The Black Lives Matter movement released its first comprehensive paper outlying their policies. While the majority of the document addresses issues other than Israel, the section on foreign policy describes Israel as “a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades.” It criticizes no foreign country other than Israel and argues that the U.S., because of its alliance with Israel, is “complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”
Parshat Ki Tetze: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19; Isaiah 54:1-10.
The White Lives Matter Movement or the alt-right don’t hide their anti-Semitism behind Israel, but came right out and called for killing Jews who are “stealing land and jobs that were meant for their children.” And so I’m reminded of the lyrics from a Tom Lehrer song, “and everyone hates the Jews.” But the one thing that is worse than the hatred of others against us is when we start to hate each other.
In this week’s Torah portion, we are advised about the rules of going out to war against your enemy, and the Talmud is quick to point out that the enemy is yourself. We can be our own worst enemies. As an Orthodox rabbi for non-Orthodox people, I have brought more than 1,000 non-Orthodox Jews to Israel, including close to 300 from our community. About 90 percent of the participants, when reflecting on their trip, felt that the Kotel was the highlight of their Israel experience. The Kotel is the place where Jewish people of all stripes come and pray together.
Since 1967, the Kotel has been a great unifier. The multitude of cultures, religions and ethnicities that have experienced this magic beside me enriched my prayers at the Kotel. I have prayed next to a barefoot Indian man in his kneeling position on one side of me, a Reform Jew, who is looking up and meditating on the other side. A Chassid behind me prays from a siddur, and a tourist next to him is on a pilgrimage from Africa.
The Kotel is the farthest thing from a dividing wall, and we have become our own worst enemies by turning it into a place of disunity. Never mind that the arguing is ludicrous since there already is an egalitarian plaza that has been in existence for years, and never mind that this is an Israeli political issue and not ours, Detroit has been sucked into a false war that is not even ours.
Of course, we will have disagreements, but we cannot lose our respect for each other. We need to respect and love every Jew and sometimes compromise. This is exactly what has always existed at the Kotel: love, respect and compromise. People from all lands, cultures and beliefs coming together and praying as one. Everyone hates the Jews, but we love each other.
Simcha Tolwin is executive director of Aish Detroit.