We’ve heard some disturbing news out of Israel in recent weeks. The level of violence is escalating, and we don’t mean Arab-on-Jew violence.
This week, the Israeli head of Peace Now was the target of death threats, the Israeli daily’s Yediot Achronot reported.
On Sept. 25, Zeev Sternhill, a Hebrew University professor, Holocaust survivor and, according to his detractors, a left- winger because he also happens to be a peace activist, survived a pipe bomb attack.
On the West Bank, assaults by settlers on Israeli soldiers appear to be on the rise.
What is going on here?
Ever since the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to date the ultimate act of Jew-on-Jew violence, the hostility within the Jewish Israeli community continues to boil, perhaps even more rapidly. And don’t dismiss the idea that another PM could be attacked; some Israeli extremists have publicly stated that Ehud Olmert ought to be put to death.
The question we’d like to ask is, can it happen here?
Sadly, the clear answer is yes. In a way, it already is.
In this week’s Chronicle you’ll read a story about how Jewish Democratic leaders have refused to debate members of the Republican Jewish Coalition. On the other side, disturbing stories are reaching our desk that in some quarters of the community, people continue to spread the appalling rumor that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.
In both cases, it is not politics that drive these actions; it is hate. The horrible truth is we are finding it easier to hate one another — here, in our own community.
Maybe we hate each other because of our party affiliations, maybe we hate each other for what we write or don’t write. In many cases we hate because we’re just plain scared — scared for Israel, scared for the future of the Jews, to say nothing of the whole world.
Fear equals hatred. That’s the human race’s version of E =mc2.
As Jews have always understood, the way to combat fear, and ultimately hatred, is with education. To begin education, there needs to be communication, which is why we hope the NJDC resumes debates with the RJC. Nothing good can come from holding them at arms’ length.
But for communication to succeed, there must be mutual respect, and that’s something where we’re all falling down.
In Pittsburgh, there’s something called the Jewish Unity Project, where rabbis and community leaders have come together to talk, teach and find common ground. That’s a good idea, but we must do more. We need a unity project for the entire community — some way where Republicans and Democrats, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews, youngsters and old-timers, all come together and learn that we’re not such strangers after all.
The alternative is we grow farther apart, and who knows where that will lead some day.