Pain Olympics

Friday, October 13, 2023 | 1 Comment(s)

The past week has been Jackson Pollack of emotions. 

My brother says he hasn't started so many sentences with "As a Jew . . ." since we taught Hannukah every year in elementary school. I don't have as many friends, so I've been saved from being a Jewish mouthpiece, but nothing can protect me from being a human being.

I had to get off Facebook for awhile. That's saying something since their algorithm has got my circadian rhythm pegged. But the faces of lost souls in Israel and in Gaza staring out at me are heartbreaking enough, but the overripe opinions that fall like crab apples from the Facebook Marketplace are too much to bare. 

I am not a geopolitical expert. I grew up an observant Conservative Jew, more observant than the rest of my family, and lived on a kibbutz for a year and a half of my most formative years. I have lost two friends to religious violence. It is impossible to not have bias. But today I am a humanist by nature, and my skepticism of how religion ends up parroting ideas of sanctity over care, has left me searching for my own ideas around regarding a power greater than ourselves.

To write about Israel with the idea that one has all the answers is simply proving you do not. There is nothing simple about what is going on in this war, and to believe it is, is to crush the totality of 5000 years of experience down a single convenient frame, with which you inspect under a religiously-branded telescope. 

Hamas is an evil organization that must be stopped. Targeting innocent people is not war, it is terror. Yes, Hamas pushes to be the voice of the Palestinian people, but they are not. In truth, Hamas's actions put the Palestinian people directly in harms way, and therefore it is dangerous to conflate the two -- as well as it plays into Hamas' propaganda. 

At the same time. They are not completely independent. Which is to say if Israel didn't hold 2 million people in an  tiny open air prison, there would be no empowered Hamas. Having a Jewish Prime Minister who has been casually cruel to the blight of the Palestinian people has not helped calm tensions in the region (as Bibi hubristically suspected). One can speak to the lack of humanity Israel has for Palestinians and still be crushed and speak out against the cruelty of Hamas. To point out suffering is not endorsing terrorism, it is contextualizing it. It is all human suffering. Put more clearly, it is consistent to be both against Israeli occupation and Hamas' terrorism. It is putting innocent human life first. 

When they report the innocent Israeli and Palestinian deaths separately each night on the news, it hurts. To see the innocent lives lost being weighed on a scale of social identity, I can't help but think we are missing the point. Distinguishing whose dead are whose is just a springboard to revenge and further dehumanization of the other. I'm not sure what the solution is, but amplifying outgroup hate isn't the way.

The innocent didn't ask for this war. The people, don't start these wars. Politicians and policies start war. Any American who went abroad during the George W. Bush Gulf War or during the totality of the Trump presidency has had to explain to foreigners the difference between what America does, and how the American people feel about it. Hell, up until this point Israel has been regularly protesting against its own Prime Minister. Countries are not monolithic; their inhabitants contain multitudes. And yet as countries fight wars, their people pay the price. 

And the people are bleeding. People who just want the peace of mind of being to go to sleep and wake up safe the next morning are flung into a war zone. In Israel and in Gaza. I don't have answers. My heart will continue to sit cracked, sunny side down, and work towards empowering as many innocent and essential  souls we have left. 

Am Yisrael Chai

Free Palestine