I want to be open about the fact that writing this message brings its own share of fear and vulnerability. It's not easy to discuss such sensitive and emotionally charged topics, and I, like many of you, hope that I'm thinking clearly in choosing to share these thoughts. In today's world, where discussions can quickly become polarized, I hope that we can approach these conversations with open hearts and a commitment to understanding one another.
I genuinely believe that fear is at the root of many of our problems. We are, at our core, animals, and like any other species, we become vulnerable to extinction when we perceive threats. In survival mode, nothing else matters.
When we are in the fight-or-flight response, our brain and body prioritize safety and survival above all else. This can lead to something as harmless as running away from a stick mistaken for a snake or as profoundly serious as harming someone because of their skin color.
Our thoughts hold immense power. They shape every interaction we have, and every interaction, in turn, influences the way we think. If we actively seek common ground, we are likely to find it. But the moment we perceive a threat, our ability to prioritize connection diminishes, and our primal instincts take over.
I continue to grapple with the situation in Israel, striving to find a balance and a sense of grounding amidst the options of avoidance, ignorance, and paralysis. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I've always felt the shadow of antisemitism and the potential dangers that fear of the 'other' can bring. Before World War II, Jewish people were depicted much as we see the portrayal of Palestinians today—stereotyped and dehumanized, which created emotional distance from the ethnic cleansing taking place. Fear of losing land and the fear of not having a place have fueled conflicts for the past 75 years, while the fear of being forgotten and overtaken, not seen, has driven inhumane behavior on both sides.
We are all plagued by fear. In this era of social media and novel ways to create 'in-groups' and 'out-groups,' it's an attempt to boost our sense of safety without necessarily pushing others away to connect.
Clarity of thought becomes elusive when we are gripped by fear. Coupled with the fact that the body can't distinguish between thought and reality, it underscores the importance of returning to the present moment, taking a deep breath, and grounding ourselves in our shared humanity and faith.
My heart goes out to family, friends and community in Israel. I am heartbroken and disgusted by the violence you are experiencing and will continue to look for ways to help.
As I navigate the complexities of this situation, I'm reminded of the importance of embracing a multifaceted perspective. It's clear that multiple truths can coexist, and holding hope while addressing the day-to-day challenges is indeed a heavy task.
In my work, I often stress the significance of mindfulness, which emphasizes the importance of being fully present in the moment. One of my clients shared a remarkable statistic: there's a 400 trillion to 1 chance of us existing as ourselves in this moment. This statistic underscores the preciousness of the present, so with my feet on the ground and my eyes wide open I show up for work and lean into the gratitude of my safety and wellbeing, and the day begins.
Yet, there's an undeniable tension between remaining present and thinking about the challenges faced by families and communities in Israel. In this moment, in my office, I am safe. However, a slight change in circumstances, a different familial connection, and I could be living through a situation of unimaginable hardship and I have family that are.
I tune back into my work, I hear the pain of client after client not feeling seen and the pain of disconnection and isolation.
I zone out, I scroll Facebook and I see posts from Jewish acquaintances expressing support and solidarity with one another during these trying times. They share their experiences of receiving support or the absence of it from the larger community. What's most striking is the silence, a lack of outcry against the antisemitism fueling the violence.
I must admit that memorizing historical details has never been my forte. However, I've found myself drawing a parallel between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and historical events like the plight of Native Americans and Christopher Columbus. Two things can be true and the inability of people to tolerate that discomfort has led to ongoing violence and unfathomable destruction to one of these groups and tarnished the history of both forever.
It's poignant that while violence ravages Israel, the United States celebrates Indigenous People's Day, and Jewish communities worldwide celebrate Sukkot. These occasions serve as a reminder of gratitude for the fall season, the harvest, and the protection our ancestors sought on their 40-year journey after leaving Egypt.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undeniably complex, and perspectives on the rights to the land vary depending on who you speak with and the sources of information you consult. When I visited Israel with Birthright 19 years ago, I could feel the tension and animosity, and it was evident that both sides were suffering. I do not condone the ongoing discrimination of Palestinians, just as I do not condone what Columbus did and yet I can adamantly oppose the terrorism of Hamas. I can recognize the importance of the Jewish people having a safe place to land after a history of genocide and disagree with aspects of the current Israeli Government. Just as I can maintain my connection to being an American and disagree with many of the decisions of our Government. However, it would be unfair not to acknowledge the privilege inherent in the ability to do this.
Irrespective of the intricacies, the current situation in Israel calls for a united response. It reminds me of the unity that emerged in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Back then, there was no question of who deserved the land; there was a shared awareness that the violence was unacceptable, and innocent lives should not be lost. That same compassion and common humanity should extend to Israel.
As Jews, we must recognize that we are not exempt from biases, and adversity presents an opportunity for growth. Regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs, we can all stand together against terrorism, hatred, and violence, and advocate for compassion and healing.
In times like these, when we oscillate between mindful connection and self-preservation, between hope and survival mode, it's essential to remember that we are not alone. Together, we can face the complexities of this world and do the grueling work towards a more peaceful and just future for all.
Finding the balance is hard but it's easier with the support of others, and I welcome your perspective and the opportunity to have a thoughtful dialogue.