Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lesson of Tisha B'Av: We Are One … Or At Least We Need To Be

This was written for my synagogue bulletin. — Alan Stein

The "Three Weeks" lead up to Tisha B'Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, the date on which both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed. This year Tisha B'Av, the 9th of Av, coincides with the 9th of August.

Rabbi Mendel Weinbach of Ohr Somayach writes, in "What do we get from Tisha B'Av?":

"The rebuilt Beis Hamikdash was once again destroyed and we were once again exiled because of the sin of 'unjustified hatred' of one Jew for another. ... Lack of tolerance, aggressive competitiveness and destructive dissension continue to plague our families and our communities. ... Unlimited love for our fellow Jew must replace the intolerance and hatred which caused our present exile."

The theme of the first General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) I attended was "We Are One," celebrating the unity of the Jewish people, was the most meaningful to me. Too many in our community don't realize we are one, with consequences potentially as devastating as the destructions of the Temples.

We have serious schisms between denominations.

The most uncompromising elements of the Orthodox rabbinate force Israelis to adhere to its standard regarding who is a Jew - while it's doubtful their own grandparents could have proven themselves Jewish under their standards.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Reform movement didn't help matters when it unilaterally adopted patrilineal descent, even though, in my opinion, their rabbinical arguments trump those of the Orthodox clinging to matrilineal descent. Large numbers of practicing Jews cannot marry in Israel because the Orthodox rabbinate refuses to accept their Jewishness.

Without compromise by all, prodded by an Israel government putting the welfare of its people ahead of narrow-minded coalition politics, we're heading towards a self-detonated explosion.

Israel continues to be surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction while many Jews, apparently suffering from the "Oslo Syndrome," collude with our enemies.

The Oslo Syndrome is akin to the "Stockholm Syndrome" which leads kidnap victims to sympathize and even act in concert with their abductors. I believe the term was coined by psychiatrist and historian Kenneth Levin, author of "The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege."

Hamas, Fatah and the PLO are all pledged, in their most basic documents, to the destruction of Israel. For example, Article 12 of the Fatah Constitution lists "complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence" as a goal. Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, is considered moderate, and in the spectrum of Palestinian Arab politics it is. Both Fatah and the PLO may be less fanatical than Hamas, which rules Gaza and has launched more than 8,000 rockets at Israeli civilians in Sderot and other southern towns and cities, but all are united in their desire to annihilate Israel.

In the face of such hostility, one would expect all Israelis and all Jewish people in the Diaspora to be unified in their support for the Jewish state. Sadly, this is not the case.

The problem goes beyond internal debates and good-faith disagreements. There are Jews advocating and acting against Israel. Several of the staunchest Israel-haters here in Connecticut are Jewish. Some of the participants in the latest flotilla to Gaza, in support of Hamas and against Israel, were Jewish.

There are also groups which claim to support Israel but actively work against measures to support Israel. For example, early this year, J Street, which calls itself "pro-Israel," came out against an American veto of an anti-Israel resolution in the United Nations Security Council and co-sponsored a congressional mission to Israel with the viciously anti-Israel "Churches for Middle East Peace," a promoter of the BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) campaign to delegitimize Israel.

For far too many Jews, the Oslo Syndrome is more powerful than identification with their own people, with the reality that "we are one." They do not understand that the people they are abetting hate them as much as they hate the rest of us.

Rabbi Weinbach begins his article with the assertion "we Jews have a long memory."

Unfortunately, the memories of some of us are not so long; some of us have forgotten, or never learned, the lessons of Tisha B'Av.

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