Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Being Wrong, Even When You're Right...

I had the pleasure of spending my day touring Jerusalem with Michael, a relative of mine who is currently visiting from the US. Among the sites that we visited were the City of David, Hezkiyahu's water tunnel, and the Kotel Tunnels.

Michael had a friend of his, Jamie, join us for our visit to the Kotel Tunnels. While we were literally in the middle of the tunnels, an individual, who I am not certain if he worked at the site, or was just a "concerned" Samaritan, felt the need to mention to Jamie, that he didn't believe that she was dressed in an appropriate enough manner befitting the sanctity of the site that we were visiting.

Now, it is possible that he may have been right (although, in all honesty, I do believe that in this case it could have gone either way), but so what. As I see it, it is not as if he made his comment and then offered Jamie a shawl to cover herself. Nor did he say his comment in a friendly tone of voice where he might have explained to her in a respectful and understanding manner what his concern was. Instead, he simply made his comment in an unpleasant tone of voice, with a disgusted look on his face and moved on. Neither Michael nor Jamie are religious and neither have been to Israel in quite some time. Jamie took particular offense to the comment, and while she may have recognized that this person may have had a point, the manner in which he did it both upset and embarrassed her.

I do not doubt that the person who offered the critique meant well, but in his zealousness to defend the sanctity of the site he embarrassed his fellow Jew in front of her peers, did not offer her a way to rectify the situation, and I can only hope that he hasn't left her with a bad taste in her mouth as far as how she will look back on her trip to Israel and the Jews that she encountered there.

It is of the utmost importance that we Jews learn to live together. Observant Jews have the tremendous responsibility (particularly in Israel) of defending Jewish tradition and sensibilities but trying not only not alienate our fellow Jews in the process, but to inspire them with a love for all that is Jewish.

In our quest to shape Israel as a Jewish State we cannot forget that in the end we will need a united Jewish People for the State to not only exist but also flourish. This will not happen through coercion, but through understanding, and through the knowledge of when to stand firm on principle and when to bend for the sake of the greater good.

In this instance, I believe a little flexibility would have gone a long way towards enhancing the connection of this particular Jew to her nation and her Land - let us hope that while this opportunity may have been lost, that there will be others to make up for it.



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