I usually try to keep up with the news on Israel, and I am always heartened by the “good news” in the areas of innovation, medicine, high-tech and culture. More recently, and particularly this past weekend, I found myself reading everything I could possibly find about the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dramatic increase in global antisemitism – all in an effort to better understand what is happening now that feels so different than in the past. I am also frequently asked, what are we doing as a community, and can we do more?
After 11 days of conflict, our community came together for a vigil to stand with Israel on May 20. Due to COVID precautions, the majority of our community watched over YouTube. But I was fortunate enough to be in the room with our clergy and community leaders, and felt the warmth of knowing that we are in this together and here for one another.
As soon as the rockets began to fall, we opened an emergency campaign. Our community quickly responded to help the victims, their families and all those whose lives are affected each time the sirens wail.
We provided frequent updates to our community. We encouraged support from our elected officials, and asked our community members to do the same.
But though the current conflict has ended, the fight, of course, is far from over. I share the concerns of those who feel that as a Jewish community we are under attack. Unequivocally, I know that wherever I stand, I always stand with Israel. And we can always do more.
Having read article upon article by experts and political analysts of all flavors, I found myself drawn to a blog entry entitled “To the Silent Majority.” Ironically, it wasn’t until I finished reading the blog entry that I read it was written by a young woman named Meredith Rothbart who made aliyah in 2008 from Allentown and is raising her young family in Jerusalem. As a religious Zionist feminist who served in the IDF, she participated in a leadership program for young Israelis and Palestinians which inspired her career in peacebuilding. She co-founded Amal-Tikva (meaning “hope” in Arabic and Hebrew), a collaborative initiative where philanthropists, field experts and organizations come together to support civil society peacebuilding.
In her blog, she notes that we all like quick fixes, especially Israelis. However, there may not be such a quick fix to peacebuilding. She states: “There actually is a secret to peacebuilding, even to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The problem is that it is not sexy and definitely not high-tech nor instant.
The secret to peacebuilding is time, effort and money. It is dedication and commitment.
The secret to peace is attitudinal change at the individual, societal and political level.
It is interfaith dialogue, civic engagement, youth empowerment.
It is nonviolent communication and activism.
It is women leaders.
It is economic development and partnership.
It is justice.”
She goes on to quote her mentor the Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, who helped bring about peace in Ireland, who said, “If you want peace today, you should have started building it 20 years ago. And if you don’t feel like working for peace today, then you better not complain to me in 20 years that the conflict is ongoing and affecting your children.”
After dedicating more than a decade to peacebuilding, Rothbart is not simply an idealist. She hears and recognizes the criticism/critique from those who do not feel this is an effective approach, but she also reports that the messages she received this time around are different. Rather than the skeptics saying there is no point or that the peace business isn’t successful, people are asking different questions today like, what can I do, how can I help? She is hopeful that the painful events of the current crisis are the moment that the silent majority needed in order to speak up and demand change.
It is time for all parties to realize that the Jews are not a political football to kick around and that we all need to take steps to work together to bring down the rhetoric. The global Jewish community is struggling to find a way forward amidst growing antisemitism and a desire for true, lasting peace in Eretz Yisrael.
May you find the activism that speaks to your heart, define what it means to stand with Israel and to help build peace.
If we’re part of a silent majority, this is our call to action.