemitic) and too left to be part of the “Jewish” spaces (even the intimate non-organized ones) that are often inconsistent with views some feel are Humanistic. Some of you have felt that the Jews with whom you associate are not pro-Israel enough, for we face real and existential concerns as Jews, and feel that these are downplayed.
The reality is, there are no easy answers. I have often felt that anyone who thinks they have a simple solution to the questions and problems of Israel does not understand the situation. For me, a Humanistic and Jewish point of view is one that respects the Jewish experience, and also respects the rights and sanctity of life for all. I wonder whether and how it might be possible to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. I wonder whether and how it might be possible for our community to model what respectful dialogue and disagreement look like. I wonder whether instead of feeling like we can’t talk about Israel in order to remain a close community, we start talking about Israel, trusting that it is within a close community that doing so is safe.
For all of these reasons, we created the event Israel: Perspectives and Possibilities. This isn’t a debate. This is an opportunity to hear differing points of view from a place of loving and understanding Jews and Israel. This is a place to challenge our own perspectives as we open ourselves to those with whom we disagree. And it is is a place to reaffirm who we are and what we believe as we hear arguments that support what we think and feel. This is a place where we hold space for each other and acknowledge that we may not always agree with one another, but we always care about and for one another. I hope to see you there.
ISRAEL: Perspectives and Possibilities
March 22 at 7:30 pm in Toronto
Jews in the GTA have differing and multiple views on Israel. Come hear dialogue from leading speakers and thinkers on Israel as they answer questions about peace, security, and much more.
Speakers include: Steve McDonald (CIJA), Karen Mock (JSpace) and Joan Garson (NFN). More info:www.tinyurl.com/IsraelPanel