I am not Israeli.
I have never been to Israel.
But I clearly remember the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin 20 years ago, when he was 73 and I was 23. It was major world news, of course. It was so soon after the Oslo Accords, the treaty with Jordan and the Nobel Peace Prize. The world was shocked.
For me, the most shocking aspect was that his murderer was a fellow Jew. At the time, I was fairly ignorant of the deep disagreements between Jews, especially Israelis. I hadn't studied much of Israel's history, and what I did study was a gloss -- I'd had a few Israeli religious school teachers, but the only thing I really remember about them was the arguments over tav/sav pronunciation.
I spent from 1989-1994 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and as a university student I often found myself as the first Jew my peers had ever known. I put a lot of time into studying Judaism itself,
especially anything that would help me educate my friends and refute my evangelistic enemies on campus. (I had a few knock-out punches ready for the Campus Crusade for Christ whenever I engaged them, and I engaged them every chance I could.) Oh, to be young and on fire!
Rabin was killed by a Jew? How could a Jew do such a thing to another Jew? I still struggle with this question, with Jews who don't seem to embrace my liberal idealism of "This Judaism is good for me," and "That Judaism is good for them," but we all get along anyway.
I knew they were against us.
I didn't know we were against us, too.
Was there really something so divisive that Jews would resort to killing each other?
Of course there was.... and I look back on my naivete with wistfulness and nostalgia.
I used to be very into Jewish Triumphalism, Jewish Essentialism, and Jewish Exceptionalism. Jews are chosen. Jews put more value on education. Jews are smart. Look at all the Jewish doctors, lawyers, and media moguls (but don't talk about Jewish influence and lobbying power...)
What a narrow view of Judaism (and the rest of humanity).
It doesn't give Jews enough room for their shortcomings and doesn't acknowledge the amazing potential of everyone person, Jewish or not, to achieve excellence. [American exceptionalism drives me crazy for many of the same reasons. As soon as you believe that you are chosen, or the best, or #1! you close yourself off to learning from "others" who may know better.]
Maybe there are better ways to do religion, to think about spirituality, and to act virtuously.
Maybe we can learn from other countries who have found better systems, economies, and ways of being in the world.
I used to think that Jews were somehow above hurting others in the kinds of ways we had been hurt so many times.
- Would we oppress people? Of course not, because we know what it is to be oppressed.
- Would we hold ourselves above others? No, because we know what it is like to be stepped on.
- Would we settle our disputes with violence? No, because we were experts at debate and argument and agreeing to disagree. The minority rabbis may not make law, but they were included in the Talmud.
Then Yigal Amir shot Yitzhak Rabin, and I didn't know what to think.
I still don't know, if Judaism has taught me anything, it's to be OK living with the questions. Living with the uncertainty and looking to many sources for guidance...)
Be kind. Always.
Let's start there.
May the dream of peace be seen in our lifetime.