Sunday, August 31, 2014

Living On But Always Remembering

Today is a day of remembering the past but continuing to look into the future.  It was today in 1987 that Linda was murdered.  Taken from me and the world and thus changing drastically the trajectory of my life.  For many years I would think each year about what my life could have been if she had lived and mourned the lost of my possible life.  But last night I went out to spend some time by myself only to discover all that I have in life.  A great son who is now an adult, a wife who cares for me and is amazing in many ways, a life full of friends who stand with me in good times and bad, and even an ex who's dedication to our son has helped him grow into the man that he is becoming.

I was thinking how a few years ago I was thinking about Shoah (Holocaust) education and wanted to remember the words of a survivor who I spoke with when she said the greatest way to get back at the Nazis was to live a fully life.  Remember, don't let it happen again, but live beyond the tragedy of the Shoah.  I realized that was good advice for me.  For my life.  I will not forget the life that was ended and what it could have been but I will continue to live my life fully and enjoy all the moments not in the pit of despair but in the light of joy that we can enjoy in the world.

I raise a glass to the memory of Linda Akers, she is still missed.  But I also lift my glass to all those who help to make the life I developed since Linda's death.  We need the memory but we need to continue to build memories.  Thank you all, as I look back, there are so many great moments and the expectation of so many more.


Friday, August 1, 2014

They Pull Me Back In......

I have purposely avoided writing much about the current situation in Gaza.  I am not sure if it is fear of not being heard well or if it is just I don't know what exactly to think.  I do pray that the children of Sarah and the children of Hagar can one day find a way to share the land and share a future of mutual respect and dignity. But I am asked every day my thoughts and I share them.  I am troubled, frightened and yet I still remain hopeful.  I know it is hard to have hope, but I do, I do because  I have personally seen it in the eyes of both young Palestinians and Israelis.  I have heard it from the lips of old grizzled Jews and Arabs. One day there will be peace.  It will not be easy but, I have hope. Many more people wish for peace than we know about as the stories in the news focus on the shiny objects of the radicals that call for violence or twist the situation to their own narrative.  We can find a way to bring peace to Israel and there are people ready to lead the way.  A real peace, with a secure Israel and fear of terror at a minimum and a free and Palestinian people.  I know it is possible and sometimes I think I will live to see it.

But there are those who don't share my view and too many of them have either power of office or low voices. There is right and wrong that is easily seen.  Hamas calls for the death of all Jews.  It is difficult to negotiate with a people who just want you to die.  What do you offer?  To die slower?  But Hamas is not the Palestinians and there is hope for a future where they no longer hold the sway they do today.  But there are reasons that many still cling to their violent ideology.  We have seen a bit of that today.  A  blogpost in The Times of Israel with the uncomfortable title of When Genocide is Permissible was published and quickly removed from their website. The author, Yochanan Gordon, is an American Rabbi and writer dropped this literary bomb and a world already becoming more angry at Israel for the rising death toll in Gaza of civilians. In it the argument is clear, Hamas is bent on the destruction of Israel so anything Israel does to end Hamas' ability to do so is justified.  An argument I could follow in many ways.  Someone coming to kill you does not necessary retain the right to have you not fight back in a dirty manner.  But the problem is that if you do there are people who do not want you dead who could get hurt.  It will never be okay to blow up a plane full of people to kill the one person bent on evil. Though there are arguments to suggest that while not okay it may still be necessary.     But Gordon's argument goes further than that.  He doesn't want to blow up the plane, he wants to blow up the airport, the travel agent and perhaps even the taxi driver who took the man to meet his flight.  He is arguing  that civilians under the oppression of their leaders seem to allow for terrorist tunnels and rocket launchers to be placed in their neighborhoods, homes, mosques and even hospitals.  To Gordon these people are no longer innocent civilians but terrorists as well,  he concludes this piece with this paragraph:

I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable
quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every
government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts
determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then
permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

How do we get here?  How does a rational mind find this to be the answer.  Genocide should be an anathema to any Jew.  Our history is riddled with the attempts by others to kill us all.  Even our Biblical tradition can be seen to include the likes of Amelek and Haman, and through it all our tradition continued to preach forth a message of humanity and dignity for all people.  We are all the children of Adam and Eve, we are all created b'tzelem Elohim.  It does not mean you stand by and let someone kill you, but is also means that it is not our place to decide an entire community should be eliminated. Judaism is not a religion of death and destruction but of life and humanity.  My Muslim friends would share the same value.  Islam and Judaism teach that all life is sacred.  But so many leaders who are driving this have forgotten that is true.

I can't get a scene from Shakespeare's Henry V out of my head.  Henry, the king in disguise is walking among his men on the night before a great battle.   Still unknown to his men he approaches a group and when seen as friend this dialogue takes place.  The battle that dawn will bring does not seem likely as a victory for the English.  A hopeless battle but one that will be met.


So, if a son that is by his father sent about
merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
imposed upon his father that sent him: or if a
servant, under his master's command transporting a
sum of money, be assailed by robbers and die in
many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the
business of the master the author of the servant's
damnation: but this is not so: the king is not
bound to answer the particular endings of his
soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
they purpose their services. Besides, there is no
king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to
the arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all
unspotted soldiers: some peradventure have on them
the guilt of premeditated and contrived murder;
some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals of
perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that
have before gored the gentle bosom of peace with
pillage and robbery. Now, if these men have
defeated the law and outrun native punishment,
though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to
fly from God: war is his beadle, war is vengeance;
so that here men are punished for before-breach of
the king's laws in now the king's quarrel: where
they feared the death, they have borne life away;
and where they would be safe, they perish: then if
they die unprovided, no more is the king guilty of
their damnation than he was before guilty of those
impieties for the which they are now visited. Every
subject's duty is the king's; but every subject's
soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in
the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every
mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death
is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was
blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained:
and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think
that, making God so free an offer, He let him
outlive that day to see His greatness and to teach
others how they should prepare.

When I think of this and the current situation in Israel I have no doubt that the IDF is fighting for a just cause.  While the tragedy of the numbers of civilian deaths in Gaza eat at my heart, I have no doubt that if Israel wasn't as careful with their actions as they are there would be many many more.  Listening to those who choose to fight for Israel they have no doubt that what they are doing is righteous even if the outcome sometimes is horrific.  But in Israel and and world wide Jewry we see Jews mourning that loss of life.  How different would it be if the leaders of Israel took Gordon's advice and instead of fighting for security were hell bent on the destruction of the Palestinian people?  Would the cause be just?  Would the men's action truly be wiped of the crime for following their leaders?  I don't know.  What I do know is that as Hamas has called for genocide their actions do not meet the simple standard laid out by Henry here as he attempts a seemingly unwinnable battle. The cause of Hamas is not a free Palestinian people, it appears it is death to Israel.  That is where I can comfortably stand with Israel now and not fear that I am in the wrong.  As long as Israel continues to see this and act as this is a battle for security I am standing with them and yes while I do that I can also mourn the dead in Gaza, and seek a way to make life there more bearable.  That is not to say that Israel is never wrong.  But that is for a different post.  

Today we saw naked ugliness from a person who seems to have forgotten his teachings as a Rabbi and as a Jew and as a human being.  No one should call for genocide and send young men and women into battle for its sake.  Thankfully it was someone sitting in the comfort of the insular community in suburban New York and not an Israeli cabinet minister.  But we should remember that if you think that Yochannan Gordon was repugnant, he speaking almost in the form of a question.  Rhetorical as it may sound.  For Hamas there is no question.  There is only one answer, death to Israel.  Sadly they have the power the arms and the backing of a rich Arab state to try to make it happen.  They must fail not only for the sake of the Jewish people but for the soul of the Palestinians who would not win behind a just cause.  Everyone involved in this is human, and with all calls for genocide, that humanity is diminished if that becomes your cause.  

Pray for the Peace of Israel this Shabbat and pray for the dead of Gaza, many are innocent caught in the on-going hate and anger.  Pray for a world community that doesn't want an answer but seems to want emotion.  Pray that one day we will all find a way to live in peace and we can all share in the glorious feeling of community.  

I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...