Jews throughout the world will observe a Fast Day this Sunday which commemorates the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. It is also a day when Jews memorialize all Jewish tragedies and persecutions throughout history; from the Crusades to the pogroms to the Shoah.
There is a rabbinic tradition that suggests that God destroyed the First Temple because Jews had ceased to observe the commandments forbidding even the most fundamental ones of murder, sexual immorality, and idolatry. The rabbis suggest, however, that God permitted the Second Temple to be destroyed because Jews engaged in baseless, cynical, and meaningless hatred of other Jews. The first destruction occurred in a time where people accepted a more basic, fundamental explanation, while by the time of the destruction of the Second Temple the rabbinic explanation was based on a much more rational explanation that recognized human responsibility for its behavior.
Today, Jewish history also is observed through the lens of unbridled, violent hatred which Jews have endured throughout two millennia, but also the extent to which Jews have suffered for seeking to identify as Jews and practice their faith. In contemporary times, this expresses itself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The hatred which must have driven the tragic and senseless killing of a nineteen-year-old Israeli soldier, Dvir Sorek,–unarmed, not in uniform–is the most recent and obvious example of the senseless hatred toward Jews emanating from the Arab world. Believed to have been murdered by a terrorist, it is unbridled hate which drives such acts.
At the same time, not only is Jewish persecution and anti-Semitism recognized, but there is an acceptance of the fact Jews do not always respect each other and literarily fight with themselves. There is hatred within the family as well as outside.
Many Jews in America and especially those Jews who are not affiliated with the formal Jewish community feel detached from other Jews throughout the world and especially from those in Israel. There only form of identification is an ethnic one. Israeli Jews, especially the approximately seventy percent of secular Israelis feel little connection to world-wide Jewry. They also believe that Jews who do not live in Israel have little or no right to “tell Israel how to run their country.” There is a mutual frustration that American Jews feel towards the actions of the Israeli Government and vice-versa. It leads to anger, resentment, and hate.
Hatred persists today as well within the world in general and in America in particular. Wars and global hostilities continue. America has endured generations of racial strife, bigotry, and prejudice. Leaders must seek to eliminate hatred, not exploit it.
Just as Jews need to learn to accept and get along with each other so too must the world. If the hatred and toxicity which pervades this country and the world persists, constructive reconciliation will never happen. Today’s climate is toxic, for Jews, for America, and the world.