Marching For Coexistence In Israel

This is the third in a series of articles from Israel by Rabbi Yosi Gordon.  He is a teacher at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul, currently studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute and elsewhere in Jerusalem.  This article was originally posted to Facebook.


Photo: Jayel Aheram

Photo: Jayel Aheram

People here are exploding in pain. The same pain that brought 30,000 strangers to a lone soldier’s funeral in Haifa is moving Israelis to shout in white hot vengeance against the innocents in this war: the Israeli Arabs, the babies in Gaza. Our soldiers don’t say these evil things, because they have ways to act against a real enemy. Civilians are overcome with fury and worry and frustration and helplessness, and they say evil things. It is words, only words, but words are something, and their words are evil

Tonight I have the honor of marching… No, really, I don’t march. Let’s say walking. Maybe schlepping along? Is that too ethnic? Non-exclusively schlepping on a March For Peace with Jews and Palestinians on the Railroad Park between Emek Refaim and Bet Jalla, a Palestinian community now within the borders of Jerusalem, on the way to Gilo. (Gilo=Jalla) The message is that Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians can co-exist. You may think that is a rather moderate position. During a war, it isn’t. Think: Japanese internment camps. Think: anti-Shaariya laws in America. Think: refusal to include J-Street in Major Jewish Organizations.

We’re talking about co-existence, not love or agreement or approval. You are there and I am here and I’ll stay here and you’ll stay there and you can talk and I can talk and we don’t even have to listen to each other if we don’t want to. If daughter-of-Holocast-survivors-writer-of-lies-in-the-Strib Sylvia-Schwartz wants to give a talk somewhere, that’s okay. Would I attend her talk? Hell, no. If I want to hear hateful lies, I can make up a few of my own and enjoy them in the comfort of my home along with an excellent cup of coffee. Or a scotch, if it’s too late in the day for coffee. I’ve got that covered, too. 

Israelis call people like me y’feh nefesh, pretty souled. It’s not a compliment. It smacks of elitism, snobbism, superiority, a lack of realism, an unwillingness to make a serious sacrifice for the State — to dirty oneself with the grime of battle and the grit of noble anger. It’s European, foppish, goyish, Ashkenazi. There are good reasons they think this way. When we are honest enough to confront our anti-Israeli prejudices, we find ourselves looking down at Them as embodying the opposite range of characteristics: the rude, hyper-masculine, vulgar, Philistine, Levantine. It will be an interesting schlepmarch. I’ll start with some scotch I bought at the Duty Free in Newark on my way here.