Here are a few things that I think one could do:
- “Every person has to decide before every action that that particular action is the most important for him or her to do in the world at this time. There is no thought or action that is more important. And if there is, then you should be doing that most important thing, at this time…”
This remarkable quote was found on the desk of Eyal Frankel, in the beit midrash at his yeshiva, after his murder. (He was one of the three Israeli teens whose murders triggered the recent events.) In his memory we should commit to what Eyal called “tikkun midot” – striving to be a better person.
I learned about this quote from a really remarkable video of Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, speaking at an evening of learning in memory of the three teens, on July 9th: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2TWAYBPHLI
- Don’t stick your head in the sand, or say “it’s all too complicated.” If you feel confused about what’s going on in Israel, now’s a good time to start reading. A good start would be Ari Shavit’s recent and acclaimed My Promised Land, which includes one or two very intense chapters. The reason I think it’s such an outstanding book is precisely because he offers such a wide range of vignettes and perspectives, and because in each case he contextualizes in a way that I think is particularly important. If you want an accessible (and free) sense of what’s going on in Israel, read http://www.timesofisrael.com/ .
- Create a context in which to share your feelings about what’s going on in Israel. At Hazon we devoted one of our regular staff meetings to this topic, two weeks ago, as we did during the war in Gaza in 2008. On both occasions I said, “this is not a debate. Each person gets 3 minutes to say whatever you want to say; you can pass, if you don’t want to say anything; and anything that anyone says is private to this meeting – it’s not something for someone else to argue with you about afterwards. This is simply an opportunity to listen to each other, and to share what we feel.” It is/was a powerful and an important thing to do.
- If you have the opportunity, visit Israel and, once there, volunteer in some way and learn in some way. There is no substitute for being in Israel, not least because the reality of what is going on there – the range of opinions – is so wide and so fascinating. If you have the chance to go in the near future that will be a great opportunity to give Israelis a sense that you care enough to be there at a difficult time.
- Don’t lose hope. The whole situation seems to be a mess. It really does. And/but don’t presume that things can’t get better. They can. And it’s legitimate for us to ask ourselves – each one of us – how can I in some way be a force for good, in relation to Israel and in relation to the world?
- If you have friends or family in Israel, reach out. Just be in touch. Pick up the phone. Email, text, remind them you know it’s not life-as-usual. And, separately, go to shul, or connect (or re-connect) with Jewish life in some fashion.
- Don’t presume that to be “pro-Israel” is somehow to be “anti-Palestinian” or anti-Muslim or anything else. Holding complexity is vital. It’s legitimate – some of us think it’s desirable – to love Israel, and to disagree with some Israeli policies, and to hold Hamas responsible for the loss of life in Gaza, and to want to engage with – and listen to – Palestinians and other Arabs saying things we may find difficult to hear. And, at the same time, as Israelis say, yesh gevul – “there’s a limit…” Here’s a trenchant piece that I personally agree with, from Rabbi Menachem Creditor, a Conservative rabbi in Berkeley, CA –http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-menachem-creditor/im-done-apologizing-for-i_b_5606650.html
- Finally: if you want to support one organization that is doing remarkable work, not in ending war but in creating the enduring relationships that can truly build peace, check out the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies – http://arava.org/ They’re bringing together Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Americans, in a program that’s training a new generation of environmental leaders in the Middle East. Many of their Muslim or Christian students wouldn’t necessarily agree with the views of the Jewish students at AIES – and vice versa (and many of them wouldn’t agree with my own views, expressed here). But what their students learn to do is to disagree as friends and colleagues, rather than as enemies. Few things are more important. Check out AIES – very inspiring.