So many of us have “both… and” identities. We are both daughters/sons and mothers/fathers. We are both dedicated to our work and value our home lives. Sometimes our “both… and” identities conflict. We both love animals, and may even strive to be vegetarian, but also love an occasional hamburger. We both care about the environment, and as we transition into a post-Covid life and see the summer months approaching, we also will take advantage of air travel even though it pollutes our skies.
Our “both… and” identities extend to our children as well. We both love our kids and they sometimes drive us crazy. We both love our partners, and sometimes strongly disagree with their approach to childrearing.
Living a “both… and” life is not always simple, but it reflects the truth about our lives. And that truth is complex.
I had felt that complexity come to a head these past few weeks during the war between Israel and Gaza. When it comes to thinking, feeling and ultimately convening conversations in our families around the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, it may feel hard to be in a “both… and” place. With so much talk about the conflict on Social Media I found myself wanting to respond defensively, angered by one-sided and non- nuanced arguments. I wonder if you felt the same.
There is a way that some of us might be thinking “why bother with the discussion around Israel and the conflict at all?” It may seem so much more simple to disassociate ourselves from Israel altogether. It may seem so much easier to pass along a Jewish identity to our children that aligns beautifully with our values today: Shabbat as a day of unplugging and having more quality family time, holiday celebrations that affirm our values of social justice and freedom from slavery like Passover, or a celebration of ecology like Tu B’Shevat.
But we weren’t put on this earth to live simple lives. When we take away one essential piece of what it means to be a Jewish person or to raise a Jewish family, we weaken what it means to inhabit a Jewish identity and to be an actor in an unfolding Jewish story in the most robust way.
It is upon us to contend with all the pieces of this rich, complex, nuanced, and ancient story including: A connection to Israel and a sense of homeland, a relationship with God and idea of transcendence, a connection to Jewish history with its fair share of ups and downs, to name a few.
For me, inhabiting a “both…and” approach to my Jewish life, as opposed to an “either…or” one enables me to firmly situate myself within the Jewish story while extending a hand of care and concern for my neighbors.
One way that I intend to do that this week is by giving tzedakah to two organizations – one to Reut-Sderot that helps provide emotional and practical help to assist community members and their safe sheltering needs during hostile times,and another to a campaign that called: “Culture of Solidarity” to give humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza (in collaboration with Physicians for Human Rights Israel).
There are so many other ways to have a “both… and” approach to Israel at the moment:
- To both read from a news source that you ideologically align yourself with and one that you don’t.
- To both give charitably to organizations that are working toward peace in the region.
- To both start learning conversational Hebrew online and also to learn conversational Arabic, so that you can communicate freely while you are in any city in Israel.
Modeling a “both… and” approach will help our children grow up in a culture that values nuance and complexity. So let’s help our children feel proud as Jewish people, care about their brothers, sisters, cousins and friends in Israel and also care and support their Christian and Muslim neighbors as well. These positions don’t contradict each other, they enhance and enlarge what it means to be a soulful human being.
Hopes for peace along the journey,