The following is a transcript of Episode 79 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.
Donniel: Hi, my name is Donniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage project. Major support for For Heaven’s Sake comes from the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation. And our theme for today is, where do we, where do we, Israel, where do we, the Jewish people, where do we, who care about Israel, where do we go from here?
In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem, Elana Stein Hain, head of the Beit Midrash of Shalom Hartman Institute North America, and senior fellow, and myself, discuss a current issue central to Israel and the Jewish world. And then Elana explores how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. Let’s begin.
Today’s conversation is happening under a dual shadow. The first is the Knesset’s passage of the coalition bill, nullifying the Supreme Court’s ability to veto certain government policies and appointments on the basis of being unreasonable or extremely unreasonable or unreasonable to the extreme. The second shadow is today’s date in the Hebrew calendar Tisha B’Av, and tonight is here in Jerusalem Tisha B’Av. The fast mourning the destruction of the temple and the loss of Jewish sovereignty 2,000 years ago. A loss that we in our tradition attribute to an inner self-destructive dimension in Jewish society. It’s as if we ourselves destroyed our own temple.
This year, as Israeli society rapidly approaches the abyss of some form of civil conflict, Tisha B’Av feels almost unbearably relevant. With the nullifying of the reasonableness clause, a line has been crossed. The Netanyahu coalition chose to act unilaterally and discard desperate appeals by everyone from President Herzog to Defense Minister Gallant to negotiate, well, a reasonable compromise with the opposition. And if not a reasonable compromise, then at least even a unilateral compromise. But both were rejected. For many, this was felt to be a declaration of war against liberal Israel or against those who are not part of the coalition.
Now, what happens next? Can Israeli society pick up the pieces? Or are we entering an inevitable spiral of a kind of civil war? Or civil conflict? War is maybe too severe a term, where each side barricades itself into its tribal loyalties and regards the other side as not just an opponent but as an enemy of Israel’s very existence. How should those of us committed to a liberal Israel regard a government that seems intent on trampling our most basic values? Is confrontation the only way? Or is there another path? As all of you who are lovers of Israel know, this is not a simple moment.
Yossi, what are you feeling?
Yossi: Like I’ve been punched in the gut. And the people who’ve punched me are now saying it’s Tisha B’Av and we’re all brothers and I’m not there. I’m reeling and wounded and angry. And this is a very disorienting Tisha B’Av for me. How about you?
Donniel: You know, Yossi, as you said that, right after the vote, Netanyahu gave a conciliatory speech. That speech should have been given before the vote. There should have been a speech addressed not just to those who were against the reform, but also to those who were for the reform.
Even as David Friedman, the former United States ambassador to Israel, who wouldn’t be called a left-wing liberal, I believe, under any consider under any terms, came out and said, you know, this is the week of Tisha B’Av. Stop, like, you don’t do this. This like, don’t we learn something? That conciliatory speech should have been given first. And so I really
Yossi: Well there shouldn’t have been a vote. Period.
No, and then, and then what like, you asked me how I feel. I feel there had to be a vote, Yossi. There had to be. There was no way this government and its partners could not have put forth a vote. And I’m going to talk later about what even pushed it even more, but there needed to be a vote. They believe that the reasonableness clause is unreasonable. They have a majority. But what they could have done is they could have accepted some form of a compromise. Instead of winning 110 to nothing, they could have won 80 to 20. And those were the types of compromises that were being put forth in the various proposals, which we’re not going to get into.
You could have, did you see that picture in the Knesset where Gallant was like shouting at Levine, give them something? Did you see? Did you hear about that? Give them something. Don’t try to win 10 to nothing. You win 10 to nothing, you’re breaking the society.
I have to tell you, Yossi, you are sad, but you’ve been saying this was going to happen all along. I was very surprised. I still believe that Netanyahu at the end of the day was going to come forth and take an 80% victory instead of the 100%. And I’m disappointed.
Yossi: Donniel, you were wrong for noble reasons.
Donniel: Oh, thank you.
Yossi: And the noble reasons are that really, you were so desperate to hold this society together, to look for some way out, some way of judging the prime minister in a kinder light. And as you know, I have despaired of any goodwill from this government. This is a government of extremists and scoundrels. And you know, Donniel, I know the extremist mind. Donniel, I know these people. Because I was once one of them. And they’re playing for keeps. They are not interested in giving you 20%. They want it all. And they’re going to go for it all. And so,
Donniel: So let’s talk about that. I want to expand on that. Because I’m still not despairing, but I’m gonna, but first, Elana, this vote caught you while you were in New York already, correct? You had come back from Jerusalem.
Donniel: How did it feel from 6,000 miles away?
Elana: Well, you know, it’s funny, I watched Herzog’s speech in the United States Congress from Israel. When I was still in Israel. And then this vote passed when I got back to America. And it’s a good thing Herzog spoke before this passed.
Yossi: Oh, it was a great speech for 1980. His father could have given that speech.
Elana: Well, this is what’s wild about it, Yossi. If he had come this week, he could not have given that speech, would not have gotten those ovations, would have been booed, essentially, whether literally or not. And I just think to see that kind of decline in a week, it is, it’s disturbing. in terms of what this beginning of the slippery slope is gonna do to the relationship between America and Israel. It’s very upsetting to me. It’s very nerve-racking to me.
Donniel: Let’s start. You both know that I never despair. But I don’t think that I’m naive either. Doesn’t mean I’m not wrong from time to time. But even the pessimists could be wrong from time to time, not just the optimists. And I was surprised and as Yossi said, I didn’t think this was going to happen. But let’s talk about despair for a moment. Yossi, where do you see us going from here?
Yossi: Look, I’m not despairing at all. I was at the Knesset the day of the vote. I was in the streets for close to 10 hours. And I went through the mood shift with thousands of people. It was an extraordinary experience. The Knesset vote was being shown on a wide screen. And immediately after the vote, people were sitting on the pavement, it was like Eicha, like Tisha B’Av came two days early. People were holding their heads and thousands of people were just quiet.
And then a couple of hours later, thousands of more people started pouring into the streets. And the speeches were terrific. Benny Begin spoke beautifully. Elyakim Rubinstein. It was one uplifting speech after another. And I came away feeling, we’re going to win. And there was one beautiful moment at the very end. The leaders of the protest movement are together on stage, Shikma Bressler and Moshe Radman and Ran Harnevo, great, really just amazing people who are devoting their lives. They have taken open-ended leaves from work to do nothing but try to save Israeli democracy.
And the crowd starts chanting to them, Todah, Todah, Todah. Thank you. And it was such an overwhelmingly beautiful moment. Because in a way that’s what I feel this protest movement is about. It’s this feeling of gratitude to the state, of what we owe the state. And that’s why we’re all out there. And that’s why we’re going to win because we really have the love on our side. I really feel that. The other side, what I feel from the other side is anger and vengeance. Not that we don’t have anger, we have lots of anger.
But the other advantage that I feel that we have, and this is what makes me an optimist as well, is that our side knows, or at least we deeply believe, that if the government gets to neutralize the court, Israel’s long-term viability is at risk. The other side isn’t motivated by a fear for Israel’s survival. Nobody on the other side believes that if the government doesn’t control the court, the state of Israel is going to be destroyed. So we have, in this particular fight, we have the existential edge. Yup. I feel that.
Donniel: The stronger, you know, talking about the demonstration, I was there too, but I had a different journey. I wasn’t there in the morning. I was at work. And I hope none of our audience will think less of me, but I’ll give an excuse in a moment. I was going on Monday evening to see the movie Barbie. I was going to see it. Adina’s been having a really hard time. And some friends of ours was having a birthday. We said, okay, let’s go out. Let’s go to the movie.
But, the vote took place. I come home and I have the tickets and I’m sitting down and I’m saying, how could I go? It’s like, I don’t go to a movie on Tisha B’Av. I don’t go swimming on Tisha B’Av. Maybe if it was an apocalyptic, I don’t know, Oppenheimer, but I’m going to Barbie. My world is, I’m sitting in my house. I call up, I cancel the plans. I run back to the Institute. And I want to talk about it. I get my flag. See, I never marched with a flag. I told you, no, I’m not a marcher. I’m not a demonstrator. But since Saturday night, I started to have a flag.
Yossi: Me too, me too, I got a flag for this demonstration. I now walk around with a flag.
Donniel: I walk around with a flag. And Saturday night, it was a very interesting experience. The first time I was marching, walking in the streets, after the demonstration with my flag. And we were accosted three times. It was violent, a car stopped, cursed. It wasn’t pleasant. Thank God I was with my brother-in-law, who’s a very, much bigger and stronger. Like he’s had muscles much for like a long, long time. So we were okay.
But I went, I parked as close as I could. And I walked for about a half hour with my flag. And as I’m walking with my flag, Yossi, I’m feeling a little bit of like, of course we’re gonna win, because we’re showing up. And I come and I walk through the Sacher park with the hundreds of tents, and slowly I see more and more people, and then I come to the demonstration, I push myself all the way to the front. The speeches were beautiful. Everything that you said, it was powerful. I came as an act of mourning. and I left empowered.
Yossi: Me too. Me too.
Donniel: You know, Hatikvah always gets me. But when you end a demonstration in which people are accusing you of disloyalty and abandonment, and everybody is waving their flags and singing Hatikvah, it got me, you know? And I left. And I’ve been exhilarated since. But this is also an indication, I believe, of how do we win? The first way we win, you said, is that we have ideology on our side. I would caution you to say don’t.
Yossi: More than that, not, more than that. No, no, we have existential fear on our side. We are afraid for the survival of Israel. Many of us, you might not share but many of us feel that.
Donniel: No, if the whole reform, I don’t think so much in those terms. Don’t underestimate the fear on the other side. There is a small segment who are for the reform, or not a small, trivial segment, who are for the reform in order to—it’s not in order to save Israel, but it’s definitely in order to improve our democracy.
But we’re going to win because we’re not going to stop showing up. But here I want to ask you, Yossi, showing up is not the same as fighting, showing up is not the same as closing down Israel. What are the steps that you think we need to take? And also, or what steps shouldn’t we take? Because the thing that we now know is that we’re in this for the long haul. You know, we thought maybe, you know, we would win this and this would head it off, right now. That right here and now, and I think Tom Friedman tried his best from Washington to head off the whole reform at this moment. But you couldn’t. We lost this first round. Where do we go from here?
Because you can’t claim, you know, I just, you know, Tal Becker, our friend and colleague for years has one of his great lines is, it continues to be an existential threat or something like that, or somewhere along, like you can’t use the existential moment every time. And we used it here, I believe a little mistakenly, but how do we progress, Yossi? Where do we go?
Yossi: There are things that we need to avoid in the direction of being naive and things we need to avoid in the opposite direction of being too aggressive. So in terms of avoiding naiveté, I think we need to recognize who and what we’re dealing with, and we do not have partners for negotiations with this government. That means ending the farce that the president’s, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, with the best of intentions, tried to oversee. That process has collapsed. And I’m not interested in trying to negotiate with this government anymore.
And you know, and I have to admit to you, Donniel, at the last moment, just before the vote, there was an alert saying, Gallant is trying to work out a last-minute deal, and I found my heart leaping. I said, maybe, maybe. And then when a few minutes later, reality set in, I looked at myself and said, really? Even now, you?
Donniel: You were channeling me, Yossi. You had a little Donniel in you.
Yossi: And so it’s time for us to look at this government in the eye and accept the fact that this is a government that is interested in all or nothing. And it’s not about judicial reform. It’s about transforming the state of Israel from its foundations. And if they win, we will be a kind of cross between a theocracy and an autocracy.
Donniel: So we shouldn’t be, I wanna push you, Yossi, so we shouldn’t be
Yossi: Yes, we should not be naive. That’s on one side.
Donniel: Good. Now the other side.
Yossi: Now, on the other side is, we have to be very careful in using certain apocalyptic weapons. And I’m thinking in particular the weapon of mass refusal to serve. Now, when the government has the nerve to call these people sarvanim, how would one say that in, draft resisters. And this of all governments, which is led by politicians, many of whom didn’t serve in the army or barely served, has the least moral right to judge anyone, but nevertheless, there really is a question here about using this, what we call in Hebrew, neshek yom hadin, a weapon of last resort. And mass refusal to serve in the reserves is such a weapon. And I don’t feel that we’re there yet. We need to be building, and this is what I hear you saying, Donniel, that we need to be building in a gradual escalation here and to take, and not to treat every threat as the ultimate threat. I think that that’s right.
On the other hand, I do feel that we were right to draw the red line on reasonableness and to say, and to let the government know that we are going to fight them every step of the way. They will not be able to pull anything over on us. So that’s where I am now, is balancing,
Donniel: I hear you, it’s interesting, you know, and I hope it’s okay with you if I agree with you.
Yossi: I’ll have to readjust my approach here.
Donniel: I agree that there’s nothing to negotiate. That’s not the way we’re going to help save our country. It’s not going to be through negotiations at this time. It has to be the shelving of this whole process. And I don’t think any forum, president or not, is going to be of any significance.
But how do we win and how do we lose? And here, too, I want to concur. One of the reasons why I believe this vote had to take place is because the anti-reformers, who we are apart of, started to use the refusal to serve card. And when you use the refusal to serve card, it makes it impossible for the other side to compromise with you. Like if the price is economic stagnation, the lowering of Israel’s economic status, harming high-tech, harming, that’s something that the other side say, okay, is this what you want to do? What are the consequences? It’s like the head of the Histadrut, the labor union said, what’s wrong with you? You’re ruining this country for what? So that you could appoint two judges? It was like, there’s a disparity between the consequences of what you’re doing, and the benefit that you want to accrue.
But when you’re coming up against, not a direct consequence of the reform, but you’re coming up against a consequence, a consequence brought forth by the demonstrators, then it becomes a power play. And as I said the last, then it becomes tribal. While I do believe that Netanyahu could have offered a unilateral compromise, minor, 80% victory, a vote needed to be had. And I think we have to ask ourselves what it takes to win.
When I look at the first six months of the demonstrations, we won by lack of violence, by speaking about values, by going high. We won. We owned the discourse. We owned it. The other side was lost. Lost. There was no competition. What am I going to put forth? Yes, I need this, one more job, this is going to save my democracy. Well, even if you believe it, it just, the dangers where, this is the wrong government to have this, to put forth a reform and you saw it in the streets. We need to stay high. And I believe that what we are seeing now is just the first stage of a three-year battle. This is three years, Yossi. And when you’re going for three years, you don’t pull out all the stops at the first, you can’t. There has to be surprise.
But it’s this, we are going to, and as we saw, listen, the reasonableness clause has been amended. Has Israel’s democracy come to an end? Of course not. Because the issue is not the judiciary, the issue is what the, is what the judiciary stops this government from being able to do, or any government for that matter. And now we’re going to see these stages coming forth. And not being naive, I think is very strong.
We have to show up and we have to show up in masses and we have to show up with our flags and we have to sing Hatikvah and we have to speak about the country that we yearn for. And we have to speak about the consequences of transforming or harming the division of powers in our society. When we go there, then the other side, the only people who are showing up for the demonstrations right now, these aren’t Likud supporters. The ones who are showing up are Ben Gvir and Smotrich supporters. It was actually, if you saw the demonstration on Sunday night in Tel Aviv, you have leaders of the Likud speaking to Smotrich and Ben Gvir supporters. Like, here it is, I am a government, I am a ruling party, and at the end of the day, the ones who are showing up for me are a small, extreme right segment. That’s my group. We have to make sure that it stays that way.
Yossi, last comments, and then we’ll turn to Elana.
Yossi: We’re in this for the long haul. It’s going to require a deep breath, a great deal of faith and hope. And I do feel that we have that as a movement. And what I’m struggling with on this Tisha B’Av, Donniel, is my relationship to the other camp. And what’s so disorienting and painful for me, this Tisha B’Av, is that I am just not in the place of wanting to reach out, of being available for a conversation of brothers. And I’ve never been in this place before in my life. And and this is what I’m struggling with and this is what I need to work on myself. And I think that we as a movement as a whole need to work on this as well.
Donniel: Thank you. Let’s take a short break and then Elana will add some additional Torah depth to our conversation.
Elana, what else do you have to share?
Elana: Well, I actually have a question for Yossi. You’ve never felt this way about Jews to the right of you, or you’ve never felt this way about Jews in general?
Yossi: Caught. Certainly never Jews to the right of me, and you know, Elana, I come from there, and emotionally I’ve always felt that instinctive belonging, even when I disagreed politically. There are Jews on the left, and certainly the far left, who I have felt profoundly alienated from. But you know, we’re talking about a very large and important camp. It’s the mainstream of the religious Zionist community, where we all come from.
Elana: Yeah, yeah, I’m not, meaning what I’m basically saying is I think it’s important to notice, you know, we’re talking about two different destructions, right? It’s Tisha B’Av, or for me it’s a few hours before Tisha B’Av. We’re talking about two different destructions. We’re talking about destruction of the Democratic, which is what the two of you were talking about, and then at the end there, Yossi, you alluded to the destruction of the Jewish, which is essentially a feeling of Jewish peoplehood.
And I do think it’s important to be specific about new alienations that people may not have felt before, that they’re feeling now. And what that leads me to wanna talk about, is, I specifically wanna talk about the destruction of the Jewish piece, sort of the glue, the Jewish peoplehood glue. And you can’t have a podcast that’s coming out on Tisha B’Av and not talk about hatred. It’s just, hatred is the reasoning given for the destruction of the Second Temple. And we’re not talking about an external hatred. We’re talking about Jew to Jew hatred. And so I want to spend a little bit of time thinking about those that intra-group ethics. I understand Israel is not just about Jews, obviously, but by and large, the kind of fissure we’re talking about here is Jew versus Jew.
So I want to start with the verses in Leviticus. Leviticus 19, verses 17 and 18. You shall not hate your brother, is the literal word, your brother, in your heart. You should reprove your kin, but don’t incur any guilt on their account. And the next verse, don’t take revenge, don’t bear grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow, and by the way here it means fellow Israelite, as yourself. I am God. So pretty strong intra-group ethic, that’s don’t hate your own people. Love your own people. Don’t take revenge. Be honest about your rebuke.
And I want to look, to begin with, at three different approaches to this verse. Because I don’t think it’s a simple, I don’t think it’s a simple ask. I think it’s a very tall order. So I think it’s interesting to note that you take someone like Nachmanides or even by the way, yeah, let’s take the, let’s take Nachmanides. He says, you know, scripture says don’t hate your brother in your heart, if your, if your fellow does something to you that you don’t want.
But instead, what should you do? Come out with it! Don’t leave it inside. Come out with it and say, you’re doing X to me. And you know, that’s actually going to end up allowing you not to bear sin, as the verse continues, because if you just cover your own hatred, and you don’t tell the other person what the problem is, you don’t give them a chance to say, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have, let’s try to reconcile, let’s try to figure this out.
And now, I don’t know, it kind of seems to me like religious Zionism since Gush Katif was evacuated, because they were treated like garbage. And there was never a real rapprochement about that and what’s coming out now is payday for that in a very, very big way. So there’s something about reading this and saying, yeah, don’t hate your fellow in your heart. Tell them. Hate them out loud. Tell them what they did to you. Because it’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere. Now, I understand you’re all saying, we’re not going to reconcile with this government anyway, but there is something to actually being able to talk things out. And when you don’t, when you can’t talk to, really bad things happen, right?
Ibn Ezra has a different feel. Ibn Ezra says, look, I’m not telling you, go talk to people. I’m saying, whatever you do, try not to hold like a deep, deep, deep hatred towards other people. He says, you know, the beginning of the first verse and the end of the second verse that I read are opposites. It says, don’t hate your brother in your heart is the opposite of love your fellow. And this is about what’s in your heart. And honestly, we can’t live. This is what he says. We can’t live in the land of Israel if we hate each other, because the Second Temple was destroyed because we hate each other. So he’s saying, I’m not telling you talk it out, I’m not telling you figure it out, I’m just telling you, you gotta do something about keeping yourself from hating.
And all the way on the other side is actually the Talmud itself. There is an opinion in the Talmud, Pesachim 113b, and it goes as follows. You know, there’s a verse in the Bible, Exodus 23, 5, that says, when you see the donkey of your enemy, of someone who hates you, someone you hate, that’s under a burden, and you should help. So who, who’s this enemy? So the Talmud says, are we talking about an enemy who’s outside of the Jewish people?
But we actually have an early rabbinic teaching that says we’re talking about a Jewish enemy, not an enemy outside of the Jewish people. Rather, we’re saying there is such a thing as a Jewish enemy. And the Talmud says, but wait, you’re allowed to hate a fellow Jew? Doesn’t the scripture also say, don’t hate your fellow in, don’t hate your brother in your heart? Rather, it must be, well, maybe witnesses saw that this person did something terrible. And then the Talmud says, well, if witnesses saw, then everybody’s allowed to hate this person. Right? What’s so special about you that you hate them? Everybody’s allowed to hate them. Then the Talmud continues and says, well, actually, no, it must be that only I saw that they did something wrong. And so I’m allowed to hate them. And here’s like, really intense, talk about Tisha B’Av, Rav Nachman, son of Yitzchak says, oh no, you’re not allowed to hate that person. You have a mitzvah, you have a commandment to hate that person. And then cites my favorite Biblical book, Proverbs, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” And by the way, he turned to hate evil into hate an evil person.
So here we have three approaches. So don’t hate your brother in your heart. We have talk it out, which you said is impossible, but we also know that if you don’t, that’s also going to lead to bad things. We have, we know you’re not going to be able to talk it out, but you’re still not allowed to hate in your heart. And we have, yeah, go ahead, hate. That’s what real fear of the Lord is. Meaning, that’s what it means to be really committed to something, is that you hate the people who are really doing what you consider the bad thing.
So I just want to pause there and just appreciate the difficulty. I know it’s not so simple to be like, we’re all brothers now, and we’re all sisters now, and we’re all family now. But there is something very dangerous about hating your fellow Jew, which a moment like this inevitably can lead to unless guardrails are actually put up around them. I just want to pause there, as just my opening frame.
Donniel: Right. Elana. First of all, thank you. I really appreciate it. As you were talking, I didn’t talk about this today, but it just, I know what I and my colleagues at the Institute are trying to do. Because in many ways, I agree with Ibn Ezra. Hate is not something that I want to have. Now, it could be that Nachmanides is giving you a methodology to give up on that hate. That when you go out and you talk, like, when you finish the demonstration, you have a voice. I certainly don’t like the position which tells me that it’s a mitzvah to hate. That, you know, I’ve been too much the subject of people who believe that I’m the one who they ought, who they have a mitzvah to hate.
But one of the things that I, and I know I’m getting attacked by some people, is that I am actually doubling and tripling my personal and the institutional effort to work on developing foundations for a shared social contract across a broad spectrum of Israeli society. Now I agree with Yossi. I don’t believe that I could build a coalition with this government, but I can build a social coalition with many of the people who voted for them. There are going to be people who don’t. You know, there’s a bunch of people who hate me, like as I was walking with my flag the other night, and various vulgarities were, both physical and verbal were hurled at me. I don’t have a lot, I don’t know if I hate them, but I don’t have a lot of love for them, and I don’t assume I’m gonna be able to build a coalition.
But part of what, we’ve been talking about here for a long time, is that there is a new force emerging from within these demonstrations. And precisely if we don’t go, as Yossi suggested, too far, we have a chance to bring together a large group segment of Israeli society to say, these are the values we share. So maybe this Tisha B’Av. You know, I’ve always said that one of the reasons why Tisha B’Av is an absolute failure is that we tell people you’re not allowed to have senseless hatred. And everybody agrees.
Elana: Hatred is never senseless.
Donniel: And everybody agrees. It’s never senseless. Rav Nachman, like that’s perfect. You know, who has senseless hatred? Who hates somebody? Okay, every Tisha B’Av, and that’s, Yossi, what you were saying, it feels vacuous. Everybody getting together now and saying, no more senseless hatred. Okay, we’re all gonna get rid of the senseless hatred and we’re just gonna keep the hatred for reasons. I think part of what we have to push ourselves for on this Tisha B’Av is to fight, not to separate ourselves, but to try to expand as broad as possible the coalition of values, the coalition of Jewish democracy, the coalition of liberal humanistic Judaism, the coalition of people who care that Israeli society should represent the best moral values of our tradition.
And there are going to be those, I don’t know if it’s a mitzvah to hate, I don’t hate them, but they’re not my coalition. And this Tisha B’Av, we’re not going to get rid of all anger, and we’re not going to get rid of all discord. You never do. But we can create a larger community. And I’m telling you, we’re going to need that community for the next three years.
Elana: Yeah. Meaning there’s a, it’s actually, it’s multi-valent thinking rather than binary thinking. It’s you need multipolar thinking rather than binary thinking in order to get out of hatred. But I actually saw something recently recently, and I want to end with this. I don’t usually do this. There’s a Nobel prize winner for literature, Wisława Szymborska. She was, she was a Polish poet. I don’t think she’s still living, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. And she wrote a poem called Hatred. She wrote it in 1993, but she did spend all of the 20th century, including World War II, she did spend it in Poland.
And it really hit me when I was watching, I mean, I was watching footage this week of literally people who were protesting knocking out people’s back windshields of their car with their kids in it. And I was looking at people who were pro-overhaul and anti-overhaul, like getting to violent, it’s a tinderbox. You got to admit that it’s a tinderbox.
And so when I read this poem, I said, I have to share this poem. It goes like this. It’s called hatred.
See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape—
our century’s hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.
It’s not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength; it feeds it.
One religion or another –
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another –
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy…
Hatred is a master of contrast-
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif – the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.
It’s always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it’s blind. Blind?
It has a sniper’s keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.
I just want to leave that here as a cautionary tale.
Donniel: Elana, thank you very much for sharing that. Yossi, last word?
Yossi: For me, this Tisha B’av is not about hatred, it’s about zealotry and resisting zealotry, which is the root cause of hatred. And I think we misread the Tisha B’av story when we focus on sinat chinam, on needless hatred, and avoid the essence, which is the ways in which zealotry have sabotaged us and destroyed us in the past.
Donniel: Hatred, zealotry. We have a lot of work to do, my friends.
For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman with assistance from Aviva Kat-Manor. It was edited by Gareth Hobbs at Silversound NYC. Our production manager is M. Louis Gordon. Maital Friedman is our vice president of communications and creative. And our music was provided by Socalled.
Major funding for For Heaven’s Sake is provided by the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation of Los Angeles because of our shared commitment to strengthen the connection between Jews in North America and Israel. 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, visit us online at shalomhartman.org.
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We won’t be seeing you with a new podcast in two weeks, we’re going to take a summer break for the show. The Knesset is also taking a break, maybe all of us need to breathe a little bit. And so we’ll see you again at the end of August. See you then. Thank you for listening. Elana and Yossi, a pleasure to be with you.
Yossi: Always. Thank you.
Elana: Thanks. A meaningful Tisha B’Av.