I have never been afraid to express my opinion. I welcome reasonable discussions and debate about almost anything—food, movies, books, baseball, politics, world affairs, religion, you name it. I have strong feelings about almost anything and everything, and I usually am not at all hesitant to say what I am thinking. I like to think that I listen to what others have to say and that I try and be informed about as much as I can before formulating my own opinion. My values have not changed much at all in the course of my life, so I know my starting point based on those values, but my mind has been changed many times on many issues by listening and reading what others have to say.
But this time I am lost. I am Jewish, I am proud to be Jewish, and I feel a strong emotional tie to Israel and Jewish people everywhere. I’ve only visited Israel once, back in 1997, and it left an indelible mark upon me. I felt a connection historically and spiritually to the place. I cried when we left in a way that was far different from the sadness I always feel when a trip or vacation ends. Israel felt like home to me in a way I never expected. From my research I now know I have family in Israel. I have friends in Israel. I know how important Israel is to the past, the present, and the future of the Jewish people.
I am also a lifelong progressive liberal (and not ashamed at all of that word) who argued and protested against every US war during my lifetime—from Vietnam starting in 1965 when I was a teenager up through Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2002. I know that some wars were so-called just wars; defeating Hitler and others who have tried to commit genocide is justified and necessary. Dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, however, is not something I would have agreed with, if I’d been born at the time. I don’t agree with capital punishment, even when the convicted person has committed a heinous crime. I just don’t see killing as a way of accomplishing anything unless and until there is no choice in the name of self-defense or defense of others.
So I have read the news these last few weeks with my stomach churning, my heart breaking, and my brain torn from one side to the other. Almost everything I have read is filled with one-sided rhetoric. There is no reason for me to recap the arguments; you’ve heard them all before. People who are defending Israel point me to pro-Israel sources; people who are anti-Israel point me to anti-Israel sources. I read the New York Times every day, hoping it is more objective than other sources. People who are pro-Israel say that the Times is biased against Israel; people who are anti-Israel say the Times is biased in favor of Israel.
There are only a few actual facts: Hamas wants to destroy Israel—it says so in its charter; there is a blockade around Gaza that makes escape for those who live there almost impossible and life there absolutely miserable; Hamas is building tunnels and accumulating weapons and shooting rockets to reach its goal of destroying Israel; Israel is fighting back with stronger and bigger weapons and with a defense system that has resulted in many more Palestinian deaths than Hamas has been able to inflict on Israel; Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire; Israel refuses to stop building new settlements; Hamas continues to shoot rockets, knowing that its own people will be killed in greater numbers; Israel knows that it cannot avoid killing them when it shoots its rockets at Gaza. Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.
Meanwhile, people are dying on both sides, no one feels safe, and there is hate being spewed by both sides. And across the world, there are people protesting, saying things that I’ve not heard said so publicly and proudly in my lifetime: “Death to the Jews, Kill the Jews.” In one town in France, shop windows were smashed. Immediately I thought of Kristallnacht.
So why have I remained quiet? Being quiet did not help the Jews in the 1930s. But why express my feelings when they only provoke more rhetoric? Why be accused of being either a self-hating Jew for having sympathy for the people in Gaza or of being a Jewish imperialist/Zionist for understanding why Israel feels a need to use force to stop Hamas from trying to kill the Israeli people and their country? The dialogue is pointless. No one really listens. They just argue. They just throw around words of hate. They just make me feel sick and sad and confused.
I have also remained quiet because I am confused and upset and heart-sick. I see no hope for any improvement in the situation; I only see things getting worse. I only see a terrible ending to all this anger and killing and hate, and it makes me despair for my children and my grandchildren, for Jews and for non-Jews, for our world, our planet, our lives. There is no right, no wrong. There is just ugliness, blood, violence, and hatred. There are no words. I have no words. I am speechless. I am silenced.
Please don’t tell me what you think. Please don’t fill my heart with more hate, with more anger. I’ve heard all the arguments. The rhetoric is all noise to me. Endless Facebook postings prove nothing; people only read what supports their point of view. There is nothing to celebrate. Everyone is wrong; everyone is right. Everyone needs to be quiet, to stop talking, and to start listening to their hearts, hoping with their souls, and thinking with their brains. If those of us who do not live where the bombs are flying cannot talk to each other with respect and understanding, how is there any hope that there will ever be peace over there or, for that matter, anywhere?
So my silence does not signify indifference or apathy; it signifies confusion and a willingness to listen and think and hope. You cannot listen when you are talking. You cannot think when you are just spewing rhetoric. You cannot hope when you are angry. I am listening. I am thinking. I am trying as hard as I can to hope.