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Just a Few Words on the Unspeakable...
...until I get a better grasp on what I think and feel.
*Please do NOT share this on social media.*
A quick, tentative word about where I stand on the many horrors that have been occurring in Israel/Palestine, because people have been asking me to say something.
I feel heartsick and am struggling to find the courage to put into words what I really think and feel, largely because doing so would put me at odds with some of the Jews and Israelis in my life, people I love, from whom I would prefer not to become estranged, especially at this painful time. But also because I am taking some time to listen and learn more, all around.
I know nothing of what it is to live under constant threat of harm, and want to be sensitive to everyone who has been affected by grotesque, unconscionable violence on all sides. This past week, I’ve witnessed many people doing the opposite, coming out swinging on social media, making reductive statements along the lines of “If you’re silent right now, you’re a self-hating Jew,” and “If you’re silent right now, you are anti-Palestinian,” and “If you say X, that means you are Y, and you should unfriend me.” To me, this is utter lunacy.
We are talking about one of the most fraught, complicated, and persistent geopolitical crises known to humankind. In addition to trying to make sense of it all, many of us are also taking the time before speaking to interrogate the ways in which we were effectively indoctrinated growing up.
From an early age, I have questioned what I was taught in religious school. In my memoir I wrote:
From the time I was 11 I’d had issues with the divisions religion could cause, and all the violence committed in the name of god. I’d recoiled in Hebrew school when teachers would express anti-Palestinian sentiments, and was told that to question or challenge that was to be a self-hating Jew. But it sounded to me like bigotry, and didn’t jibe with the golden rule or other tenets of Judaism I’d been taught.
Even so, I find it can be challenging to fully reject the conditioning I’ve bumped up against all my life, I suppose in part because that would set me apart from people I love and who love me, some of whom lost friends and family in last Saturday’s attack, others of whom know people being held hostage. I imagine many others like me, descendants of Holocaust/pogrom victims and survivors, are wrestling with this, too.
I’ll wait to go deeper into this when my thoughts are more fully formed. But for the time being, let me say these things:
In my mind, absolutely none of the victims—of Hamas, and the Israeli army—deserved what happened to them. Full stop.
I believe both Jews and Palestinians deserve safe homelands, where they experience freedom, self-determination, and peace.
I believe that every life is sacred, and no one group’s lives are more valuable than any other’s.
I pray for the safe return of those held hostage, and I mourn for those killed on both sides. Last week I attended a Zoom meeting held by If Not Now. Those leading the meeting talked about their regular practice of saying kaddish for both Israelis and Palestinians. I found this resonant and meaningful. In the chat, many other Jews wrote that they feared being disowned by their families if they publicly acknowledged their true feelings about the conflict, and that made me feel less alone.
I am enraged and heartbroken on behalf of the Gazans who are being cruelly bombed, starved, and displaced. This is, unequivocally, genocide. More broadly, I am enraged and heartbroken on behalf of all Palestinians, who have been unfairly vilified and forced to live in horrific conditions for 75 years.
I have called my congresspeople and senators and asked them not to support the war that Netanyahu is lodging.
I’m not “unfriending” or turning my back on those friends and colleagues who have come out swinging in ways that have felt unreasonable to me this week. I get that everyone is triggered and hurting right now, and cancel culture is not sustainable.
I’m turning comments off for this post because I’m in far too much pain to debate any of this with anyone. Please do not email me in response if you’re looking for a fight, or to change my mind. I can’t take it. To a few friends I’ve described the feeling I’ve been living with this past week as “having road rash on my heart.” I imagine many of you feel that too.
This is hard stuff—the hardest. I’d love it if we could be gentler with each other as we make sense of it all, at the very least on social media—where, as I said above, *I ask that you NOT share this*—and which is a lousy place to try and conduct political discourse. I don’t have it in me right now to be confronted by the understandably triggered masses.
Thank you. Sent with love to those who are hurting right now, on all sides.