The Response to Hatred: Meeting the Other
Last weekend, hatred ran wild in our streets in the most literal way. Those who appointed themselves messengers of God set out on a mission of violence, cruelly and mercilessly attacking innocent people. There seem not to be sufficient words of condemnation in this world to express the utter repugnance of these acts.
What brings a person to feel like he can set a house on fire where a baby is sleeping, or to stab demonstrators in the back whom he’s never met? The ideological justification – faith, fanaticism towards the word of God, revenge – is an idea that the person adopts in order to act on the feelings of hatred that seethe inside him. However, the basis for this hatred, which allows physical harm to be committed against teenage girls and a sleeping infant, is seeing the other as a stranger, almost non-human, demonization which erases all that is human in the person in front of you, so much so that you do not feel their pain when you hurt them.
When does a person become inhuman, and turn into an enemy that must be eliminated? When long years pass without your having met them, when one is educated to have contempt for them, to negate their opinions and needs. When the walls are high and hide their faces, and everything that you learn about those on the other side is that they are a threat to your beliefs and principles. And that otherness is at the core of the hatred.
We do not have the privilege to hide behind walls. We are a small society that is still taking shape, still in the process of internalizing cultures and finding the balance between them. Still searching for our unique Jewish-democratic character in various and complementary ways.
There is no other way to do it than through true understanding, through a natural encounter, by dismantling the separation that the state itself has created in schools, in kindergartens, in youth movements. The State of Israel was established not only as a national home for the Jewish people, but also with the desire to form a model society – an ethical society that unites and builds bridges between different sectors and populations with the knowledge that disagreements are the basis for enrichment, and how we practice the synthesis of ideas.
Disagreement is at the core of the Jewish sources. We are not afraid of it. It builds us up, and when it is done in the name of seeking truth – it takes the image of creation, of rich and diverse social and cultural action. Israeli society must unite and condemn all who threaten its delicate balance, all who denigrate and disdain the selfhood of the individuals within it and force them, with unsheathed knives, to submit to their regime of terror.
Our time is running out. The hourglass of tolerance is down to its last few grains of sand. Now is the time to end the escalation with just as significant an act: this is the moment to end the division between the different streams, to create joint education systems, which can contain complexity, in which “all of Israel are responsible for one another” is not just a cliché, but an everyday reality.