Jerusalem: A National Religious rabbi wept for “the ways of baseless hatred.” A rap singer, for “the divided city.” A Gush Katif settler, “for the bones of my daughter.” An Israeli Arab, for the victims of the terror attack in Shfaram. An ultra-Orthodox philanthropist, for the needy and the poor.
Marking the end of Tisha’B’Av and the beginning of the painful process of disengagement, more than 1000 Israelis of widely diverse backgrounds and political opinions came together in Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park at an event entitled “For These Things I Weep.” The title comes from the Book of Lamentations, the traditional reading for the mourning commemoration of Tisha B’Av.
Sponsored by the New Israel Fund, the event was designed to provide an opportunity for Israelis representing a cross-section of the often polarized society to communicate their pain, anger and hopes about disengagement and the future. As NIF Israel Executive Director Eliezer Ya’ari said, “This event is organized within the framework of NIF’s ongoing activities to encourage active citizenship, defend democracy and strengthen dialogue between all sections of Israel society, which is especially important in these difficult days before disengagement.”
As the Jerusalem Post reported, “ despite the heated subject matter, each guest introduced the next with respect, regardless of their political differences.” Speakers included Rabbis Yuval Cherlow, Gilad Kariv, Shagar (Shimon Gershon Rosenberg), and Benny Lau, Professors Alice Shalvi and Avi Ravitzky, and other leaders, intellectuals and celebrities familiar to most Israelis, whose choice of topic reflected a heartfelt sense of the challenges facing Israel . Several individuals participated via telephone from Gush Katif.
“I weep because so many Israeli leftist activists protest when a Palestinian’s olive tree is uprooted but have no feelings when a Jewish settler is taken away from his greenhouses,” said Haim Zisovich an Israel Radio commentator. “But I also weep because so many rabbis give justifications for uprooting the Palestinian’s olive tree.”
R abbi Kariv, Coordinator of Public Policy for NIF grantee Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for Progressive Judaism in Israel (Reform) recalled the rabbi in his grandfather’s synagogue who each Tisha B’Av would weep over the destruction of the Temp le . ‘Is he really so upset about something that happened 2,000 years ago?’ I asked my grandfather. “My grandfather told me that each tear was for 2,000 years of suffering, including the Holocaust and the soldiers killed in battle. This Tisha B’Av I weep for the elderly who have lost their dignity. For the child confronted by an empty fridge. For the victims of terror. For the foreign workers who are expelled from Israel . And for the families who must leave their home in Gaza .”
Rabbi Shagar , Head of the Siach Yitzhak Yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Efrat said, “in exile when our homes were destroyed the cohesion of the Jewish community remained intact – our solidarity and togetherness were not harmed. But today we see this solidarity threatened. Some accuse others of loving the land too much and some of not loving it enough. But neither can be true love. Too much love leads to violence and not enough love results in indifference. We must build a covenant based on true solidarity.”
The audience also had thoughts. “ We have so much in common,” said participant Yair Orbach, founder of Yom Pkudah, an NIF grantee and a forum of Orthodox Jews pledging religious Zionists’ allegiance to the state of Israel. “The media always find a way to show the two or three things that divide the religious from the secular, the ‘orange’ from the ‘blue,’ but this event shows that we can overcome that and enter dialogue together.”