I am writing to you from Jerusalem, where I am spending the month with my family while working in NIF’s Israel office. It has been a difficult week for us and for our children, as it has been for everyone in the region.
Quiet is the norm right now in Jerusalem. But it is punctured by sirens, by explosions, and by screams of Mavet L’aravim (“Death to Arabs”). I am rattled by these sounds, and I am especially distraught not knowing when they will end.
I am a committed optimist. I seek out sparks of inspiration. Over the past weeks, I have found these sparks by observing the dogged work of our Israeli colleagues. Yesterday in NIF News, Rachel Liel described the ways our partners are working to combat racism and escalating violence and to build shared society. I am participating in some of these efforts, and they have kept me sane and hopeful.
I wanted to share one particularly moving experience with you:
Last week, I joined a Tag Meir (“Light Tag”) gathering in central Jerusalem. I drove to the rally with my colleague and friend, Itzik Shanan, who is our director of communications and who was among the people who launched Tag Meir a few years ago. He told me about the importance of the organization as forming a network of Jews who visibly denounce “Price Tag” violence and consciously represent the often silent majority. Itzik suggested that there could be a large group given the recent events, maybe a few hundred people.
We arrived to a gathering of thousands of Jews spanning the gamut of age, religious affiliation, political affiliation, socio-economic status, and ethnic background. I was emotionally overwhelmed by the size and composition of the crowd -- so many stereotypes challenged in one space. I felt extremely proud to be there with Itzik, who is recognized by many as a force within Tag Meir and a leader of NIF. People stopped to greet him, ask him for his opinion on the situation and generally to express appreciation for his work in forming and supporting the coalition. Then, each speaker spoke powerfully to the importance of standing up to create visible masses who reject the lure of extremism, of revenge, and of hate.
I was most struck by the rabbinic voices speaking in the language of Judaism because, sadly, religious language is deployed all too often to intensify divisiveness and escalate violence.
At this moment when so many are suffering -- and so many of us are consumed with worry -- it is my hope that this story will lift our spirits and remind us of the countless people who continue to labor for peace and justice in Israel. These include many mission-driven organizations, but they also include the increasingly less silent majority who are being mobilized by these very organizations.
Please take pride in your contribution to these efforts. Know that their impact is real.
Wishing us all a peaceful Shabbat,
P.S. To view photos of the demonstration, click here.