This past week HCRJ hosted two programs promoting tolerance and understanding. The programs centered around the story of a remarkable friendship between an observant Israeli Jew named Ruth and a Muslim woman living in the West Bank, named Ibtisam. Their unlikely relationship, which grew out of a mutual struggle against breast cancer, now shines as a beacon of hope in a region that festers with hatred, mistrust, violence and terror.
In stark contrast to the constant flow of news describing despicable knifings and retaliations, the relationship between Ruth and Ibtisam provide us with a lens beyond the fear and suspicion on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. While the escalation of violence and the perpetual hatred is indeed an ongoing reality, it is NOT the only reality between Israelis and Palestinians.
As American Jews, we face a reality as well, and that is that none of us in the United States has any control over the situation in the Holy Land. We cannot stop the stabbings. We cannot direct the retaliations. All we can do is voice our opinions and argue with those who do not share our points of view. While political debate can be a healthy process, discussions on this topic have become like a poison in society today as daily postings on social media is consistently filled with hateful words and thoughts.
We all have our opinions, and we are blessed to be living in a country where we can express ourselves freely. With such freedom, however, comes great responsibility. Hate can only lead to hate. I believe that regardless of what we may believe, we have a responsibility to find ways of expressing ourselves which can lead to American versions of what Ruth and Ibtisam have modeled for us. If they can do it, we can too.