As I woke up to write this missive today, I read about rioting in the streets of Lod, rockets falling over Tel Aviv and retaliatory strikes over Gaza. Jerusalem has been a powder keg over the last several weeks with a series of events that culminated in Jerusalem Day (the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967), a day which ended with a siren warning about incoming missiles. Events are unfolding so quickly here, and by the time you read this, so much of what I just wrote will be old news.
While there is no limit to opinion pieces you will read in the coming days which express concern, outrage, and the deeply held political opinions on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I feel called to write about the role of parents during times of conflict, violence and duress. It is true now for me as a mother of three living in Jerusalem, and I offer it to all parents living in times of violence.
I believe that parents have superpower strength under times of serious duress (others may call it Adrenaline). We can summon the strength to stay calm for our kids. We can get crystal clear about our own perspectives, the values that undergird them, and learn the skill of speaking to children at the level they understand. We may also become more motivated to consider the kind of education they are receiving and enroll them in youth groups or extra curricular activities to promote the values we hold dear.
Our children also have superpowers. They can play with anyone, share with anyone, laugh with anyone; no matter what their religious, ethnic or national background. Children love to love, and crave to be loved back. They came into this world hopeful and faithful, not hopeless and cynical. They are our portals to the world of imagination. They can help us imagine a reality different from the one we feel stuck in.
We can learn a thing or two from our children – namely how faith and hope must continue to be the engine that drives us even when the days look dark ahead.
I want to share a clip with you from a very different Jerusalem Day celebration that took place last Thursday night in the Tower of David in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was an interfaith gathering made up for Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders called “The Believers” which was sponsored by Kehilat Zion, my synagogue here in Jerusalem. The clip is from Sheikh Ihab Bilha, the religious leader of the Bustan community in Jaffa.
He shares the story of two siblings who are fighting tooth and nail over a land. A wise person passes by and notices they are fighting and asks, “Why are you fighting? If you are fighting over the Land, let’s ask the Land to help settle the dispute.” He puts his ear to the ground and hears what the Land has to say.
It says, “I don’t belong to either one of you. You both belong to me.” Sheikh Ihab reminds us that nothing belongs to us – not land, not our homes, not our children, not even our own breath. Everything belongs to God. While every nation deserves to live in dignity with peace and security, this primary religious notion is a powerful one for us to consider these days and can serve as a faith-based corrective when we may find ourselves backed into ideological corners.
May we each do our own work to bring more peace into our own families and to the families throughout the Land. Let’s keep faith in ourselves and each other, and stay close to those we love in the days and weeks ahead.
Sending blessings for peace and wishes for a meaningful Shavuot holiday ahead,