It has been a long, hectic and productive week. With the 75th anniversary of Israel, so many events and meetings occurred in a short time span. It was also a week of learning for me. As I have been traveling these last few months, everyone has asked me about the situation in Israel. Jews around the world are very nervous given the continuing protests around the present government. Some have gone so far as to announce that this may be the end of Israel itself.
Certainly the enemies of the Jewish people have been watching with glee as it would seem that the infighting is weakening Israel. I witnessed many instances first hand and I would like to share some of those experiences with you. As I chaired the Resolutions Committee meeting at the World Zionist Congress, I had a front seat to some truly difficult situations. The meeting was supposed to take place on Thursday night yet there was a five and a half hour argument on how to conduct the voting, so the meeting was postponed until Friday morning.
On Friday morning it was decided that we would present the resolutions and the voting would take place online in the coming weeks. As I stood at the podium throughout, my job was to guide the presentation and keep protocols in place to move the meeting along. That is the context of the speech that I shared with you last week asking the participants to give each other a hug at the end.
Shortly after we started, bedlam broke out; lots of screaming and shouting. I was constantly asking people not to get on their chairs so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. At one point a person jumped on the stage and physically pushed me away from the podium so they could yell in the microphone. That was a first for me. So how did I keep the meeting moving and get it to the finish line?
Before I started, I spoke with one of the gentlemen on the stage and suggested we work together to get this done. He and I probably don’t share many similar views on a political or religious level. Yet we agreed to forge ahead together. At the end of the meeting, when we had successfully reached the conclusion in partnership, he approached and thanked me. Then he said I’m here to give you that hug that you requested everyone to give. So we hugged and parted ways.
Over the course of the week I have seen my new colleague many times at a plethora of events. Every time we give each other a hug and soon he will visit me at Aish. I would dare say that I have made a new friend. A friend that I may seldom agree with on many issues but someone with whom I can dialogue. So many times we live our lives in echo chambers never speaking to folks who may differ from us. I believe that the echo chamber approach is short sighted.
The truth is that we will find that amongst our Jewish brethren we have much on which we do agree. We cannot just focus on the points that divide us. My friends, these arguments and protests are not the end of Israel. They are reflective of a powerful beginning. As Israel grows and the demographics shift, there are many issues that come up. Frankly, I personally believe that hearing all sides is crucial to critically understand and forge a position on an issue. That is always the way I have lived my life.
What we can never forget is that we are family. The greater Jewish family. We can argue all day long but in the end we must hug each other. We must love each other. We must defend each other. I believe that Israel will get through the current crisis in a strong way as long as we never forget those principles. The principles that we are the Almighty’s children and He assigned us the important task of being a Light unto the Nations.