"It’s too easy to dehumanize a people you either don’t know or feel threatened by,” Avins said in an e-mail. “JAM is one of many efforts to bring the human back into the equation."
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The service itself was very interesting. And although I was a relatively ignorant observer, not once did I feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. People kept telling me when the page was switched and where they were and so on. It was on the whole, a rather enjoyable experience, although I wasn't taking active part in it. Unfortunately, we left about 20 minutes into the service proper to pray to pray our own evening prayer, Maghrib. The three of us shuffled out as discreetly as possible and began looking for a suitable place to pray as the echoes of the service began to fade behind us. We came to a seemingly unused room and found a corner with some space, laid down our jackets, and proceeded to begin prayer. At that point I noticed that there was another Shabbat service taking place in the room beneath us. It didn't bother us though, because we had to pray, and had already found a nice spot. Usama lead the prayer, and I strained to hear his voice over both services.
Halfway into the third rak'ah, however, I had the epiphany that there were essentially three prayers in Slifka all calling out to the same God. What at first seemed to be a cacophony of Arabic and Hebrew, became a melodious mixture of the two prayers when I realized that despite the social, political, and ideological strife between the adherents of our faiths, and despite our traditions, our modes of worship, and our cultures, we are all essentially the same. For me, prayer has always been a direct connection to God during which I am conscious of Him peering into my essence. At that moment, it felt as if all of us, Jews and Muslims, stood before God, open as books, humbled before Him. I felt a bond of human brotherhood on a place deeper than race, nationality, or even the earthly manifestations of religion.
Given that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is primarily a political rather than a religious one, I think that we can only really begin to understand each other though religion rather than history. And if we look at all the conflicts today between people who claim to be of two such faiths, it should be apparent that such a conflict over the most base of material things, land, is truly superficial when compared to our common spirituality. If only the war-mongers, the legislators, and the ignorant could be blessed with such a an experience and come to this realization. Perhaps then we could move towards each other to achieve a lasting peace between two not-so-different peoples.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
"Neither Islam nor Judaism is a religion of love; both are religions of justice.”
These were (approximately) the words of Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at
Speaking of justice, however, I must voice a discomfort with a topic popular in “peacemaking” circles. When dealing with coexistence one often hears of Golden Age Islamic Spain as an example of the potential for living together in harmony – indeed, this era was the subject of Dr. Abu Sway’s speech at the
But while justice is justice is justice, humans are merely human – we do not have the omnipotence it would take to fully comprehend absolutes. Nonetheless, Jews are instructed to “be holy, for I, the L-rd your G-d am holy” (Lev. 19:2). Though we are flawed, we still must try to be as absolutely just as humanly possible…perhaps more so. And since only G-d is truly able to judge right and wrong, we would do well to stick to what we know we can do and err on the side of hesed and mercy. This, I believe, will lead us closer to the justice Dr. Abu Sway described.
I received two announcements that Harvard University Professor Alan Dershowitz was coming to speak at
Knowing little of Professor Dershowitz beyond reading The Case for Israel, I imagined that the lecture would be an unadventurous rehash of everything I had been taught since
The question and answer session was Professor Dershowitz’s true time to bring his strongest and loudest arguments to bear. In a sad reflection of the reality of Professor Dershowitz’s public character, questioning immediately turned to two subjects: criticisms of his “torture warrant” idea and criticisms of his support for
The questioners, in varying degrees of aggressiveness, all seemed to ask the same question: “How can you support an
But for as valid and as prescient as I find these responses, at the end of the day I think they miss the point. Professor Dershowitz was correct to take to task the smug superiority of the left that has an infinite capacity for outrage at a tiny democracy precariously positioned in a sea of its enemies while choosing to ignore everything else. Professor Dershowitz was correct to praise the Israeli Supreme Court for engaging in an incredible balancing act of human rights and security—and for the Israeli democracy that allows for critique and correction when it errs. However, none of this responds to what I believe is the most relevant question: where do we go from here?
As an American, I understand that I ought not to have as much input into the processes of Israeli policy making as an Israeli. But as a Jew, unlike the vast majority of
More importantly, the kind of arguing about Palestinian and worldwide anti-Semitism that concludes with “and thus
Unfortunately for all of us, the lack of constructive dialogue is just as much due to Professor Dershowitz’s virulent critics for not asking the pertinent questions as the Professor himself for not offering pertinent responses. Professor Dershowitz came to the