The recent/ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict and the world-wide jihadist movement which threatens us in the US as well has engendered a degree of reactivity and anger within me that I recognize as self-defeating.
The tragedy of anger is just that–it produces a self-perpetuating cycle of hatred. I notice how it makes me feel. There is a temporary feeling of power, self-congratulatory sense of control then followed by a darkness which brings out the worst in human emotion. And quite frankly, I don’t like it.
Let’s be clear about this. We are alll capable of hurting others. It originates in the desire to live, to defend against perceived aggression. Kill or be killed. Without this instinct, quite frankly, none of us would be here today. But we need to recognize that dark side of ourselves.
I want to make clear that I am not an apologist for all Israeli decisions regarding settlements, Palestinian rights, etc. But when Hamas speaks of annihilating Jews (not Israelis) I react as if personally threatened. It is in the DNA of every Jew. That righteous indignation feels powerful, for the moment. But its dark side can paralyze as well. It is hard to write poetry, or feel truly at peace.
Just look at what radical Islam has done to Islamic culture. When all energies are focussed on hatred, revenge, war– there is nothing left for civlized life.
And on the level of the individual, hatred drives away the ability to recognize beauty in the world around us. When young children are encouraged to die in martyrdom their potential as human beings is crushed. It is tragedy of epic proportions. Where are the outcries from the UN, from human rights groups, from the political left? Only silence.
So how do we balance the ability to remain vigilant against true evil, those who wish our death and destruction, while remaining open to live’s blessings? We must look to Israel. In the face of a continuous threat of war and annihilation, they embrace life in its entirety. The Jewish tradition which affirms life, not death.
They have science, technology, business and culture. Like a viable culture they contribute to the world beyond themselves. They are not bunkered down. They life lilfe to the fullest. Yet they cannot afford not to be completely prepared and vigilant.
As individuals we need to become Israeli in our attitudes and approach to life. Be aware. Be prepared. But refuse to live with hatred and anger. In trying to live with this dynamic tension, we will remain alive to the beauty and splendor of life itself.