Monday, January 02, 2006

Can't we all just get along?

Among the more regular commenters on this blog is H or Haim, who believe it or not, is actually a friend of mine, in spite of, or perhaps because of our very different religious & political beliefs as they relate to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

I have known Haim for the better part of the 3 years that I have lived in Israel, and in that time I have come to find his views to be as far to left as my views are to the right. At the same time, what sets Haim apart from others whose viewpoints I disagree with is that he has the ability, generally speaking, to articulate in a very clear and convincing manner the reasoning behind his beliefs and ideology, and to allow someone like myself, who more often than not, disagrees with what he is saying, to at least appreciate why it is that he believes what he does.

On many occasions I have told Haim that if not for the fact that I am an observant, G-d fearing (I try to be...) Jew, who believes in the divinity of the Written and Oral Law (among other things), that I would agree with everything he says. However, being that I am all of the above things, we agree on very little, aside from the fact that the Jewish People belong in Israel (albeit, for somewhat different reasons).

Here is an example of a recent comment of Haim's on this post that highlights the opposite sides of the spectrum that we are coming from:
I do want the dismantling of all settlements over the Green line, I do believe that they (you) harm Israel's security and prevent peace. I do believe that the settlements are destroying the economy of Israel and depriving the citizens of the state who are willing to live within our borders the right to freedom, peace, security and prosperity...

Or, his comment to this post:
...For me the Jewish people who make up the Jewish people are central, for you G-d is central, which is actually the same G-d as for Muslims and Christians, so don't you have more in common with them than you do with the Jewish People? Your desire to deride the belief in Jewish peoplehood unless it is linked to an irrational belief in G-d and your rabbi, is what makes the messianist settler movement a separatist movement from Zionism and verges on taking them away from the Jewish People altogether.

Haim and I try to meet for lunch once a month (give or take) just to catch up, and talk about the future of the Jewish people and the Jewish State. Over the course of these meetings, I have come to a rather troubling conclusion, namely, that while our relationship is a very special one, one which I greatly value, I recognize that at the end of the day, we are working to achieve mutually exclusive goals.

What hope is there for the Jewish unity when I view many of Haim's ideological beliefs to be damaging to the Jewish People, Jewish State and Judaism on the whole, while he feels the same way about my beliefs, and would love for nothing more than to be able to put an end to Judaism, as I understand it?

How is it that Haim and I are able to be friends while at the same time being aware that the things for which we are striving and have devoted much of our personal and professional lives towards carry such grave consequences in respect to the other's very way of life?

Why is it that, in spite of all these things, I am still looking forward to my next lunch meeting with Haim?


A possible answer:

B'tselem Elokim - though we understand the origins and the meaning of the phrase differently - we both recognise its importance and its necessity in the establishment of relationships bein adam l'havero. The basics of B'tselem Elokim dictate that whatever one thinks of the words, actions and beliefs of another, what dictates ones relations with others is the essential fact that all humans are worthy of respect, honour and dignity - even when that person opposes all that you believe to be sacred and works to destroy what you work to build. In this way, I am able to appreciate you as a kind and considerate person, separate from the ideology which you espouse, which i view as hateful and hurtful.

Within this recognition is a sensibility which Buber referred to in his work, Ich und Du - that the true test of one's relationship with G-d (the indirect other) is one's relationship with the direct and immediate other. That is to say that the test of who a person is, is not the grand ideas one ascribes to but the way that person treats those s/he is in immediate contact with.

Of course there is an obvious flaw in this idea - the ideologies and grand ideas to which each of us subscribe have consequences, and I cannot accept the consequences of your actions as acceptable - but that does not stop me from seeing that fundamentally, you and I are both human and for me to act against you, would be as the yerushalmi puts it, like the right hand cutting off the left, while a butcher chops meat.

So, my left hand (although surely you are the right hand) - can we make our next lunch date after I have got rid of my worldwide leadership conference. After the 23rd.

Look forward to it.


By Anonymous H, at Mon Jan 02, 03:47:00 PM GMT+2  

I would offer two reasons:

1) Cos you both really enjoy a good political debate?

2) You are both top blokes?

By Blogger tafka PP, at Mon Jan 02, 04:42:00 PM GMT+2  

PP - is being a top bloke a compliment or an insult?

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Mon Jan 02, 09:39:00 PM GMT+2  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Mon Jan 02, 09:39:00 PM GMT+2  

Its a compliment! But now I think about it, you said At the same time, what sets Haim apart from others whose viewpoints I disagree with is that he has the ability, generally speaking, to articulate in a very clear and convincing manner

So maybe I should in fact have been offended, and not so hasty on my compliments!

By Anonymous PP, at Mon Jan 02, 11:57:00 PM GMT+2  

Ahh Shucks!

thanks PP!

I feel so special having a post as it were devoted to me! So I didn't say in the last comment - but thank you to you too, Ze'ev.


By Anonymous H, at Tue Jan 03, 09:04:00 AM GMT+2  

PP - we havent discussed politics like I have with Haim... You are relativley new to the scene... At least in my book.

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Tue Jan 03, 11:46:00 AM GMT+2  

I'm not sure what H's goal is, which is described by Zeev as mutually exclusive of his, but I assume it is contributing to Israel and Israel developing in the ways H sees as correct ones.
If so, it is clear to me that H and Z are on the same team, and the other team is... Apathy! According to made up statistics, 80% of US Jews have never ben to Israel, and 75% of US Jews are not affiliated. As a team member closer to Z, I'd rather have all those 80% spend a year in Yeshiva, but if only 10% of them go on the program of H's choice, Z and I will be in much better condition. I would dare check those made up statistics again and say that 70% of people who call themselves baal tshuva and are right wing Conservative or rightwarder, owe their lives to a lefter wing Jewish institutional experience.

By Anonymous Gidon, at Tue Jan 03, 07:13:00 PM GMT+2  

Gidon, I agree with you, that neither Haim nor myself are apathetic - a malady that aflicts too many of our Jewish brothers and sisters - my point was that the the vision that we have each committed ourselves to has no real room for the others worldview in it - and that is a scary thought.

As for your second point, it's food for thought.

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Tue Jan 03, 08:14:00 PM GMT+2  

Zeev, don't be so scared about there not being room for you and H in each other's worldview. Neither of you are winning so fast, and a win for either doesn't mean that there won't be a later round win for the other. Or my best case scenario, as the end zone gets closer, we'll all find a heretofore unthought of theory that we'll all be able to agree upon, and we'll all live happily ever after.
As or my second thought, I assume you mean how most BTs first saw the light, that would be a great PhD thesis in Jewish Sociology or something like that, o? Maybe a term paper for someone in a Fellowship program?:-)

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