Truth and the Bomb
Wisdom from Amichai
This week, Yehuda Amichai, the famed Israeli poet has been on my mind for two different poems that are speaking to my soul this week. First, his work “From The Place Where We Are Right”:
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
When we are so insistent that how we view something is the only correct way, it flattens that conversation. It doesn’t allow for any growth of future conversations. It’s worn over. This applies to any part of the spectrum of a topic where you claim The Truth. It doesn’t mean there isn’t “a” truth or multiple truths but rather your 100%-absolute-no-way-around-it-you’re-wrong-I’m-right version of truth only serves to quash voices. Of course there are exceptions to this but for the most part, it holds.
It’s only when you recognize your uncertainty that potential is born. Not just potential but also that which has been buried has a chance to be reborn, namely hope. When he speaks about the House, that would be the one that once stood in Jerusalem. What whisper is he referencing? Maybe it was the Prophet Isaiah’s whispered aspiration that one day all nations would come together in peace in Jerusalem…
And yet, I am not a pollyanna. This whole conversation about truth vis a vis the conversation about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza right now has very real implications and is more complicated than many of us would like to admit. Those implications are what made me think of the other Amichai pieced I referenced, “The Diameter of the Bomb”:
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.
My mind this week keeps going back to one of my first memories from rabbinical school. In a lunch line conversation where Israel/Palestine was the topic, a fellow student said, "what do I care about the Palestinians?!" I was startled. In a fairly progressive and liberal environment, this was not the normative talking point.
I keep coming back to it this week because it seems to form the baseline of so many horrendous takes on the situation. I have so many friends with young kids who have been cowering in bomb shelters because Hamas keeps raining down rockets and their humanity seems disregarded. It is the same thing with many citizens of Gaza who are put in harm's way as pawns and Israeli Arabs who have been abused and beaten by jingoistic, vigilante Israelis.
Hamas doesn't care about its own people. Hamas certainly doesn’t care about Israelis. In fact, they would like to wipe them off the map. That is the truth. See, like I said, an exception!
In a very different way, Bibi and the ringleader of so much of this incitement MK Ben-Gvir seem fine using Israelis as pawns to serve their end. Hamas and Bibi are not equals in the damage they have wrought but it seems they see one another as useful enemies at the expense of their citizenry. That feels like a complicated truth but one that needs to be said.
All I keep coming back to is "what do I care about Palestinians?" and the reverse that fuels many of the anti-Israel attacks "why do I care about Israelis? They're *fill-in-the-blank pejorative*"
We care because they're humans created in the image of God that have been failed by their leaders. We care because we know that when we’re certain we’re right, there is no room for peace. We know in all too real a way that when a bomb goes off, the physical and emotional shrapnel flies far and deep. The circles widen globally.
All I have been thinking about this week are my dear friends in Israel who every day and night have been running back and forth to their shelters. Admittedly, I don’t really know Palestinians but my heart aches for them. My love for those I know may be greater but it also leaves room for those I don’t know who just want to live.
It's deeply disheartening to see people disregard the humanity of others. The notion of being human seems built on this understanding and many people are failing. I have no answers today, only these thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head. I am holding on to moments like the one below. For as we know, it starts with one creation of God recognizing the godliness in the other creation of God. Sending love and prayers to my loved ones I know & those I don't to feel quiet, tranquility, peace, and to have their humanity actually be seen.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach