Is the Violence in Israel Different This Time?

The following is a transcript of Episode 47 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors. 

Donniel: My name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Today is Monday, April 4th, 2022, and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institutes iEngage project. Our theme for today is the challenge of living with terror. In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem, and myself discuss a current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana Stein Hain director of the Hartman faculty in North America explores with us how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. Let’s begin. 

Israel is currently in the midst of a very painful wave of terorism. From stabbings to automatic gunfire in our streets, this has been the deadliest period in a very long time. We almost deluded ourselves into creating a new sense of normal. Once again, Israelis are struggling with the agonizing personal and political dilemmas of leveling of living with terrorism, how to overcome fear, and protect oneself and one’s family while maintaining the necessities of daily life. And how to make political sense of this latest outbreak of terrorism.

How will this latest wave of terrorism impact on the delicate relationship between Israeli Arab and Jewish citizens? Last year, around this time we experienced the worst intercommunal violence between Arabs and Jews in the nation’s history. Security officials are worried that this pattern could be repeated. The terrorists who murdered five Israelis in Be’er Sheva, the terrorist was a Bedouin, a citizen of Israel, who identified with the Islamic state. Meanwhile, two policemen who were killed, trying to stop terrorists, were Arab Israelis. 

For the last three podcasts we’ve been discussing the tragedy and Ukraine. And while that tragedy continues, and continues to encompass our consciousness, today, we’re going to look into Israel itself and some of its struggles and problems. Yossi, t’s wonderful to see you, but again, it’s, it’s yet again, a painful time. How is this personally affecting you? What, what’s your take right now? 

Yossi: So there’s the personal dimension, which is what you’re really asking about. And then there’s the collective dimension. Personally, I, I live in a neighborhood that’s literally next door to a Palestinian village, Isawiya, and when I walk my neighborhood, I’m aware that there’s, first of all, there’s a lot more police on the streets, and there’s always a police presence here, day and night, but it’s, it’s more intense now.

Uh, I take the light rail train to work. When I  go to the Institute, I take the train to the center of town to, to Jaffa road. And I walk, that’s, that’s part of my exercise routine. I walk from town to the Institute.

Donniel: Are you nervous Yossi? 

Yossi: Well, you know, when I ride the train, I personally am not nervous. The train goes through Arab and Jewish neighborhoods and you really feel in times of strain, you feel the suspicion. And I’m aware of how people look at each other on the train. Everyone is eyeing each other. And I try not to get into that mindset, but it’s very hard. You know when I think about the price that we pay as a society, the first price is what terrorism does to our sense of trust.

Suddenly innocent people who are riding with you, fellow passengers are potential terrorists. And they’re looking at you as well, wondering, what is this person thinking of me? Is there going to be violence? Are Jews going to react violently? And so there’s this ongoing sense where your normal routine suddenly becomes co-opted by fear, by suspicion. 

And I think the suspicion in some ways is one of the heaviest tolls that we pay as a society in particular, of course, between Arabs and Jews. How about you, Donniel? How has it affected you?

Donniel: I have made a very conscious decision to reject victimhood, I abhor it. 

Yossi: That’s a very Israeli decision. 

Donniel: Yeah.

I abhor it, it doesn’t do anything for me. It doesn’t, so when these events happen, I know for some of our American audience and Canadian, it might sound a little strange, um, I wear my gun. I have a gun that has for a very long time been in my safe, I regularly train and get my license recertified and there’s very strict rules here in Israel.

And, I’m walking around with a gun now, cause I want to tell you, I don’t do victimhood. Don’t want to. I don’t want to be in a place that I can’t protect myself and protect the people around me. Now, so that’s one part of it. So like, I’m upset and it activates me not to, delving into my feelings, but translating my feelings into action.

And as you said, that’s an Israeli, I become very Israeli. Now, I don’t know. There’s I know, a lot of people are really scared that I’m walking around with a gun, like they want to know, Donniel, where are you, not so that you could protect me so that I can make sure that I’m not at the place that you are.

Um, but I, I’m actually a pretty, I’m pretty good. You know, I train regularly. But still, I channel it. And so part of me, Yossi, is busy, but that’s I think the biggest price, because I think, I, I am indicative of a core feature of Israeli society in which, in order to be here and in order to thrive, to build a great country in a very bad neighborhood, we just have to deny, like we need a denial system that’s very, very powerful, because if I want to get up in the morning, you know, and again, I know, and I experience the privilege that I have as an Israeli. 

And I know so many people around the world who have things so much worse than I, and for whom violence is a regular part of their existence. For many of them, that pain precludes the possibility of hope, but so much of my being. And I think so much of the privilege of Israel is that we dare to actually have hope and expectations as a regular part of who we are.

I actually expect Israel, you know, the, we, we just had, I was interviewed by somebody, you know, we’re the ninth happiest country in the world. So someone asked me, why is that? And I said to them, well, first of all, we’re crazy. Like, you know, we’re nuts. Like how could we, be the ninth happiest? That’d be like, there’s no doubt that that’s proof that Israel, like we’re nuts.

But I think the other part is that the revolution of Israel. You know, Israel is built on the language of hope, but what’s remarkable is that we never gave it up. And we’ve collected enough privilege to enable us to continue that. And now what we do, I, I deny, I wear my gun, like you, I’m watching all the time. I’m looking I’m, I’m looking who, where, what, where, who looks like what. So you spoke about the price of suspicion and I think it’s very deep and I want to come back to talk to you about that. I feel the price of denial, of disconnecting yourself and what happens when you do that.

And your ability to not only be at whole with yourself. But to be at whole with a lot of other people who, for you to be able to live, you don’t only have to deny the danger, you sometimes even have to deny their existence. And those are heavy prices. This denial is a heavy price for Israeli Jewish society. And I think it also activates a heavy price for Israeli Arab cities who become the subject of that wall. Not the wall of, you know. 

Yossi: Yeah, I think that the Arab Israeli piece of this I think is really crucial, but you’ve made some other important points that I just want to go back to. And that is how we cope, how we cope as a society, what explains the really inexplicable survey that, that places us repeatedly year after year, among the happiest countries. And I think it’s a combination, Donniel, of our coping mechanism, our ability to maintain the pretense of normal life, which comes from practice, from living under permanent seige. 

And it also comes from a deep sense, which Israelis tend not to speak about because we’re a very pragmatic people and we don’t like to speak in flowery ideological terms.

But I think that Israelis really have a deep sense of satisfaction from living as citizens in a Jewish state. And I think that’s built in to a web of meaning that we take for granted, as the foundation of our lives, of our family lives, and our collective life. And terrorism plays a very complicated role for Israelis because it also reminds us of why we’re here.

It reminds us that we as individuals and as a society have paid an enormous price for being here. This is not like most other countries, certainly not like most countries in the west, you really have to be willing on some level to subject yourself to, you know, God forbid the threat of the ultimate price and, and that, 

Donniel: Yossi, can I ask you to stop for one second? Yossi. There’s a word you used that I want you to elaborate on. You used the word, cause it reminds you why we are here. Is that what you meant to say? Or could you explain? Cause that’s not what you were just saying afterwards.

So could you explain to me, is it about why we are here or is it forces you to think about why we are here? What did you mean?

Yossi: Oh, that it forces us to think about why we’re here. We’re not, no of course, 

Donniel: To think about it. Got it. 

Yossi: Yes, yes. To, to be aware of the price that we’re paying and is it worth it? And as soon as you ask that question, on some level you’re opening yourself up to a conversation on meaning. Is it worth it? Is, is this place worth it?

Donniel: You know, I don’t like generalizations and I don’t like over idealizations. But I think our 2000 years of Jewish history culminating in the 20th century, the Jewish people should have given up a long time ago. Without sounding too heretical, even though it doesn’t bother me, you know?

But like I get, you know, the Jewish people should have said to God a long time ago, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, God, I’m really happy that you think you chose us and that you’re making us this and that, when you’re ready to be a mensch, give me a call. In the meantime, I’m checking out another religion. Like you know, truthfully

Yossi: Thanks. But no thanks. 

Donniel: Thanks. But no, thanks. You know, thanks so much. Could you actually, go chose someone else for a while? And I’m like, I’m out. The Jewish people should have checked out. We really should have. And the  culmination we should have checked out after the Holocaust. We should, we should have just said F the whole thing. F the world, F God, F Judaism, the whole story.

Like we, but there’s something about, I don’t know why, and I don’t want to, whatever it is, we are inheritors of a people for whom working and continuing to strive and build and not give up. We like, we don’t give up. And I think Israel now gave us the ability to say, not only are we not giving up, we’re not going to do victimhood, but it’s like a similar amount, but I

Yossi: and we’re, but we also know Donniel, that we are custodians of a story that by, by rational measure should never have happened. The Jews should never have been able to come back here after 2000 years from a hundred countries, it makes no sense. And we know that on some level, this is the last stop.

There’s no big dream if God forbid this fails. And so that imposes a tremendous burden, a tremendous responsibility on Israelis, but it also gives us a meaning, a structure of meaning. And I would say, a certain capacity for joy, because if just living in a place gives you that sense of purpose, then yes, you will answer a survey that says, are you happy, with, well, you know, there’s a lot that I’m really not unhappy about, but basically life is, is okay.

Donniel: You know, so we’re as happy as, as the Danish, because our expectations are lower. That’s interesting, but, but Yossi I want to go back to it and let’s talk about, you know, even though in the history, since the formation of Israel, it’s really important for our listeners to remember this, the Israeli Arab Palestinian has almost never been a source for terror. 

This time, some of them were, but still, the balance is that Israeli Arab citizen are not our security risk. They’re just not, they want to stay in Israel. And by the way, that same 9% who say that we’re the happiest, that’s not amongst the Hartman Institute fellows. It’s about, it’s between Jews and Arabs alike.

Because this is an international,. It’s not amongst the Jewish people, you know, amongst Tel Aviv or, no, no, no. 

Yossi: I just saw, I just saw a poll that said 80% of Arab Israelis would prefer to live in the state of Israel than any other Western country, which just blew me away.

Donniel: It’s like, so, you know, that’s like uh, so again, I don’t want to over idealize it, we know there are serious problems and I think part of the issue is subjectively, and I don’t want to sound naive, is that when you say you’re happy. It’s again, who do you compare yourself to like, and are Jews happy cause we compare ourselves to our grandparents? Are Israeli Arabs happy because they’re comparing themselves to almost every other Arab in the middle east? So they might be happy, but let’s talk about what the impact this has. 

And the word suspicion, you know, I spoke psychologically about what happens when you’re on the other side of somebody’s denial. You spoke about Yossi what happens when you’re on the other side of somebody’s suspicion. On the one hand we’ve made great progress with this government and the inclusion of Mansour Abbas and a greater and greater awareness of our presence.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this because this has been a, a pet peeve of mine. I hear more and more people saying Ramadan Kareem now, it’s like, it’s, there’s something happening. It’s really interesting. It’s like, even on, it’s it’s but still. What impact does this have? These types of events. Are they going to move us backwards, Yossi? What does it feel like to be an Israeli Arab Palestinian right now?

Yossi: Look, I mentioned the positive results of a poll a moment ago. So let me give you the negative side. 

Donniel: Oy. 

Yossi: A poll was taken, a poll was taken of Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis. Question to Arab Israelis. Do you support terror attacks against your fellow Jewish citizens? 98% say absolutely not. Question to Israeli Jews. Do you think that Arab Israeli support terror attacks, close to 50% said yes.

Donniel: Yossi, can we stop a second? First of all, where are you getting these polls? You should tell our audience because I always, I love those polls, that reaffirm what the world as I want to live it, or the vision, this is a fascinating, this is both an exciting poll and a depressing poll. But it’s an, but it’s understandable, isn’t isn’t this the price. 

Yossi: It was from channel. I think it was channel 12, Israeli TV. 

Donniel: Oh so, it was actually put out on the most, watched, 

Yossi: Oh, very much. Very much so. 

Donniel: But isn’t this, isn’t this the tragedy of, terror wins doesn’t, don’t they? That’s the victory of terror, isn’t it?

Yossi: You know, it’s interesting that uh, the terrorism began with the summit, which we haven’t even talked about, this extraordinary summit for the first time bringing four Arab countries to Israel. 

Donniel: Let’s leave that aside for another time. 

Yossi: No, no, it’s related because terrorism is, is aimed at undermining trust between Israel and the wider middle east and within Israeli society between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. And, you know, Donniel, my hope when, when people ask me, how do you see any hope for a two state solution? And my hope is that the more that relations can be transformed for the better within Israeli society, between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

And the more that relations can be transformed for the better between Israel and the wider Arab world. Then the Palestinian circle, which is between Arab Israelis and the middle east might be ultimately drawn in to this circle of coexistence. 

Donniel: Yossi, you know, this is counter, cause so many people, I don’t want to talk about the Abraham Accords right now, but I couldn’t agree with you, Yossi, more. And I apologize if that’s upsetting you, but I, I think you are, I think you are absolutely correct.

Just like fear and suspicion is contagious and we see that, so too is coexistence or hope. Now those who claim that the Abraham Accords are the vehicle for ignoring Palestinians. 

Yossi: They have, Donniel, they have it backwards. 

Donniel: It’s shtuyot, it is, I, ladies and gentlemen, learn a Hebrew word. Shtuyot. It’s foolishness. I, the more and more Arabs and Muslims that Jews encounter and have, like, what are we talking about?

Our problem is, is that we don’t see is that Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza or Judea and Sumerea, pick your choice, whatever you want to call it. They’re not beyond the wall. Cause it’s, it’s the psychological wall. And if we could break it, but these types of terrorists events create deep psychological walls. 

Yossi: They, they build the walls anew. That’s the tragedy. 

Donniel: And they become, everybody, they do. And you know, and then what do we do? And then you generalize, you know, it’s Arabs, it’s not this person. It’s Arabs. Oh, it’s Bedouins. And then the, you know, I really, you know, I really appreciate the way that, could I speak for a second about the way the government is handling this one?

And if I could compare, there is no politics of fear being espoused here from the government. They’re down to business. They’re working. You know, and it was interesting. There was somebody from the opposition who tried to get political benefits from it, you know, thanking the right-wing politicians for sitting with the left-wing politicians who now brought us this terror, but usually at this moment, someone would stand up and they would speak about how they’re coming for us and how this and that.

And, and, you know, we know that that politics of fear works, because, especially in the middle east, because we have a lot of fear. So if somebody stands up and tells you that there’s someone who’s your enemy and I’m going to protect you against them, you’re going to gravitate to them. And this government didn’t, maybe it’s because, you know, Mansour Abbas condemns it right away.

It’s just, this is part of our life, ladies and gentlemen, we gotta live with this, what are we gonna do? But nobody created a them conversation in the government, it just wasn’t, we didn’t go there and that was actually a big moment Yossi. 

Yossi: It was. And what’s interesting is that the opposition, the Likud, and farther right, had tried to resurrect that conversation and you don’t hear a great deal of resonance. And um, there’s also this accusation that we’ve been hearing from the opposition, that this is a replay of the Oslo years.

The government is having peace conferences and meanwhile, Israelis are dying in the streets and, you know, the difference between now and the Oslo years, is that now we have genuine peace. We actually have real peace partners. And in the Oslo years, it was at best a longing for peace and at worst, a self deception on our part.

And today we really have living models of what normalization looks like between Israelis and Arabs. And at the same time, not only in the context of the Abraham Accords, but as, as you mentioned, the government itself is a model of what coexistence and normalization looks like. We have Mansour Abbas talking about Israel openly as a Jewish state, accepting Israel as a Jewish state, the first prominent Arab Israeli politician ever to accept the Jewishness of the state of Israel.

And so we, the only thing that’s similar to the 90s is that there is terrorism and that the hard right is trying to make political capital out of it.

Donniel: It’s really interesting, you know, they’re getting better, the terrorists, you can see them learning techniques that they didn’t have beforehand. Beforehand, the primary model, you know, there was the, the people who use knives and the terror of a knife, the psychological terror, you know, they really wanted fear to dominate you.

The people who blow you up, that’s simple, you know, you go find a place with a lot of people and blow yourself up. Um, the idea of terrorists who move, so that, you know, in Israel, if you attack within a few seconds, there are Israelis with weapons who are going to defend ourselves within seconds.

Everywhere you go. We’re right there. So they learnt, you know, if I move, if I’m running or if I’m on a motorcycle or a car. I neutralize the Israeli ability to defend itself. It’s like, it lasts longer and some of the casualties have been great. So they’re learning and we’re re also going to have to learn and we’re going to have to be strong.

And you know, so far the numbers are horrific. But our army, our security forces are just remarkable. It’s just, I sit here and I think about their ability to defend ourselves. And my sense of gratitude is just, it’s enormous. And it’s interesting. There’s new frontlines too, because in the border police, there’s Jews and Arabs living together.

So there’s, there’s, working together. There’s good news and bad news. You know, maybe in a hopeful way. This is, it’s a scary time right now. It is a scary time and Pesach is coming and you and I know very well what their plan is, you know, they want to use Ramadan and they want to kill as many Jews as they can, and to get us to overreact.

And so that we will do X or Y and then maybe something will happen on the Temple Mount and then it’ll explode and then there’ll be an attack from Gaza. And then once Israel bombs Gaza, this is another conversation. Then we’re Russia. And so they know 

Yossi: Yeah. That’s, that’s an important conversation for us to have.

Donniel: We have too much power right now for us, um, and it’s just waiting. And they, they’re not stupid and they’re hoping. And so I hope, you know, I hope I’ll never have to draw, I hope Israeli citizens with their guns and our security forces, that we’re going to do what we need to and protect ourselves. And I really hope that, you know, there’s so much other good things happening that the suspicion and the walls and the alienation that we don’t let the terrorists win, you know, insha’Allah, as we say in Hebrew, that you know, we’re not gonna let them kill us, and we can’t let them win.

Let’s take a break, Yossi. And then Elana will join us. 

Elana. I know you’re 10,000 miles away. And one of the things I know about you is you, I like, it defines, it defines your love for Israel and I have a tremendous respect for it. And sometimes I push you more because I’m so much invested in Israel being loved. I don’t want North American Jews to tell Israelis what to do, but I can’t hope that North American Jews will have a relationship with Israel unless they could think and care and have opinions about it.

There’s a difference in having an opinion and telling Israelis what to do. And you are so super, super careful to be aware of the distance and the obligation that it places upon you and I have a tremendous respect for your religiously maintaining that position that, you know, you both love, care, empathize, but never, like you took upon yourself the mitzvah of, don’t judge someone else unless you’re standing in their place. 

But here, I know you’re far away, how does this hit you? And what are some of the thoughts that you have that you want to share?

Elana: Well, you know, it’s so interesting. First of all, thank you for those kind words. I’m listening to the two of you. Checking the news every day of what’s going on in Israel, I am really gripped by the thoughts and prayers problem, you know, in America, every time there’s a school shooting every time, you know, as people say, oh, that’s so nice, your thoughts are with us and your prayers are with us, but practically you’re not doing anything to fix anything. And, and to be honest, I have family, I have friends, I have colleagues, and I have a people who and literally their human right to walk the street in safety is being stripped of them and okay, so I pray every day and I send my thoughts and I say to someone, okay. Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers. I, I, it’s it’s. 

Donniel: Elana. Thank you so much. 

Elana: That’s what I’m saying. I, I want to be honest that it pushes to ask myself and to ask anybody who cares about Israel and cares about Israelis and cares about Jews to say, well, okay, well, what are we doing?

What do we actually doing besides for having thoughts and prayers? And I, you know me, I don’t downplay the role of prayers, that’s for certain, but that’s how I want to start because it is, when we said we were going to do this topic, I said, what am I going to say about this topic?

I mean, it’s, it’s, you’re walking the street after we get off this call, I’m not walking the street after you get off this call and that is, it’s just wild to me. And there’s guilt that goes along with it. There’s a sense of what am I doing to help? Is there anything that can be done to help? I, so so I just want to start with that, in that knowledge of where I sit, I want to just say how it hits me as I’m watching and as I’m listening. And I also, by the way, I don’t know why I’m very complimentary to the two of you lately. I don’t know what’s going on. It made me very generous of spirit, but I really, um, 

Donniel: We’re infecting you. 

Elana: No, I thought your conversation was so refreshingly on the balcony considering how much you are in the dance of it right now. I thought that was really something else. Just as two educators. But the Torah I want to share today is, I want to go to one of my favorites, which is the book of

Donniel: Don’t tell me, I’m going to guess. 

Elana: I know you’re gonna guess. 

Donniel: Kohelet. 

Elana: Ecclesiastes. That is correct. Kohelet. 

Donniel: Okay. 

Elana: Because this is how it’s hitting me.

You know, the book of Ecclesiastes is it uses this Hebrew word. It uses the word hevel, Hey Bet Lamed, over and over and over again, right. It opens with everything is hevel of hevels, right? The whole thing is just hevel and everybody tries to figure out what this word hevel means.

And as I’m watching this wave of terrorism unfold and thinking what it could lead to in the sense of, oh my gosh, it’s just going to be a repeat of last year. God forbid, really, God forbid. I want to bring to bear three different interpretations that are offered by scholars and commentators on what that word hevel means.

The first is that hevel comes from the word vapor or mist or breath. It’s ephemeral. Like in Ecclesiastes chapter six verse 12. It says who can possibly know what is best for a person to do in their fleeting shadow of a life, right in the Hebrew, ”yimei chayei hevlo,” in their basic, just breadth of life. And when I see what’s going on in Israel right now, I say to myself, aha.

You know, like the gains, the hard-won gains. It’s like, it’s transient and it’s ephemeral. And you ask yourself like, you know, the certainty that you think you have and what you think you’re building. There’s something that comes and tries to tear it down, not to mention the experience of people themselves whose own lives they feel their sense of mortality much more strongly on a day-to-day basis. So that’s one.

The second is a different kind of explanation of hevel because when you look throughout the book, it really appears as different things in different places in the book. The second one is absurdity. Hevel means this is absurd.

An example from chapter two of Ecclesiastes. I reflected in my mind, the fate of the fool is also destined for me, to what advantage have I been wise? And then I came to the conclusion that life is just absurd. I mean, you think there’s, there’s something rational about the way that life works. 

And absurdity is when you see that rationality torn down. So take the fact, you know, Yossi, you said, why did we come to Israel in the first place? Part of the reason we came to Israel in the first place was to keep ourselves safe and the absurdity of having a Jewish army and a Jewish sovereign state and Jews who can’t walk the street without God forbid getting attacked or gunned down.

The absurdity of that is mind-blowing. The absurdity of having this coalition government, and seeing this happening, the absurdity that a Bedouin is involved with ISIS, there’s just, there’s so much that just says to you, like everything that I expected is just unexpected. 

And then the third way that hevel gets used in the book of Ecclesiastes, which could be, you know, like a subscore of the absurdity piece, but it’s a very discreet issue within the book of Koehelet, of Ecclesiastics. And that is like the word hevel, the person Hevel, Abel, in Genesis, who was a good person, who offered sacrifices to God. And he was the one who died. The problem of bad things happening to good people and wickedness being able to persist. 

So for example, Kohelet chapter eight, there is a hevel. There is a something wrong that occurs in the world. Sometimes an upright person is given the consequences of a scoundrel and sometimes the scoundrel is given the life consequences of the upright. I say that this is all hevel. And I look at these families who are grieving, who are mourning, whether it’s, these people who, you know, you hear all these stories about people. They were doing these secret kindnesses for people where they were, you know, donating money and donating time and donating energy to this entity. These are like model human beings or somebody who, as a police officer puts himself, shields the body of somebody thus, literally widowing his own family to save somebody else’s and you just say to yourself, like it, it’s just, it’s hevel. It’s just, it’s hevel. 

And as I watch this hevel, what I’m struck by the most, is that the same irrepressible spirit that comes up throughout the book of Kohelet, where every so often the author says, but this is life and I’m going to live it. And it’s all going to work out. I see that same irrepressible spirit among many of my Israeli friends and family.

And I’m amazed by it. I don’t know if I’d be able to marshal it and I am amazed. They basically, like you say, Donniel, hevel is a feature of life. Now the question is how are we going to live it? That’s where I’m sitting right now, in awe and shock at the same time.

Donniel: I think that’s Elana. Like, I. I’m good. I’m good. I really appreciate you know, it’s like my whole Israel, my whole Zionism is to either deny or to destroy the hevels, whether the hevel is the notion that my life is just a breadth. I don’t, that’s, I’m not going to go. I can’t do that. 

Elana: You won’t accept it.

Donniel: I don’t accept it. I don’t accept it. Or that my life, that there’s an absurdity that’s going to take over my existence. What are you, you’re going to take over my existence? You’re going to define me, like really? I refuse that with every iota of my soul. And the reality is is that there are hevels walking around amongst us. They’re not as righteous as Hevel in the Bible, but the reality is is sometimes, is they win and I look at the families and you know, you know that my brother-in-law was killed and, and I know, I know how my sister, I get like, you know, like life’s over. Oh, you continue. And so we as a society continue, but at every one of these moments, there’s a Hevel who wins, because there’s a parent, a wife, a husband, brother, a kid, like they’re, you know, so as a country, we’re not letting Hevel win, but on a personal level, and I really appreciate you reminding. It’s there. And they win and the pain is there forever.

And you look at them and you see, you see them trying to, you know, I don’t know, is it be, to be brave or to stand up, and, you know, the thing that pains me the most, when I say is the ability of terror to succeed, and it says, you said, well, welcome Donniel. It’s been since the beginning of time. Hevel kills Cain. You know. That’s just part of our existence and it’s it, it really hurts. Really hurts. 

Elana: I know you meant Cain killed Hevel, but I want to just clarify that, for our, for our listeners. 

Donniel: Oh yes. Thank you. Thank you. 

Elana: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Iis that, I think there’s also a question of what it means to be a human being, right. Like being a full human. Sometimes the definition of being a human being is to live and to feel like a victim, to feel like you can’t win, to feel like you can’t know to feel like you’re, you’re mortal.

And sometimes the definition of a human being is to live with that knowledge, and yet to persist. And I think that is a very powerful enduring message of Kohelet, and that’s really what I’m seeing. That’s how you define your humanity.

Donniel: Thank You Elana. Yossi, last word from you.

Yossi: You know, Donniel, during the period of the second Intifada, the suicide bombings in the early 2000s, I went through a spiral of fear and rage and despair, and I’m not going back there. We need to be strong. We need to be steady. We need to avoid wishful thinking, but there are enough signs of genuine transformation in Israel’s reality that we as a society don’t need to go back there and I’m going to hold on to hope because it’s a realistic hope today, in a way that perhaps it wasn’t in the past. 

Donniel: Beautiful. Yossi and Elana. It always is this way, but today it was just. It was just an honor to learn from you and to be in your presence. It’s just, 

Yossi: Very mutual 

Donniel: You’re beautiful people. And you know, I I’m really happy I’m doing this, you know, I don’t know listeners, I hope you enjoy it. I want to tell you, I hope it’s, it’s like, it’s really important for me. It’s important for me. Anyway. Thank you, my friends.

For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman and edited by M Louis Gordon. Transcripts of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, please visit us online at We want to know what you think about the show, you can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected]. Subscribe to our show in the apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, audible, and everywhere else podcasts are available. See you in maybe, in one week before Pesach, we might do a special episode for Pesach and thank you so much for listening and be well, be safe. And, as Yossi said, we’re not giving in ladies and gentlemen. Be well. Bye-bye.