Repairing This Broken World
It has been exactly a month since the world broke.
Of course, it’s been broken for ages. Smashed and soiled, so much tender growth and innocent children continuously razed under heels of violators and killers. We know this, and yet we’ve still built bridges and relationships, repairing what we can and dreaming of a better future.
But sometimes the carnage seems insurmountable, the pieces too far flung to imagine wholeness again.
The Oct. 7 attack by blood-crazed maniacs has shattered more than the lives and loved ones of contented kibbutzniks and beautiful young people dancing in the dawn, the innocent families in Gaza bombed into oblivion on their way to nowhere else to go. The barbarity of Hamas’ sickening murder spree and Israel’s brutal response has cut humanity deeply, tearing apart the fragile fabric within communities and shredding the core of who it is we think we are.
For some, knowing how to react has been simple. It has not been for me.
I don’t want to argue about the reductive erasure of Judaism’s indigenous roots or refute the narrative of “white colonialism.” I’m not going to slide into someone's DMs and try to explain that you can’t change your profile pic to the same flag Hamas flies and claim you’re against antisemitism. I also cannot wave the blue-and-white flag with the six-pointed star as if it can hide the suffering of millions caught in the IDF’s crosshairs and deprived of food and water.
I don’t want to give into the paranoia. Yet those I once thought of as allies have aligned themselves around hatred. College campuses are awash in antisemitic rhetoric in a tidal wave that has clearly been building for years. The sudden chill from acquaintances can’t be ignored.
To be Jewish is to carry in one’s bones an unshakeable sense of otherness; maybe it’s epigenetic generational trauma, a kind of inbred neurosis. The existence of Israel allows the rest of the Jews who live everywhere else to breathe, to be visible without constantly looking over our shoulders. It is defended with such ferocity for this reason. That it remains the only democracy and free society in a region of dictatorships and despotic subjugation is another.
It is also a longstanding Jewish tradition to criticize our leaders (Moses didn’t call us a “stiff-necked people” for nothing) and it is possible to love Israel and abhor its current government and policies that foment ever-worsening scenarios. The actions of Netanyahu and his cadre of religious extremists seem diametrically opposed to the tenet of tikkun olam, to do our part to repair the world. There must be an alternative than complete wreckage, from which only more terror will surely rise.
Then again, how else to confront calls for your own annihilation? In the somber sagacity of Golda Meir, “you cannot negotiate peace with someone who has come to kill you.”
So I’ve kept quiet, sifting through the performative outrage and parsing through the trustworthy reporting and think pieces, trying to separate what aims to incite more division versus from what provides insight. I can’t help trying to see this mess from many angles, peering into the broken shards for any light at all.
All I’ve come up with is that it’s all very terrible and sad, with no clarity in sight. As I write, hundreds of traumatized hostages are still presumed captive in Hamas’ warren of tunnels, and evacuees are bottlenecked at Gaza’s Rafah crossing as aid trickles in. It is a complicated, heartbreaking time, summed up on a recent episode of NPR’s All Things Considered, when Rabbi Sharon Brous and Imam Muhamed Herbert agreed that “the real enemies are not the Jews or the Israelis or the Palestinians, it’s the people who decided that violence is the only answer.”
An old friend who has connections in the geopolitical intelligence complex (their “job” is in data management; pretty sure they’re a spy) says that misinformation is at all time high and the global powers manipulating the situation want nothing more than to stoke more division, more conspiracy theories, more hatred. They advise that the best course of action is to take yourself offline and focus on who and what’s important.
“Do what your people have always done in the bad times,” they counseled last week before embarking on one of their mysterious work trips. “Laugh and eat.”
As it turns out, there are many of you. Much gratitude to those who have texted, called, and otherwise expressed support and kindness to your Jewish friends these last few weeks. I don’t know what it’s like… you say, but you know enough to know that it’s hard and it hurts right now, and that means so very much. While anti-Jewish hate crimes are reaching insane levels, bigots and assholes continue to focus on other targets, and our Muslim friends also need reassurance as well.
As far as the eating part, we’ve got plenty to go around. The Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival will fill Monterey Square with all the matzah balls as you can nosh this Sunday, Nov. 12, along with honeycakes, hummus, challah, and all the other holy comfort carbs. Savannah’s Jewish community welcomes all y’all, even—especially—now. Security will be tight, but our hearts remain open. Be there at 11am when Bubba Rosenthal and his intrepid shofar brigade send the signal to the tops of the live oaks.
In the meantime, I continue to seek solutions in a world where I firmly believe we all belong. Lately I’ve found particular solace in the poetry of 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi, who gives gentle wisdom as we sift through the brokenness and imagine it whole again: Let us start loving all over again and surround this earth with gold.
Maybe all there is to do is to try and repair the world one bite, one laugh, one hug at a time.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me ~ JLL
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