In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we read about how our leaders were invested and appointed. We read the famous Priestly Benediction given by Moses to Aaron, his brother and the first leader of the Jewish people. Today, we still invoke this blessing on people experiencing times of transitions in life, such as when they are named as babies, when they become B’nai Mitzvah when they marry, and if they choose to do so, when they become leaders of the Jewish people. I cannot help but think about how this relates to the leaders before us today, both past and present, who have shaped and are shaping, in real-time, our future, particularly in Israel.
I have very close friends in Israel, closer than family actually, who have lived there nearly their entire lives. Some of you may have met them 2 years ago when I brought them to Torah study when they were in town. I care deeply for them and for the country, and we’ve had many conversations about what’s happening there. These conversations, along with my own experiences during the year that I lived there, have helped me to form my own opinions. And these opinions are strong. I’m happy to share them with you in person sometime if you wish. But basically, when offering criticism, both of the U.S. and Israel, it is not the fault of the citizens or the military, who are at the mercy of the decisions of the government. It is is the leaders who must be held accountable. If only these leaders would try and be like Moses and Aaron!
In this current case, for the first time ever, on May 9th, headlines in Israeli press announced that Naftali Bennet, a right-wing member of the New Right party, was bringing everyone, from all walks of life, to the table to form the government. For the first time ever, it would include members of the Israeli Arab Islamist Party, all brought together by none other than an Orthodox member of the RIGHT WING POLITICAL PARTY in Israel! Part of the focus of this new government was to attain more resources for Israeli Arabs, particularly Bedouins, such as jobs, and police, which would provide them with the same benefits as Orthodox Jews in Israel enjoy. Unbelievable that this could be happening, especially led by someone from the Right-Wing party. It would have fixed the broken system of Israeli politics forever. Sadly, when the Jan 6th style opponents blew it up, within 48 hours, Bennett was frightened away from pursuing this coalition, and it all fell apart.
I do not normally like to post things about my political beliefs on Facebook. I’d rather post things that make people happy, like photos of my children. However, a couple of days ago, I was so tempted to post this beautiful sentiment from my colleague Rabbi Gabi Arad, but I decided instead, to share it with you. She writes:
“It is extremely difficult to put into words everything I am thinking and feeling right now but I know that as a Jewish leader, it’s important. So here are a few points I’d like to make:
- The situation in Israel is not about sides. It’s not a sports game where we root for our team to win. Everyone is losing right now.
- Israel is my home (I was born there) and always will be.
- You can hold space for more than one experience at the same time
- My heart breaks for innocent lives lost
- Black Lives will always matter. The lives of Palestinians matter. The lives of Israelis matter. I say this because there seems to be this belief that if we don’t speak out against Israel we are no longer being allies to the struggle here in the US. That couldn’t be more false.
- Propaganda is all around us and it’s scary and heartbreaking and divisive.
- It. Is. Complicated. Be careful what you read. Be careful not to get caught up in the simplicity that is being put out there.
- Terrorism is terrorism. You cannot change your definition of it to fit your narrative.
- I will continue to pursue peace. I don’t have the power alone to create world peace but I do have the power to pursue it within my space in this world.
- To my family in Israel (including my dad), I love you and my heart is with you always and forever.
May the One who brings peace to the heavens, bring peace to us here on earth.”
As for me, I prefer to stay in my lane, and leave you instead, with music. Shortly before this conflict began in Israel, I composed a setting of Sim Shalom. As the situation in Israel began to escalate, so did my passion to continue writing, sharing, and recording this song, and putting it out into the world. We’ve been sharing it for the past couple of weeks for our Shabbat morning services. I pray that it will inspire you to make peace in your own way, however big or small. Shabbat Shalom.