I always try to hold on to the both/and. To see things from both sides. To celebrate what is wonderful without ignoring what's problematic: in Torah, in the literary sources I read, in my relationships, in my life. This is one of my central life-values. And I also try to live out this value when it comes to the contemporary Middle East.
"Which Israel?" wrote my friend and teacher Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan earlier this winter [see Which Israel?, On Sophia Street.] "Mediterranean get-away? Holy land? Zionist dream? Occupying power?" My simplest answer to her rhetorical question is: E) All of the Above.
How to describe this place which has such a profound hold on the American Jewish imagination?
The Israel of lofty ideals [see its Declaration of Independence] and beautiful music, of open-air markets and communal farms, where our holy language of prayer is revived on the modern streets, where people live according to Jewish rhythms, gathering to share coffee and dreams for a transformed future?
Or the Israel of violence toward African migrants, imprisonment of refugees [see Detained African asylum seekers in Israel, +972 magazine], occupation [see Reason #12,807 that I hate the occupation, In My Head] and separation barrier and checkpoints?
Most of the public discourse focuses on one of these visions, ignoring (or attempting to discredit) the other.
I'm always feeling at least two things when I think about Israel. This is why I assembled that Complicating Israel Reading List a few years ago. Trying to hold these contradictory truths in my head and heart is never easy, but the alternative -- choosing to view Israel only as good or only as evil -- seems insufficient to me on both intellectual and spiritual levels.